A Devon woman's experience

When I was a young child I was very shy. I would sit in the background of every situation and watch, awestruck, the behaviour of those who could exhibit that sense of easy social confidence. I wished that I could be like them. When I was 13 I went to a family party and was given alcohol for the first time, the feeling it gave me was amazing like a warm glow in my tummy, I felt confident and remember talking and laughing with ease. Even on that first occasion I didn’t have one glass of alcohol I had a few!!
By the time I was 15, I was going to over 18’s night clubs, I felt very proud of the fact that I could actually get into these clubs. I would help myself to other people’s drinks which would be left lying around apart from buying alcohol myself. I never seemed to care what it tasted like, what I enjoyed was the effect it had on me. Although I wasn’t drinking on a regular basis at this time, I found that alcohol took me to a happy place in my head and I always drank until I reached that happy place and thought nothing of it. I also had my first black out at aged 15, this became the norm whenever I drank. I could never have one drink, always several but to me this was normal as this is what happened whenever I took alcohol into my system. I became sociable, popular and knew how to have a good time.
I went on to marry at 22, had my first child at 23 and my second child at 25. Throughout this period of my life I didn’t seem interested in alcohol and probably drank about two or three times a year but the pattern remained the same, when I drank I got drunk!!
When I was 28 I divorced my husband, this is when my drinking changed. I started to have a bottle of wine at home in the evening once the children where in bed. I never went to bed until I had drank the whole bottle. In the morning I would feel depressed, have a headache and be dehydrated. I would promise myself that I wouldn’t do it again that evening but sure enough for whatever reason I would be buying it again, drinking it again and feeling the same in the morning and so the pattern continued.
I remarried at 31 and by this point I seemed to be drinking nearly two bottles of wine a night five times a week, my consumption of alcohol was increasing. I would try my best to have two nights a week free from alcohol. I would hide it from my husband, turn nasty if he tried to stop me, feel remorseful, depressed and ill in the morning. I would dispose of all the bottles and promise I wouldn’t do it again. Alcohol had a hold, no matter how I felt or what I promised I just couldn’t leave alcohol alone for more than 48 hours. I left him after three years and felt pleased with myself as now no one could tell me what to do I actually thought this was a great plan! The reality was heartache full of broken promises, pain and suffering for those around me.
I couldn’t see the problem, I held down a job, bought a house, paid my mortgage and bills, fed and clothed my children, didn’t drink and drive (although I recognise today that I would have been over the limit in the morning when I drove), never opened a bottle until the evening…….no problem. The reality was that my children suffered emotionally, they would wake me in the morning, I would be bad tempered, feel ill, have the shakes and couldn’t focus visually until about 10.30am. I lost good friends who had once cared a great deal for me, alcohol had a strong hold and I was killing myself.
In 2003 after a heavy night of partying and clubbing, waking up feeling depressed, ill and crying I phoned the AA helpline, the man who answered my call sounded as fresh as a daisy! He was happy, had been sober for 21 months and knew how I felt. He had been there, immersed in alcohol so badly that it had controlled and ruined his life. That was until he found the AA programme of recovery, I couldn’t believe how much he understood my problem, and suddenly I had hope. I was met by somebody that evening and went to my first meeting. I felt really worried and scared of going. I could not imagine what type of people would be at the meeting. What I found was that they were all different ages and came from different walks of life. They had one thing in common which was that when they took alcohol into their system they could not stop drinking. I remember everyone being really kind and friendly, most people I knew where turning away from me but here where these people welcoming me with kindness and understanding. They had been where I was and they were recovering just a day at a time. They did not judge me or tell me I was an alcoholic that was for me to decide! But they did talk to me about attending meetings, talking to other alcoholics and working the 12 step programme of recovery. Nobody forced me, it was my decision, if I wanted my own recovery I could have it.
I went on to battle with alcohol for a further two years. The problem was I could not imagine my life without alcohol, it was my crutch, my life and my friend, or so I thought! I floated in and out of AA throughout this time, attending meetings but not talking to other alcoholics and not working the 12 step programme of recovery. I just kept battling with the desire to control my intake of alcohol but continually finding that no matter how much I tried, once I started drinking I could not stop.
On the 29th June 2005 I had my last drink, finally I gave in. I had reached the place where I could not live with it or live without it. I’d had enough, I went back to AA and found my ears where finally open I could hear what was being said at meetings and I knew without doubt that I was an alcoholic. I remember feeling a sense of relief, I knew what was wrong with me and I knew I could do something about it if I followed a few simple suggestions, I had a choice and I had hope.
I understand today that I will never be cured of alcoholism but by being part of AA, attending meetings and working the twelve step programme I have a chance to maintain my recovery just a day at a time. It has not been easy, I discovered that life still happens, I have good times and bad but my good times far outweigh the bad times today. When I laugh today it’s a real belly laugh and I feel it with joy, I have good friends, am close to my family, the fear has gone from my children’s eyes and I am there for them whenever they need me, I have a wonderful grandson who seems to like me! These gifts are priceless and it’s all down to the AA programme of recovery and for this I am a very, very grateful recovering alcoholic