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The spiritual malady is not everybody's cup of tea but, if I didn't overcome it, my 'tea was oot'.
My name is Helen and I am an alcoholic. I thank God that I found out what was wrong with me. I also thank God that today I can accept that I am an alcoholic.
I came along to Alcoholics Anonymous on 28 May 1993 and I did not know this was to change my whole life. At first it was not easy. I was to learn that I suffered from an illness called alcoholism which I knew nothing about at that time of my life. I had always felt guilty about my drinking but I thought drink was helping me to cope with life. The company I kept all drank like me so to me this was normal. When I started drinking in the beginning it was mostly at weekends. Back then I could drink and leave it alone.
After I got divorced, I moved into a new house with my two daughters who were 10 and 8 years of age. This is when I found out I could not cope with my life. I didn't know at that time that drink was sleekitly creeping into my life. I tried as a mother to do the best that I could to raise my two daughters but I found out that the fear and loneliness of bringing up my kids by myself was too much to cope with so I started to drink more often. Not knowing anything about the illness of alcoholism I went on my merry way. When the girls went to school I thought it was okay to go to the pub for a couple of drinks as long as I was back home for them coming in from school. This went on for some time and I thought that I was coping okay; after all I was not any different to the others who were in the pub. At that time I went up the road for the girls coming home, while the others stayed in the pub until closing time.
I did not know about the progression of this illness and when my youngest daughter turned nine years of age she moved to stay with her dad. She could put up with her dad's alcoholism but could not bear mine. I was so hurt by this and feeling rejected I went on my merry way again. Sometimes I tried not to drink and do the right things for my oldest daughter but fear, loneliness, rejection and self-pity were my constant companions. I was drinking now because I could not cope with life. I met someone and I know now that I went into that relationship for all the wrong reasons. This was to take me into another dimension. I was to enter into a dark, dark place: police, hospitals and Women's Aid refuges. I got to the point that I did not want to live. I thought my children and my family would be better off without me.
I had lost all self-respect. All the morals and principles that I had were all going out of my life and I had lost hope in everything and everyone. There were many days and nights full of despair and tears and hopelessness and self-pity. There were many trips to hospital with staff trying to save my life after another attempt at suicide. In amongst all this I did not know that my family and my daughters were feeling distraught and helpless. At one point I lay for three days in a coma after another attempt at taking my own life. I was so disappointed that God did not let me die. When I woke up I knew that I had to try and do something. I could not go on this way, just existing. After about seven suicide attempts I now know God must have had plans for me and it was not my time to meet him. From what I have learned since coming to Alcoholics Anonymous, God chose me to be a member of AA and to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to the still-suffering alcoholic.
I am now in my seventh year of sobriety. Thank God for the Fellowship and the AA Programme of Recovery - I could not have done it without your help. Here are my memories of going through the Steps.
Step 1. I had to admit and accept that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanageable.
Step 2. I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I had to get rid of my old ideas about God. My God sat up in the clouds and watched every move that I made and I thought I was going to burn in hell. My God was a punishing God. I had to become willing to believe in a Higher Power and by this time I was willing.
Step 3. I said the Third Step prayer and I believe that I had handed my life over to God for Him to manage my life.
Step 4. For the first time in my life I looked at myself. I found out what made me tick. I had gone through my life not knowing I was selfish, self-centred, inconsiderate, fearful and dishonest. These defects were in me and I did not know. AA helped me to see myself as I really was and not the person that I portrayed on the stage of life. It let me see that I was an emotional wreck all my life and this was why I drank. I could not live sober.
Step 5. I shared the exact nature of my wrongs with my sponsor - the things I found out about myself in my Fourth Step; things that I thought that I would take to my grave. I left no stone unturned. I then went to a man of the cloth and explained that I was a member of AA and had just shared my Fifth Step with my sponsor and that I would next like to share it with him. I proceeded to do this. He said to me there were two things that I needed to do and that was I had to let go of my past and I had to forgive myself. When I finished I took out my 12 Step Prayer book. I turned to the reading for that day and it was titled 'The Letter'. Before then I had been searching for God in Bible study and different churches but when I read 'The Letter' I felt God come right into my heart and soul that very night. I began to sense the flow of God's spirit and felt as if God was guiding me. On page 85 in the Big Book it says we begin to develop this vital sixth sense. I know that was the experience I felt that night - that was my spiritual awakening.
Step 6. In Step Six I became entirely ready to have God remove all the defects that I uncovered when I did my Fourth Step inventory.
Step 7. I became humble and entirely ready for God to remove everything that I found out that was blocking me off from God.
Step 8. I made my list of people that I needed to make amends to. I set about cleaning my side of the street.
Step 9. I set out and made my amends to all the people and family that I hurt or offended and caused worry to.
I now continue to apply Steps 10, 11 and 12 on a daily basis. My life now is to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to the still-suffering alcoholic.
I have been given the gift of sobriety and to keep it I have to pass it on. I say "Thy will, not mine". I love the life I have today. For the first time in my life I have peace of mind. I can cope with life on a daily basis using the tools AA has given me. I have coped with things that I could never have coped with such as the death of my mother and two brothers. This would have been a situation I would have had to drink in order to cope. I also took cancer three-and-a-half years ago and without AA and acceptance I would never have reached the place I am today - seven years sober and three-and-a-half years in recovery from cancer.
I would like to thank every single person in all the rooms of AA who have helped me on my spiritual journey. God bless all of you.