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Probation stories

Here you can read inspirational personal accounts of members who have been subject to supervision by the Probation/Criminal Justice Services and attended AA meetings whilst this was taking place. As new ones are added they will be referred to in the Latest News section.

Jeff joined AA after being arrested for assaulting a police officer. By working with AA and Probation, for the first time in more than a decade he is sober, a fact which has helped him successfully complete his sentence. It was the first time Jeff, who is 41, had been in trouble with the law, but he accepts that at the time of the offence it was an accident waiting to happen.

He had reached rock-bottom, after a battle with the bottle that started when he was a child. Jeff said: “I have a sensitive nature; I have always felt different. I started drinking when I was nine. I now see that my old man was an alcoholic: it was always around the house, and in a way, I thought by drinking it, it would mean he would have less to drink. I was a latch-key kid. I began wagging school; I got bullied at home and the slipper at school. I’d not learned to read or write.”

“I was full of fear but got a warm glow in the pit of my stomach from drinking. I now get that glow from being here to help other people begin recovery. The Operations Manager in our local Probation Office asked me to do be a point of contact for AA. To get that responsibility and praise means a lot to me and helps me keep going.” Jeff stopped drinking after his dad had an operation and stopped himself, but once again hit the bottle after he left home.

“I did rag and bone with my family for years. I was ok then, but when I turned 35 things fell apart. I kept on getting into low-level trouble, fines, and cautions for drunk and disorderly. I think the arrest really was a blessing, but one thing I found really hard was talking about my progress with magistrates. I suffer from depression and anxiety, so to have to meet people I didn’t know was very hard. It is a battle I face every day, but AA has given me hope because helping others helps me help myself.”

Jeff got a one-year supervision order and tag, but magistrates varied his curfew to enable him to attend AA. He added: “AA and probation gave me two angles. One gave me experience and hope, the other structure, and the need to have to get out, to go to places. AA telling me why I had to go to probation also helped with my compliance and sobriety.”

Jeff has not had any alcohol for more than two and a half years, and feels the support provided by AA and Probation has given him the ability to replace his thirst for drink with an infinitely more positive vocation.

I had no memory of how I ended up all bloodied, scarred, and sore in a police cell; only a faint recollection of being trundled in the back of a van. Many hours later, when I was deemed sober enough to interview, I was shown a photograph of a facial wound which I had inflicted in a bar with a wine glass; I was shocked and horrified that I had hurt someone. I was charged with Section 18, wounding with intent before I was allowed to go home. How had this happened? I was a 40-year-old mother who had no previous conviction, who had never been in trouble with the police and who was working and studying during her final year of a degree.

I rarely went out apart from to restaurants or to the cinema with my daughter; I preferred to stay at home in the evening with a bottle of wine or two (or three?). Like everyone else I knew, I needed a bit of help to wind down in the evening, to take the ’edge’ off.

After this weekend my ‘edge’ suddenly took on a new dimension; I knew that something was seriously wrong, and I was worried. The alcohol liaison officer at the station had questioned me about my drinking and advised me to see my GP. It was clear that there was a cause-and-effect link between my drinking and what had happened; I suddenly became more fearful of drinking then not drinking. I was a nervous wreck, and I couldn’t stop shaking; two days later I went for an assessment at a private psychiatric hospital where thankfully I was able to join a residential fourweek addiction programme.

I went to my first AA meeting on a minibus during the first week; I managed to sit through the first half with my head numbed full of medication, my eyes smarting and my heart ready to burst. During the coffee break I couldn’t go back; did these people not understand that I couldn’t cope with listening to their emotional shares. To be honest I felt that if I looked at myself as clear as these people seemed to do, I would surely break in pieces.

I was soon able to admit with the help of AA and the hospital that my life had become unmanageable because of my drinking and that I was an alcoholic. It became clear that other behaviour habits such as not opening my mail, not answering the phone and general paranoia about others could be caused by my drinking. I found a sponsor, attended AA, and worked hard for my sobriety until I was sentenced eight months later for the reduced offence of wounding without intent. My probation officer wrote a letter of support to the judge in my case, and I was given 12 months in custody.

Before prison I had got up to Step 4 and my higher power was in the form of AA friends and my sponsor. When this higher power was removed from me in prison, I found it difficult to cope with being separated from my daughter and the environment. One night in desperation I begged God to show himself to me as a higher power; I said the serenity prayer over and over again until I eventually fell asleep. The next morning, I woke up with a calmness and acceptance of my situation and from then on, I started to use aspects of the programme on a day-to-day basis. I tried to help others, used prayer and meditation, kept things simple and attended the once-a-week prison AA meeting.

After 3 months, under the recommendation of my probation officer and prison probation staff, I was released on tag. I believe that probation, and the governor who supported my early release, understood that I had done everything I could to make an indirect amend to the victim of my crime by dealing with my drinking problem. As part of my release condition, it was agreed that I could have my tag curfew time extended so that I could attend my AA home group. I celebrated my release with family, shower gel and a chicken roast dinner – and an AA meeting!

On home detention, during my weekly visits to probation, I shared my continuing step work with my officer, who became familiar herself with the programme. Two years on, I continue to work the programme daily, some days better than others; I am grateful for the gift of humility which the AA programme gave me.

Member story 3

I’m an alcoholic, I got into recovery in 2007 in prison because of drink and other
substances related offending behaviour.

I was under the influence of alcohol from the age of 15. My first offence was a minor
one when I was only 15 where I received a caution. I ended up in prison for the first
time at 21 for a serious offence and I was given a 2-year sentence. Fast forward
another 10 years of alcohol and other substance use and all sorts of offending
behaviour leading to multiple arrests, and I was put in prison again at 29 years old
where I got a 4 ½ year prison sentence. It was a significant prison sentence and as
a result I had a huge wakeup call and, in all honesty, I’d been praying for it to end.
This might seem an odd statement to make but I was drinking alcohol against my will
and using other substances. Sitting there in my cell I started to realise that alcohol
and the use of other substances were entirely responsible for my offending

I did a drug and alcohol course in prison although it was challenging to take part in
these programmes as there are limited spaces and you must fit certain criteria. In the
program I was told just to try and regulate my drug and alcohol consumption I was at
my wit’s end as that was what I had been trying to do my whole life, and it hadn’t
worked. I was asking for help elsewhere when another prisoner informed me of the
12 step Alcoholics Anonymous recovery programme that was available. I had no real
idea what was involved, and the concept of total abstinence was alien to me, but
something was telling me to attend AA meetings every single day which I did
because plan B was to drink again, and I knew where that would lead me.

I had to surrender and ask a sponsor to help me. A sponsor is just another alcoholic
who has been through the 12 steps. I am very grateful to my sponsor as he takes
time out of his day to help guide me along and because of working the 12 steps and
attending regular AA meetings, I do not want to pick up a drink and as a result I have
been afforded a wonderful life which I didn’t imagine was possible before. I am living
proof; my children and family are living proof that AA works. Now I am in a position
where I can pass this onto fellow Alcoholics and show them how it worked for me
and what life is like now.

I am grateful today for AA and all the people who do service.