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STEP ONE

You Need Never Drink Again

 

Audio Version

Step 1: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable"

It took this alcoholic many years to admit real powerlessness over alcohol. I first came to AA aged 26, desperately unhappy with my life and looking for a solution, and I grabbed hold of the idea of being an alcoholic and that stopping drinking would solve all my problems. I went to a few meetings and then decided that I felt a bit of a fraud coming back because I did not identify with people who struggled to not drink. I had realised I could not drink and that was that. For the next three years, I did not drink. At first, life got a lot better. I started to keep some friendships because I was no longer putting people off with drunken behaviour.

However, as time wore on, I started to notice that I was not capable of doing life as people around me appeared to be able to. There was something wrong with me which meant that I could not brush off upsets (that is, resentments, as I now call them,) and anything that worried me really worried me and gripped my mind uncontrollably. I asked friends for help but got odd looks. In the end, I figured that the difference between them and me was that they drank and I did not, so I thought I should try drinking.

Alcohol is indeed cunning, baffling and powerful. Out of the blue, one day, I decided to join people in a gin and tonic. To my surprise, nothing happened. I just had one drink. I concluded that I could not be an alcoholic, and could drink as much as I like. And so I did. The next time I drank, I polished off a couple of bottles of gin, but there was no stopping me then. I had decided I was not an alcoholic.

What followed was just over seven years of alcoholic drinking. Sometimes it was binge drinking, and sometimes daily drinking. I found that if I practised binge drinking, I completely lost control and that made me very anxious and feel awful afterwards. If I did daily drinking, I drank less so the consequences weren't quite so bad, but in less than a week, I would become terribly depressed. I could never get the balance right. The common denominator was that I was drinking when I had decided I wouldn't and when I did not want to, but I was helpless against the sick, painful feeling in my stomach that only a drink would take away.

For years, I tried all sorts of remedies. I took up yoga and meditation; I went on retreats; I gave up spirits; I gave up drinking outside my home; I stopped keeping alcohol at home; I left jobs and relationships; I relocated; I had counselling and psychotherapy. I tried so hard, and yet I could not admit that I had a problem with alcohol. I would admit to being anxious and depressed but I would never mention alcohol, and it was a rare person who mentioned it to me.

Somewhere I must have realised I was powerless, because I had a brief ten days in AA to make sure I kept an important appointment, but then when that was all done, I decided I could do the job myself, and quickly got drunk.

Finally, after another 15 months of more trying to stop drinking on my own, I came to AA. I was exhausted with the effort of not drinking. I had even managed five months without a drink at one point, but heartbreakingly had drunk again because I simply had no other way to deal with feelings I could not then even name. I had realised that I could not stop and stay stopped on my own and I could not deal with my own feelings either. I came to a meeting, not quite sobered up, broken and defeated, and heard the words, "You need never drink again". I've kept coming back and, one day at a time, that has been true for over six and a half years now.

HELEN, Milton Keynes