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Alcoholics Anonymous Was There For Me

Audio Version  

Early one Sunday morning, rattling as per usual, I phoned someone I knew vaguely through my work who had drink in the house and begged him to bring some over to me. He refused point-blank to give me booze or money. I was raging. Instead, he found out there was a meeting close to me (it turned out his brother was in AA in the USA) and took me later that day. That was my first AA meeting. I was still rattling and my head was completely taken up with how to get drink. My only real memory of that meeting was a man ranting about something. When later someone from the Social Work Department (my son was in care because of my drinking) suggested I give AA a try that first meeting didn't put me off. My impression at my second meeting was they were nice enough folk if a bit staid. I was welcomed, no one was ranting, a kind older gentleman quietly told me I need never drink again and some women gave me their phone numbers. I thought "They must be lonely if they want me to phone them". I didn't realise they were giving me their numbers to try and help me. I didn't take on board what was being said and quite soon I was drinking again.

Then one day as I came to choking for a drink, cold and sweating, heart racing, head racing, feeling as if every cell in my body was shaking and going to either collapse or explode, diarrhoea, dry boak (oddly enough no terror-filled hallucinations on that occasion) I had a glimmer of insight. I realised for the first time that the drink I could buy with the money I had wasn't going to be enough. It would only take away the horrible feelings for a short while and I would be back feeling like that again very soon with no money and no prospect of money. I remember thinking "I'm going to have to dour it out so it might as well be now. Once I was physically able, I came back to AA.

Previously when I'd come to AA despite serious consequences of my drinking, including alcoholic seizures, homelessness, family estrangement and neglect of my very young son, it hadn't remotely dawned on me that I had a problem with drink. Even when I came back if I'd been asked "Do you have a problem with your drinking?" I would have probably answered a glib "Yes" but I hadn't put any real thought into it. I hadn't looked at my life and thought to myself "Yes, it's the drink". When I came off the drink that last time, one day at a time, I wasn't thinking "I've got to stop drinking, drink is killing me and I can't go on like this". If I thought anything at all, it was "I suppose I'd better have another wee break". Considering the mess of my life the glimmer of insight I mentioned earlier was the tiniest of tiny flickers.

I didn't like AA at first. My perception of AA was that everyone said the same as everyone else. They said the exact same thing week in week out, the women were bitchy, the men sleazy and you were all in a clique that excluded me. I stayed in AA but I don't really know why. However, I wasn't drinking and my life was improving - well externally it was. Was it the occasional meeting I enjoyed, was I scared that if I stopped coming I would drink, was a power greater than me that I had no belief in at work behind the scenes doing for me what I couldn't do for myself? I don't know. Whatever it was that kept me in AA I'm grateful to it.

I was not drinking and not changing for a number of years in AA. I was going through the motions, work, holidays, relationships and meetings. I wasn't taking part in life in any emotionally real sense though I could observe it, you and me with a critical and judgemental eye. It wasn't till I picked up the Programme with the help of a sponsor and started working it in my life that I started to get well. Thanks to the Programme my character defects are tempered and I don't act on them the way I used to. I'm more at peace with myself. I like myself more and am kinder to myself. Part of the spiritual awakening I got as the result of these steps is that I was able to start caring, both for myself and others. I can live without having to steal, lie or deliberately hurt anyone - things I did both before AA and while in AA before the Programme. I thought I had to do those things to survive - I didn't but I thought I did. I can let go of resentment. I can understand that other people do things differently from me and that doesn't make them less than me. Worrying about what other people think of me doesn't rule my life the way it used to. I can see my true motives and hopefully act out of good ones. I don't people-please to manipulate others to get what I wanted as much as I did. Slowly my internal life improved, my conscience came back and the voice in my head became less critical. I do what I can do and I'm aware I can't control outcomes. I can try to carry the AA message to the alcoholic who still suffers. I don't have a God as I understand it in my life but I trust in and depend on AA's 12 Step Programme of Recovery which to me is a power greater than me.

When I came back to AA that third time it wasn't with a plan to stay stopped, change the person that brought me into AA and start to get well but that's what's happening. Thank you AA for being there for me, for letting me stick around while not well and behaving badly, for every group member who has helped keep a meeting open, to everyone who has shared at a meeting whether from a top table or the body of the hall. Thank you AA for getting me sober and keeping me sober, one day at a time.

Riddrie Friday 1pm Glasgow