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I first admitted that I was an alcoholic about 17 years ago. I attended AA meetings in Leith and quickly decided that the Programme of Recovery offered there was not for me. I could not accept the idea that I was powerless over alcohol; telling myself instead, that by exerting my own self-will and practising abstinence, I could master my condition. The concept of surrendering was completely unacceptable to me and I could not entertain the idea of a relationship with any sort of Higher Power, least of all a divine creative power. For the next 17 years I spent long periods of time sober but would always find an excuse to drink during times of personal difficulty. These episodes become worse over time, resulting in all sorts of horrible situations and a great deal of trouble.
Just before Christmas I was told something which hurt me and I used it as an excuse to go on another spree, during which I behaved worse than I ever have before and emotionally went to a very scary place filled with rage and the desire to harm others. During the following few days I became so wracked by remorse, rage, resentment, jealousy and self-loathing that I lost all perspective and decided that I’d rather be dead. I attempted suicide by overdose on Hogmanay evening, having decided that I didn’t want to see another year.
I was admitted to hospital on New Year’s Day and finally came to understand that I was indeed powerless over alcohol. Furthermore, during this period I found myself praying for the first time since childhood and I began to feel what I call the light of the divine inside myself. I hadn’t felt this since childhood and it was a profoundly powerful experience. I understood that although I had turned my back on God, He had not abandoned me. I also realised that He would help me if I wanted His help; mind-blowing for an arrogant agnostic, but in a really good way.
By now, I understood that I would need all the help I could get as I was, in fact, completely powerless over alcohol and left to my own devices, was going to end up dead from it. I attended the first meeting of AA that I could during my stay in hospital and this time I found it a completely different experience. The Twelve Steps now looked like the most appealing thing I’d ever seen and I now knew that I could use them as a path to wellness. I was and still remain painfully aware of what a phoney I had become and want more than anything to become a genuine, meaningful human being.
One of the AA members at that first meeting gave me a timetable of all the available meetings in my area and I was easily convinced that I should go to as many meetings as I could for the next few months. I resolved to do exactly that and have done so.
Since coming back to AA I have finally accepted that I am an alcoholic, after years of admitting but not accepting the fact. It has been one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had. To accept that I am suffering from an illness over which I have no power and to have come to understand that there is a God up there who wants me in the world and is willing to help me to help myself has been a thing of great wonder to me. It has also given me massive relief. During my last involvement with AA I was like a slate shedding the water of knowledge as fast as it came to me but now I feel like a dry sponge ready and capable of absorbing that same knowledge. I feel like I am teachable for the first time in my life. I have come to accept that I am an alcoholic and with that acceptance has come an understanding that I am suffering from a lifelong, progressive illness which, in my case, will result in death. This illness is threefold and because of this requires a unique approach for recovery. Alcoholism is an obsession of the mind, an allergy of the body and a sickness of the soul. The spiritual aspect which I found so hard to accept before is perhaps the most important and in my view the root of it all.
By attending as many AA meetings as I can I have gained a huge amount of identification from other members of the Fellowship and have become more and more convinced that I am a textbook case who will be able to gain wellness and sanity if I sincerely follow the Twelve Steps to recovery. I am benefitting from the experience, strength and hope of other AA members and am experiencing the power of prayer in my life again as well as seeing, first-hand, the power of example set by other recovering alcoholics. It is wonderful, meaningful and profound. By reading the Big Book I am learning about my illness and accepting more and more that I am a typical alcoholic whose malady began with dishonesty, leading to harboured resentment, fear, self-loathing and ultimately an attempt at escape through alcohol. I now understand that I can gain a daily reprieve from this horrible illness, by practising the suggestions made in the Twelve Steps, ‘one day at a time’.