Recovery Stories From AA Members
In this section is a series of Recovery Stories from local members of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Tyne & Northumbria area.
If you would like to submit a Recovery Story, please email the ELCO at firstname.lastname@example.org or pass the share to your local GSR.
Note: If submitting a story, please talk about your experience, strength and hope and how AA helped your recovery, and also be mindful to protect yours and other peoples anonymity.
I grew up in a small country village and had an idyllic childhood. I lived with my mother, grandmother and grandfather in a council house with a large garden. We grew all kinds of fruit and vegetables.
My mother and father were divorced before I was born and I grew up not knowing my dad. However, I didn't sense any absence; the house was filled with love enough.
Aged 11, things changed suddenly. My mother remarried. All went well initially, but I remembered thinking my childhood was over as we moved away a few miles. My mother's new husband quickly showed his true colours and so began teenage years filled with psychological and sometimes physical bullying. I knew he drank and found out that my biological father drank also and was an alcoholic.
Christmases were awful. I still struggle with them now. One Christmas, the second man my mother married threw me up against the car and tried to strangle me. He was very drunk. I asked the neighbours to call the police, but they just laughed and thought it was a joke. At this point, I left the house and went back to live with my grandmother.
I passed my A levels and applied to universities as far away from my village as I could. I started drinking at school, taking a bottle with me on the school bus. My last day at school was spent off my head and I ended up in trouble. I didn't care much at the time. I seemed to be able to drink far more than anyone else my age and not be able to stop.
At University, I continued to drink more normally - or so I thought. Drugs also played their part and I got in with a group of people who also didn't seem to fit in. I just managed to pass and graduate. I remember meeting my mother as she stepped out of 'his' car for the graduation ceremony. I didn't know at the time he was hitting her as well.
I met, and subsequently married a woman off my course. She'd also grown up in an abusive family. We were both bearers of secrets. Her secret was such that I couldn't speak of what had happened to her to anyone. Her sister committed suicide. I was diagnosed as having severe depression and continued to drink, as a way of coping, all through my course of medication.
The marriage ended after many years. In the end, I was drinking every day as early as I could. I couldn't cope with my life. I held down a job and was never drunk at work, amazingly. Bottles were hidden. Lies were told. She found out and wanted a divorce.
I contacted the woman I should have married. I decided this is what I wanted. I would cut down. She had children. I'd never drink in front of them (I did) and I'd never be drunk in front of them (I was.) I didn't cut down.
One evening, I went to the shop on my way home from work and bought whisky. I was nursing a pretty big resentment which went unvoiced. I disappeared for the next 12 hours and was found wandering the streets by my partner at 4am. When I awoke, she told me I had a problem with alcohol. I knew this but hadn't accepted it. She then asked me what 'we' were going to do about it. I realised then that 'we' meant she was going to take a massive gamble on me and I was going to need help. I didn't know how to get the help I needed.
On my way to work, I passed a building which had 'Recovery Partnership' on the door. I saw that the light was on. I was in a bad way. I went inside and a kind, friendly person showed me a path I could take, if I wanted to. I wanted to. She told me there was an meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous there that evening. Attending that meeting wasn't easy, but it was the smartest thing I have ever done.
With the help of the fellowship, I am coming up to being 2 years sober. I have met some incredible people. I've learnt to live as a sober person. It has been a journey which has changed my life and brought me slowly back to those I love and who love me. It has given me my life back. It has given me peace.
Hello, my name is Suzanne and I'm an alcoholic. Right now I'm feeling very lucky to be writing this share on living spiritually. I also feel a little anxious that maybe it won't be good enough and the editors will rip it to shreds. Then I remember that that's old thinking and so my next thought is that the editors work a programme with love in their hearts, a higher power in their lives and any feedback will be delivered with compassion and understanding... then the anxiety goes away.
This ability to trust in others, to know that I'm powerless over my first thought and to adapt my thinking towards positivity are all down to working the Twelve Steps, participating in meetings, listening to and believing my sponsor and having a higher power help me when I can't help myself. This is some of living spiritually for me today.
Throughout my blood vomiting, binge drinking and drug taking career I somehow suspected that recovery would be spiritual in nature so I attempted to learn several traditions over the years in vain attempts to get and stay alcohol free. None of them worked and I would always end up drinking again. I wanted to live spiritually, but until I put in the foundations of recovery, took action by changing my thoughts, beliefs and behaviours, all the learning in the world wouldn't take hold. I had to embody the wisdom, rather than just thinking about it.
