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I was anxious when I was a child as my parents argued a lot and I worried what might happen. My brother never seemed to get involved in any of the fights in the house but I got scared and tried to help fix things. I also felt that I was with the wrong family when I was growing up, and I fantasized about having a different life from an early age so I don’t think I felt that comfortable with me. I was bullied a bit (although I also bullied) and I became careful to ensure I couldn’t be hurt by anyone again, so I guess emotionally I shut down a bit. I started drinking at 14 - the usual cider that everyone drank and I smoked a bit of pot. Nothing major happened. I became obsessed with reading about the 1960s counterculture and the drugs and things that people got up to seemed very interesting to me. When my parents were out and I was in the house on my own I was always looking for things to take me out of myself by smoking or taking anything that might get me high. I even took amyl nitrate (poppers) in a class at school one day though luckily the teacher never noticed!
When I was 17 I went out for a Christmas meal with some other teenagers from a shop I worked in. I got incredibly drunk for the first time, had a blackout and had to be helped home though I fell a lot of the way and had mud all over my new dress. My mum was shocked but didn’t really say or do anything other than look disgusted. I carried on drinking for the next few years and always boasted that I never got hangovers despite the amount I drank. I felt very proud when my brother told me that Richard Burton never got hangovers either!
My drinking carried on in a similar way. Most of the time I drank quite heavily and all of my socializing seemed to revolve around drink. I did a lot of geographical changes and after a very difficult situation at home I went to London to get away from all the upset. I had a better life and more opportunities in London but again most times I drank I would end up blacking out or in situations where I didn’t understand how I got there. I became friends with a big group of Scottish people who were also big drinkers and so getting wasted most weekends was the norm. I moved house a lot and had unhealthy relationships where I just latched onto a man, if he showed any interest in me at all and also if he liked to drink. I became known as the party girl and could always be relied on to do something outrageous when I was drinking.
I was freelance and when I wasn’t working I was spending a lot of money and started to get into trouble with my finances. When I was working (which became less and less as I was not a great employee) I was trying to pay back credit cards and loans so my finances were a mess. I split up with my partner to have an affair with a mutual friend and then with a married man. I would get drunk and behave irresponsibly but I didn’t make any connection between the two.
Eventually I became bankrupt aged 35, and entered a very bleak period where I was drinking almost every night. I decided to move back to Glasgow and went to stay with my parents whilst I worked part time. Again my drinking continued and I didn’t care if I had to wake my parents up at three in the morning to let me in when I had been out at an event which allowed me to drink heavily.
Then I met someone who I liked and we started dating and he didn’t drink much for a change. He would get annoyed with me for drinking so much and I would tell him he was boring. I drank most nights and would pass out when we had guests round or just go to bed without letting anyone know where I was. I moved us to another job down south and continued drinking and actually upped it, drinking about two bottles of wine every night because I was ‘so stressed’ with my new job. I never got drunk with any of my colleagues and if I did go out with them I would have a small drink then go home to get smashed. My partner (who was by now my husband) kept telling me I was drinking him under the table and again I thought this was a badge of honour. I stayed in this job a couple of years and then decided to leave to return to Scotland. I left my colleagues without the proper notice period and now realise how much work I gave them because of this and how irresponsible this was.
I came back to Scotland and carried on, though by this time I felt enslaved to drink and couldn’t imagine my life without it. How could I live without this thing I hated so much? Yet every day (almost) I drank and felt sick of myself. The end came when aged 43, I went to a party, drank lots of free wine, made a complete idiot of myself then had a hangover for a week. I was so depressed and I just couldn’t take any more. I had family members in the Fellowship but I didn’t contact them and I went along to a meeting and for the first time in my life I felt at home somewhere. I felt that a weight was lifted off my shoulders when I went into those rooms and I cried all the way through the first few meetings. Everyone was so kind and I couldn’t believe how helpful everyone was.
Since then I have got a sponsor, went through the Programme and joined a group. I did everything (almost) I was told as I couldn’t live that old life anymore. I didn’t fight it; I just went along looking forward to living differently. I got into service in my group and loved being part of something important instead of being so self-obsessed.
I got so sick of being sick and hated being a slave to drink that I was driven to my knees. My life had been chaotic for years and I had never connected my alcohol consumption with any of the chaos – the geographicals, the sick relationships, bankruptcies, inability to live in the day and to deal with life on life’s terms.
Life can still be difficult but I don’t have to fight it through a fug of alcohol and the chaos has dissipated. I would say that joining Alcoholics Anonymous is the best thing I have ever done in my life.
Women Living Sober, Chancellor Street, Glasgow