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I’d known for a while that there was something not right about my drinking. I knew that one drink wasn’t enough for me. If I was just being offered one drink I would say no to it. My drinking was worrying me. It was affecting my daughter. When she left to go to school she would ask “Are you drinking today?” and I would answer “I don’t think so.” It got that nine out of ten times I would be drinking that day. I wasn’t able to love her the way I would have liked to have loved her; she was closer to my sister than to me. I would promise her I would do this or that with her but would always let her down.
I knew that the husband of a friend didn’t drink and I asked her how he did it. At that time I didn’t know that she went to Al-Anon and that he went to AA. She asked me if I drank and I replied “Just a little.” She invited me to her home. I already had a good drink in me and she brought out a bottle of vodka. She said she’d have one or two and I said I’d do the same. Then it all became a bit vague, I don’t remember what happened and only because she told me afterwards do I know any details at all. There was a riot in the house and I caused it. My friend couldn’t believe what she was seeing and hearing. She’d never seen me like that. When her son came in later he asked “Who was that nutter?” Her husband came in from an AA meeting and seemingly I asked for help. My phone went the next day and it was my friend’s husband saying that someone from the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous was going to phone me.
I then thought “No. I don’t need help” and I didn’t answer the phone all day. Finally I did and it was a woman from AA. “Do you have a problem with your drinking?” she asked. I replied “I don’t know.” I was shaking and sweating but still I answered that I didn’t know. This was a Saturday in February 1985 and on the Monday night I went to my first AA meeting. It was in the UIE in Clydebank. The first thing that struck me, the first thing I saw was a sign saying ‘You Are No Longer Alone’. I got a lovely welcome and was shocked to see smiling faces – not what I expected at all!
I joined that group and had happy times there. Over a year later some of us opened a Thursday afternoon meeting in Linnvale, Clydebank, which later moved to the Hub and then to the Clydebank Rooms. Looking back at that early period of my sobriety I loved the attention I got, I enjoyed going to different meetings, I enjoyed listening to other people’s stories but I was hearing the differences. I also met the man who is my husband today at my very first meeting and in 1991 after me being in AA six years we got together and got married.
After a few more years of listening to the differences and not the similarities – I can’t remember exactly how long but a number of years – I convinced myself that I wasn’t alcoholic and that I didn’t need meetings. I would do it myself. The one single meeting I did during this time I stormed out of when someone said to me, as if I was a newcomer, “It gets better.” How dare they, I’m years sober! There were several years when I didn’t go to meetings and though I didn’t drink during this time my head was a mess. I was argumentative; I always had to be right. No matter what, I had to have the last word and I had to have everything my way. The relationship between my daughter and I, which had never been good, got worse. My husband was saying that I wasn’t the same Mary anymore and I just thought “What’s he on about?” I didn’t see it. My husband was still doing AA meetings and not drinking so that helped me not to drink. Fear helped me to stay away from the first drink because I knew that if I drank I might not be able to stop again and would have to leave the marital home, something I didn’t want to do. Without doing meetings my head got worse and worse.
Then out of the blue in the middle of the night I got a 12-Step call. It was someone I’d known a long time ago who thought I was still going to meetings and she was asking for help. I took her to a meeting and that got me back to AA. She said I saved her life but actually she saved mine. She certainly saved my sanity because I was losing it. If she hadn’t phoned I don’t know what would have happened. This time I threw myself into AA. I joined a group and developed good friendships with AA members that I could share with. A few years back at meetings I got a sponsor, went through the Programme and that helped me a lot. After a while things improved with my daughter as she saw me getting well and the relationship we have today is better than it has ever been. One time she called me ‘Marydoll’ in an affectionate way, she was the first to call me that and when she did I knew things had changed. When she used that endearment I knew things were alright between us. Having my daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson in my life is lovely. I can be proud of them and be involved in their lives. I can help with my 91-year-old mum. My family know that I am there for them for anything, something that wasn’t the case before.
I started helping the Telephone Liaison Officer (TLO) at my local intergroup. I would do some of the changeovers at the end of a shift when one manner took over from another. After doing that for six months I became the TLO, coordinating manners and making sure all the shifts were filled when it was our turn to do a week answering the AA Helpline. When I was asked I said I’d give it a go and I loved it. I did nearly three years as TLO and only recently gave it up due to personal circumstances. Back at AA meetings as well as doing service in AA, I started going to AA conventions and AA weekend retreats in Ireland and Scotland, sometimes going back year after year. I met new people, other recovering alcoholics. The more involved I got in AA the more my world opened up.
Drinking caused me trouble and getting off the drink initially my life improved but without AA in my life I was still the old Mary just without the drink. Back at meetings, getting involved, getting on the Programme I got better. Everything in my life today – being able to love my husband, having friends that I never had before, being close to my family – I owe to AA.
Wednesday 1.30 pm Clydebank Rooms