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The Promises Do Come True

Audio Version

My name is Anne and I am an alcoholic. I am new to Roundabout and new to Scotland but not new to AA. I am writing this to share my experience, strength and hope as we become better acquainted.

I was a shy, small, near-sighted left-handed bookworm girl growing up in an America where ‘popular’ meant being sociable, pretty, athletic and not very interested in school. My British mother didn't understand any of this. She didn't plan her child's life according to American TV shows and basically told me it was a load of rubbish. So, after years of feeling like an outcast, when I discovered alcohol it felt like a ‘miracle cure’. It took away all my anxiety and let me feel normal, outgoing and, as I am sure will not surprise you, able to tell tremendous lies that impressed people no end. It was a bit frightening though, as I still wanted to be seen as a ‘good girl’. And access was limited by my surroundings.

When I got to college I joined a left-wing crowd who thought alcohol belonged to The Establishment. We were going to be different and rebellious: we smoked cannabis, took LSD and made fun of drinkers. Since I didn't enjoy these other substances very much, this had the effect of shielding me from the damage of alcohol for several years. Meantime I came up with an ambitious list of goals which, when achieved, were certain to ensure my lifelong happiness and since drinking led to loss of control, I was afraid it would get in the way of my plans, so I made the decision not to drink. I was still able to do this, early on in my life. Later this would be very different.

By my mid-thirties I had met all my goals: the degrees, the career, the husband, the children, the house and cars, the money, property and prestige. Anyone looking from the outside would have seen a woman living the American Dream and envied her, thinking "She's got it all" but inside I was miserable. The misfit little girl was still there: I had no close friends, never felt part of anything and was always anxious and lonely and sad. What to do? Well, along comes my old friend alcohol. No longer blocked by politics or ambitions, alcohol jumped right back into my life.

At first it was wonderful. I had expensive booze in crystal glasses, at social functions and in restaurants and at home. Oh indeed, I had finally arrived but during those years of white-knuckle abstinence, the disease had just grown stronger. Very quickly I slid down from social drinker to secret slosher. I drank every day, mostly at home to keep it hidden. It took more and more alcohol to get ‘the right amount of drunk’.

I began to plan my shopping trips around it, where I would go, how much I would buy, what I would say if asked. The booze got cheaper and the bottles got bigger. I was concealing them all over the house.My drinking began to affect every aspect of my life. I was feeling ill, having blackouts, terrible hangovers and was drink-driving. I would promise to do something for my children then ‘forget’ because drinking was more important. We built a swimming pool, something I had wanted for years and I was too sick to swim across it. I lied all the time, even when there was no need to, then couldn't remember which lies I had told to which people. Life was very complicated. My family were fed up with me and ready to abandon me.

I realised I had a problem. For a long time it was YOUR fault: if only I had this different job, house, spouse, child etc, then it would be ok. By the time I realised that alcohol itself was a problem, it was too late to stop. I tried doctors, counsellors, self-help books, church and white-knuckle abstinence. Nothing helped. I couldn't live with alcohol and I couldn't live without it.

I was at the jumping off place. I wished for the end.

My choices didn't look good: I could keep drinking, doing my best to blot out my miserable end; I could kill myself; or I could hope some nice American policeman with a gun would do it for me. Finally, two kind people at work took me aside and confronted me. They said they knew I had a problem with alcohol and I needed to go straight home. By the time I got there the boss was on the phone, telling me "Don't come back until you have done something about this". So this was the last stop; I retreated into my bedroom with bottle and gun, ready to end it all.

I owe my life to World Series Baseball. One of my children kept running into my room telling me who was on base and what the score was. Knowing this child would be the one to find me, I couldn't kill myself right then. In floods of tears, I found myself saying my first honest prayer in years "God help me, I don't know what to do". The response was immediate. Not a great thunderclap or fiery letters in the sky, but small and practical as are most messages from my Higher Power: use the phone. I called the local detox and signed myself in. That is when my life started over.

I was introduced to AA immediately. I couldn't believe these smiling people who looked so well had ever been as sick as I was and why were they wasting their time to come and see hopeless drunks like me? I understand that now. They were freely giving what had been given to them, so that they themselves could keep it.

As my recovery progressed I worked through some painful truths about myself. I had in fact manufactured a lot of my own misery. God didn't do it and neither did other people. And I could stop doing it, if I was willing to take certain Steps. They say Step One is the only one you have to get 100% right. Looking at the near-fatal mess I had made of my life, my complete and total inability to live without alcohol, the damage I had done to everyone around me, especially my family, this was really a no-brainer for me and here were a large group of people whose stories showed they had been where I was, they had found a way out and they were willing to share it with me. Would I have it? Of course I would! I was willing to surrender all my failed ideas and accept the AA Programme as a new way of life.

Since coming to AA I have lost almost all of the stuff I thought was so important. The house, the cars, the pool, the important titles, the money…those things were just ways I was trying to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart. And when they didn't do the trick, ever larger amounts of alcohol numbed the pain and loneliness. Now I have a different idea of what is important in my life and I have a way of life which makes that possible, one day at a time. The Promises do come true, larger than life and better than I ever could have imagined.