The reality back then was that I hated myself and others, alcohol was my higher power, I lied and lived in deep denial, I was afraid and paranoid and totally trapped in my self created prison. I would give in on tasks and jobs, sever emotional ties with people who had stopped meeting my needs, wallow in self pity and depression and act in various degrading ways to get my kicks. Nothing about my life was spiritual, I lived on the seven deadly sins, was selfish and self obsessed and as a consequence I was in daily pain, feeling lost, guilty, ashamed, insecure, alone, unappreciated, hopeless and disconnected.
When I came to AA and started working the Steps the polar opposites began to come true. In step one I found hope instead of despair and in step two started the process of growing real faith which meant I could learn to avoid worry and anxiety. Step three taught me trust and surrender and with step five helped me to grow courage. By developing honesty in Step four my confusion lifted and I gained peace of mind and some perspective on my past, and then in Step five my courage grew some more.
Step six boosted my willingness and self confidence and step seven paved the way for me to learn humility. In step eight my guilt left me and I forgave myself and others so was ready for the freedom I developed in Step nine. Step ten showed me old patterns and new clean ones and taught me self discipline and purpose and instilled the habit of reflection and contemplation each night. Step eleven gave me patience, love and understanding and continues to heal and uplift me. With the clarity and love from Step twelve I was ready to put all of this into my life on a daily basis and to build upon it so that I could share it with others. Giving freely what was given to me makes life fulfilling and rewarding and I am only just learning the riches from this.
Self acceptance, self love and respect are slowly increasing in my life today and I'm getting to grips with valuing and caring for myself by having regular gentleness breaks, eating nourishing, healthy foods and taking regular exercise. This means I feel motivated, focused and optimistic. When I fall back into old ways and eat unhealthy food, judge and whine about something I have no control over, lie in bed too long or work so hard I have no time to recharge, I feel pessimistic, tired and depressed and can end up in the cycle of self obsession all over again. Living spiritually means I act in ways that help my well being and when I lapse, I get back into action with compassion and love.
Some of the things I do to live spiritually today include as much prayer and mediation as is practical. Both are very important, meditation because it helps increase the gaps between my thoughts and keeps my mind calm and my body relaxed; which means I respond with awareness to people, places and things. Praying keeps me in conscious contact with my higher power and enhances the feelings of connected-ness, security and safety I longed for when I was drinking.
Also noticing my breathing is another useful practice for me to stay present because it brings me back into this moment, helps me to focus on what my senses are experiencing rather than what my monkey mind is doing. In this way I don't miss the needs of my family and children and I can give them unlimited love and plenty of attention.
When I interact with friends, family and strangers today I hold the intention of how I can best help them and I appreciate their strengths and beauties. Sometimes I can take the inventory of others and when I catch myself I think about how active that particular defect is for me or which defect I am acting on by taking their inventory in the first place. This really helps me avoid resentments and keeps me feeling free and happy. Noticing beauty in others and in nature really boosts the love in my heart and the gratitude I feel, it helps me connect and opens me up to wisdom or any messages from my higher power.
Today I hold a core belief that we are all made from light, or love, and that there is no separation between you or I, that unity is the fundamental fabric of matter and that the Twelve Steps are a process to awaken our inherit consciousness and understanding to this. For me, in this moment, I am love, you are wondrous love and everything is a vibration of love. What a gift this all is that we share and how absolutely awesome it is to be alive and sober, working towards a balanced and harmonious life, pondering the very nature of existence and being unattached to any particular view.
Living spiritually for me means all this and more, it means playing with my children, working to provide for them, cleaning and maintaining our home, being kind to others and myself, learning in academia, giving to my fellowship and community and last but certainly not least, it means practising the principles of AA to the best of my ability in every facet of life... when I notice!!
Thank you for being you. xxx
My Name is Karen T...
A few weeks before I came into the fellowship I went searching again for help and sought out the services of a life coach to change my life and my drinking (although I never told her I had a drink problem initially) and a spiritual healer as I felt devoid of light in my soul and could only see darkness and felt like I had a black heart.
