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Members' Stories: Annie

How a helpful neighbour set this alcoholic on the road to recovery

My name is Annie, I’m an Alcoholic.

My first drink led to my first blackout. Alcohol took away the shyness, paralysing self-consciousness. It gave me a warm and happy new feeling that freed me up to do anything. I danced at parties, yelled in the street, sang on buses, hitch-hiked across London, talked to strangers, no fear of anything. I loved it. I thought it helped me to be the real me. I didn’t want to do anything that didn’t involve drinking: cinema - boring, walks - you must be joking! I learned early to have a few drinks from my mum’s cupboard before I went out, filling miniature bottles to take with me. I thought everybody did it! I look back at my teens and see that I have no idea what my family were doing, no memory of spending any time with them.

I went to Spain for 6 months – my university days are still a black hole full of twinkly lights – and was hospitalised with alcohol poisoning. Came back and got married to a heavy drinker, workaholic, who took care of the boring stuff – bills, housework etc. I was a charming wife – he never knew what he was coming home to. We had two beautiful children and drinking to party was no longer an option – my secret drinking started. Hiding bottles, trying to hide the fact that I’d had a drink, sneaking extra drinks whenever we had company, stealing money for drink, making any excuse to buy a bottle. And it got worse. I started to feel ashamed – a quick burn that another drink would fix. My daughter’s diary at school on open day – every weekend we went to this pub or that pub…the rows that would flare up and the way I turned from happy smiley to hell-cat with a couple of drinks.

I managed to divorce my husband for HIS unreasonable behaviour and found somebody else who drank like me. I was in big trouble now. Desperately unhappy, life in chaos, coming to on the kitchen floor in the morning, trying to get kids to school, house being repossessed. I saw counsellors, psychologists - blaming my childhood, my mother, my husband – anybody and everything. I was in trouble. But if only I could sort out the money (I borrowed and begged from anybody who stood still long enough). If I could only find the right man. If only I had a different upbringing. If only I got the right job. I’d be OK then. I kept trying to manage all this - with the same outcome – drunk and in a worse mess. I wore an old wax jacket – bottle up each sleeve and a half in the inside pocket, hadn’t cut my hair for years. One day a group of kids sitting on the wall at the end of my street shouted ‘ALKIE’ at me. I was furious, burning with shame – if only they knew what sort of life I had!

I had one ‘friend’ left. A neighbour who brought food for the kids, gave me money. She told me one Sunday morning that I had to do something or she’d have to walk away. She just couldn’t watch it any more. I don’t know what it was that pushed me to make the phone call to AA. Thank God for those AA members in service, people at the end of the phone 24/7 to handle calls from people like me, with nowhere left to go, no more excuses.

Within a couple of hours, two members of Alcoholics Anonymous were in my living room, curtains drawn, vodka tears and snot running. They were not interested in my problems. They told me about the way they drank and I knew they were like me. I’d never admitted it to anybody. They told me about alcoholism, the physical allergy which meant that once I had one drink I was unable to stop. The mental obsession which meant that I couldn’t leave it alone, no matter how bad it got. The spiritual malady which led to the terrible dark loneliness and terror. These people told me that they had found a way to stop drinking in AA and that their lives had changed for the better and they were happy. I don’t know why but I believed them. I did as they suggested. I went to a meeting near me, started going to others, started working the Steps. After a short time, the desire to drink left me and has not returned. My life has changed in ways that are beyond belief. I have faith in the future and I’m no longer ashamed of my past. I’m so grateful for the chance to live free from the obsession with alcohol.

Annie