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I have been attending AA for the past 16 years and thanks to this Fellowship, our 12 Step Programme of Recovery, sponsorship, service and literature (including Roundabout) I have reached 15 years of continuous sobriety. I was recently doing my anniversary share at my group and I got chatting to one of the Roundabout editorial team who suggested I send my story to the magazine for consideration. Here it is.
When I arrived at my first AA meeting just over 16 years ago I felt I was hanging on to my life and sanity by a thread. I was riddled with fear and anxiety and my mind raced with a hundred negative emotions. I suspected something wasn't quite right with my drinking but as I held down a good job in the media, owned my own house, drove a big car and sent my children to school dressed smartly with money in their pockets and full lunchboxes I couldn't possibly be an alcoholic.
I didn't understand that alcoholism is an illness that centres in your mind, affects your behaviour and distorts reality. I didn’t realise that every time I took that ‘first drink’ it triggered all these negative responses. I felt like I was in a continuous squirrel wheel that always played out with me ending up drunk, even though that was never my intention. My mind would tell me "have a drink, you’ll feel better and be able to cope" but ending up drunk was always my experience. I lived on the idea that everything else but me was the problem and, as I had no ability at that time to look at myself honestly, self-pity and blame of everything else became my comfortable enablers to continue drinking.
After a short time in AA and going to meetings I began to listen and I was encouraged to find out what I suffered from and that it might just save my life. At this point I was desperate. I didn't want to feel hopeless, lonely, confused and terrified anymore. I had seen the pain in the eyes of my family due to my irrational, deceitful, selfish and self-centred behaviour which was now affecting everyone and everything I came into contact with. I didn't realise that in order to keep drinking I had cultivated a cast iron denial system that allowed me to rationalise and justify the reality of my drinking. I would lie to myself that I'd drunk on an empty stomach or I'm coping with a stressful job and, when the hangover lifted, that it wasn't that bad and I would watch what I drank next time. Honesty was not one of my strong points!
After nine months in AA trying things my way and cherry picking what was on offer I inevitably relapsed and went back to the pain of the ‘same old same old’ and some new ‘yets’! I finally accepted I had to do everything AA suggests. I found a sponsor who told me the only way to get sober and maintain my sobriety was to start being honest and willing to change. If I did, I would never need drink again. I would recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body and learn to cope with life and be happy and contented. I was told if I worked at the 12 Step Recovery Programme I’d get well and stay well.
This is probably the hardest thing I've ever done and at times I've felt as if I was trudging through treacle but nothing worthwhile in life comes easily and, by learning a bit at a time to be honest with someone I trust, I have attained and I maintain my recovery. I'm not religious but I did come to realise there must be something greater than me in the universe that turned the seasons, created nature and was responsible for all those ‘coincidences’ that I often experience. My sponsor assured me this was me starting to recover from that ‘seemingly hopeless state of mind and body’.
Slowly but surely, as my sponsor guided me through the Programme, life started to get better and I continued to learn about the causes and conditions that lay beneath my alcoholism. I came to understand all the twisted perspectives on my emotions and the resentments I created from these, the harm I had done myself and others and I learned what I had to do to rectify and amend all these things in a way that would allow me to live today without guilt, shame and remorse, find forgiveness for myself and others, cultivate gratitude and achieve an ability to cope with life on a daily basis. Alcohol had changed my thinking so dramatically that in my darkest thoughts suicide had been an acceptable solution. In my 15 years of recovery suicide has never been a thought let alone a considered solution. The Twelve Promises have materialised for me and continue to do so. I know if I keep doing the right things now, the right things will happen to me. I can accept life on life’s terms today, with all its ups and downs, and that was something beyond me as a performing alcoholic.
Some of my most difficult life experiences have happened during my recovery - financial difficulties, relationship break-ups, deaths of loved ones and ill health - things that would previously have turned me right back to the bottle. Now, in recovery, I have the tools and the solution to manage these situations.
At four years sober I was diagnosed with a serious rheumatology health condition that requires regular admission to hospital for treatment every couple of months but I found I could cope with this ‘life changing’ situation and stay sober. During this time the Roundabout magazine became an invaluable tool for maintaining my recovery, with all its regular articles, tips, suggestions and message of recovery in each copy. It’s an essential for people like me who suffer from ill health or who are isolated from regular meetings and the Fellowship.
I have often got loads of identification, hope and inspiration from just reading through a copy of Roundabout, whether it's the latest edition or archived copies. Whether in a hospital ward or recovering at home from the side effects of treatment, I can flick through the pages of Roundabout and get the help I need. I really like the fact that in this modern age a magazine is more accessible than a computer or tablet when you’re disabled, ill or confined to bed and I really appreciate the fantastic service the editorial team provide with the magazine.
My children have had 15 years of peace from my drinking to get on with their
own lives, go through college and university, get good jobs, enter healthy
relationships and start families of their own. I can be reliable, trustworthy
and dependable today by just being there for them and my grandchild.Today I spend 95% of my life with peace of mind and contentment and I'm
comfortable in my own skin, free from the bondage of alcohol. I learned ‘self-care’
and I went through professional counselling which helps me manage deep rooted
emotional damage and achieve emotional sobriety. I can engage in healthy
relationships today based on trust, commitment and respect. This has allowed me
to marry and form a genuine relationship far removed from the shallow, self-serving
relationships I gravitated to in my drinking days. I've travelled all over the
world, done voluntary work in the addiction field, become involved in service
at intergroup and I’ve cultivated fulfilling hobbies. All of these things
were ‘beyond my wildest dreams.’ (So that's what they meant!)
I'm under no illusion that my recovery is based on continual application of the Programme, that I suffer from alcoholism and I am never cured. So, I maintain a regular ‘safety net’ and have been a member of the same group for the last 11 years. You will find me on any given Monday at my group where I try to provide service, help and support along with my group members. I stay on the AA radar. I try not to isolate. I try to be honest with other people. Even 15 years down the line I remember that complacency can kill me. There are too many people to mention who have helped me to get and stay sober but they are all visible in AA, quietly applying what AA suggests! It works and I'm eternally grateful to them.
I can never be grateful enough for being alive and sober today with the help of
the Fellowship and literature like Roundabout helping me to remain in the ‘here
and now’ so I think I'm just going to stay here one day at a time and attempt
to give something back. Thank you.