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Party season pressure? Take it one day at a time

For most of us Christmas comes with its challenges, especially when it comes to alcohol. During December supermarket shelves are crammed with products all laced with brandy and rum.  There are more excuses than ever to “let your hair down” and images of people drinking champagne and celebrating.

It`s simply unavoidable.  Yet, for a recovering alcoholic to survive it must be avoided.

The key, I am told by one woman who is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, is to take each day at a time. In this article, we shall call her Janet to protect her identity.

“I wake up each day and think just for today, I will not drink,`” Janet said. “I don’t think to Christmas Day and how I’ll get through it,” It’s just another day.  Anything is possible for 24 hours. That`s what I remind myself, instead of saying “I’m never going to drink again for the rest of my life.”

Janet’s journey with alcohol goes as far back as the age of seven.  She remembers being given her first taste of wine with water on a foreign family holiday.

“I liked the buzz it gave me,” she recalls.  “I also enjoyed family parties, seeing the grown-ups have a good time.”

At 14, Janet had her first blackout.

“A blackout isn’t dropping down unconscious,” she explains, “but is where you lose your memory of a stretch of time, but continue to function.  When I was 14, at a Boys Brigade dance, I drank so much I had a blackout and the only thing I can remember is my Mum standing at the end of my bed the next morning asking why I’d been sick in the washing machine.  I must have done it thinking it would not have been noticed in there. I became deceptive very early on. You begin to learn to change and justify things to cover up. In my late teens I was drinking a lot with my Mum, she too had a drink problem.  I did things I am not proud of such as taking money from her purse. I’d been brought up with good morals and certainly knew right from wrong. It all went out the window with my first drink.”

By her early 20’s Janet was married with a son.  Initially they were the happiest of days, but things began to unravel when her husband was posted abroad with the forces and Janet didn’t want to relocate with him.  She and her son moved in with her parents and Janet began going on heavy drinking benders.

“I must have had some sort of nervous breakdown and could not see a way out of my situation,” she says.  With her marriage over she handed guardianship of her three-year-old son to her parents. “It was the hardest thing I have ever done, and I still get emotional picturing him in his dressing gown the morning I left, and that’s more than 30 years ago.”

She moved to a large city and was homeless ending up in B&B accommodation.  Life in the capital brought mixed fortune. On one hand, she managed to hold down a good job, being promoted 4 times, but on the other she was drinking more heavily, grieving for her son and the old life, drinking in binges in-between her work shifts. She was experiencing physical and mental abuse in her relationships. One particular experience left her so traumatised she was diagnosed with PTSD. The unacceptable had become acceptable!

When a hereditary health condition emerged, she made the move back to the Highlands to be near her family, but rather than improving, her alcoholism got worse.

“These were my darkest times.  I missed major milestones in my son’s life.  I was too drunk to attend my son’s graduation.  When I got off the train drunk, I was put promptly back on it. The worst time was when I missed my son’s wedding.  I’ll never get over that. I had my outfit ready. I had really planned to stay sober and attend. Just two days before the wedding I picked up that first drink and that one drink turned into bottles.  Janet warns; “As an alcoholic as soon as you have just one drink, it’s over. There’s a saying that’s so true; one drink is too many and a million is not enough. You just can’t stop.”

After 38 years of drinking, Janet reached her rock bottom and was given the gift of desperation. “I got down on my knees one morning and begged some kind of Higher Power to remove my obsession for alcohol and to help me.”

“I had tried Alcoholics Anonymous years before, but it was for someone else –  my family’s sake, not mine.  That’s why it never worked. This time though, I knew I needed to do this for me. Something changed in me, some kind of faith, finally I had hope again.  Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life.”

“I had people around me who never thought I would get sober.  I was at the stage of going unwashed for a week and wearing welly boots to hide my pyjamas and a hat to go and get my bottle from the shop – in summer!

“I went through the 12 Step Programme at AA and now I help other alcoholics achieve sobriety by taking on voluntary roles within AA. Recovery really keeps on giving.”

The 12 Step Programme of Alcoholics Anonymous involves acceptance of my addiction, making friends and trusting others, changing behaviour, making amends for the past and helping to carry this simple message to the still suffering alcoholic. AA is not affiliated with any religion, sect or organisation, but members (who are voluntary with no fees or contracts) are encouraged to embrace spirituality in any form they are comfortable with or not.”

“It is about accepting more than just me, breaking down egos, and putting your trust in something other than yourself. It’s hard to explain but it just works.  Anyone is welcome. Alcoholism does not discriminate.”

Having seen friends die of alcoholism, Janet is now making up for lost time with her family.

“Today I can be the daughter and mother my family deserves.  I have been able to care for my Dad through his journey with Alzheimer’s and have a good relationship with my son. I am now a proud grandmother to three healthy and beautiful children who have never seen their Nannie drunk.  I cannot thank the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous enough for what it has given my family and me.”

For advice or to find out about attending a local AA Meeting call 0800 917 7650


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Notes to Editors: AA non-alcoholic trustees are available for interviews by prior arrangement. Case studies of AA recovering alcoholics who have written 300-600 words of their stories of drinking and sobriety under pseudonyms are also available.

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