Two weeks later my life was to change dramatically when I picked up the phone to the AA helpline. I had never reached out to AA before and no thoughts had entered my head that night. I know now that these weren't my actions, that something else was at work. A power greater than me guiding me to a safer place.
22nd February 2005, I floated into my first AA meeting, maybe delusional or withdrawing from the night before, I felt light and loved for the first time from a bunch of strangers that was ok, it felt good. It felt better than good, it felt fantastic. Where were these emotions coming from, this was not normal for me, but I didn't question it.
The thought of that first drink was never far away, until I heard "you need never drink again". My ears pricked up, that's what I'm here for I screamed in my head, and I never want to drink again.
Over 25 long years of alcohol abuse I was ready to let go, my life surely wasn't over at 40, maybe it was just beginning. Those negative first thoughts I clung onto for years had a glimmer of hope. If you can do it, so can I!
This Higher Power thing sounded alien, maybe I could replace my guardian angel who had watched over me all those dark years for the Higher Power. I had more lives than a cat but I'd had my ninth and there wasn't any left in the bank, either this worked or I was finished.
God was mentioned frequently during that first meeting it didn't bother me, I'd held court with God on a number of occasions over the years begging for his forgiveness or bartering to get me out of the mire for the umpteenth time with a promise never to drink again. This was always short lived, maybe a day, three days or at best a week if I'd been really bad or very ill and I couldn't physically face a drink. In fact it was a relief to be able to rely on something else rather than myself, as by this point I trusted nothing or no-one, in fact I didn't even trust myself anymore, who was I anyway! I had to admit defeat I had been a liar, cheat and a thief for many years of my life even before my drinking, a sobering thought and crushing admission.
I was desperate to change this sorry excuse of a human being and this was my chance and I was going to grab it with both hands.
Meetings were a blessing once a day, I was lucky I didn't have a job, my higher power relieved me of that burden before I was found out, so recovery became my job. If I could get a babysitter I would go twice a day and for once in my life listened to other people, a novel experience but one I found invaluable to my journey.
Having not taken a drink from that first meeting I was amazed at how alive I felt, how did that happen? I tried for 25 years to stop drinking or at best control my drinking and one meeting of AA and I had not needed or wanted to take a drink. I believe I took step one and accepted I was an alcoholic and was absolutely ready to follow in the steps of others that had gone before me.
At five weeks sober I talked to a lady who I had seen regularly at a meeting and asked her to be my sponsor, even that wasn't straight forward. She suggested I read the leaflet on sponsorship and understand what was expected of us both. I did what I was told even though I had thought of nothing else. Fear was running through my head what if she refused how would I recover from the rejection. I had to have faith that no matter what I would be ok. Thankfully she said yes and is still my sponsor today.
I have been guided through this amazing programme by a wise and humble lady who I have the utmost love and respect for. She has passed on her experience, strength and hope to me daily and has been an inspiration to me and an example to follow.
I haven't always followed a spiritual path in my recovery and that came at great expense to me and my husband. At eighteen months I gradually become restless, irritable and discontent with my marriage, this is going the same way as the other two I thought, divorce. I'm bored it isn't working for me.
I didn't think to speak to my husband and explain how I was feeling. I regularly spoke to my sponsor and moaned about him. She advised to stick with it and work my programme around the feelings and write about it in step ten. I took no notice, I still went to meetings, still did as much service, I love doing service giving back to AA what was giving freely to me.
The thoughts got stronger and the stinking thinking started to sink in, a drink isn't an option I thought but the next best thing to me is "a new man". I turned this thought into a reality and blew both our worlds apart. Thankfully it didn't last long, my sponsor brought me to my senses. I was capable of behaving badly in this way without a drink, this was insanity. It was worse without a drink, no-one to blame but myself and my selfish wants. I had to take responsibility and be accountable for my actions, but I didn't have to do it alone.
We had eighteen painful months of trying to rebuild trust and a lot of honesty. My husband seems to have his own built in programme but I had to work harder than ever with my sponsor, higher power and the steps to look at me and one day at a time accept that I also had to abstain from this sort of behaviour in my life to live an emotionally sober life.
For the past four years I have looked at me first and my part in situations. I rely on the steps, my higher power, sponsor, meetings, service and the people in AA more now than ever, for me it's the whole package. I enjoy my life and sobriety but I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that divine intervention eight years ago.
Karen T, Newcastle