When I first walked through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was wrapped in a thick cloak of denial. I didn’t believe I was an alcoholic, and I certainly didn’t think it was necessary for me to abstain entirely- no, I was someone who had stumbled, someone who just needed a little pick me up, someone who could drink normally if given the right pep talk.
I had convinced myself that I would be able to drink like a gentleman and carry on with my life without much hassle. I now know that these were thoughts solely driven by arrogance and pride, along with a hefty helping of ignorance surrounding my condition.
Upon listening to shares, I began to unpick my understanding of how I drank, and how it was abnormal. I began to notice all the times I’d brought a ‘little extra’ drink to parties ‘just in case’, all the times I’d magically woken up at home with zero recollection of ever leaving the bar, all the times I’d accidentally spiked myself by drinking on medication and hadn’t cared about the consequences. I became aware that my perception was entirely blinded by a subtle but deeply ingrained obsession with alcohol.
My first drink was somewhere around the age of 14, on one of many unsupervised visits to London with much older friends. I remember it feeling like a brilliant act of rebellion – something my parents would entirely disapprove of – but I mainly recall how it made me feel. I not only felt much more accepted by the people I was with, but so much more at ease, like I could finally be the person I felt inside. I finally felt like I could be around people, and for a person that had been bullied and shunned for various reasons all the way through childhood, that feeling was invaluable.
My drinking was characterised mostly by binge drinking, more often than not to blackout, unaware at the time that they were blackouts. I would go through periods of ‘normal’ drinking or not drinking at all, so I thought I surely couldn’t be alcoholic – until after moving in with a friend and rapidly, over the course of only a few months, I fell into a cycle of drinking first thing in the morning, throughout the day and as the last thing before bed. I had become paranoid about where the next drink would come from, whether or not said friend was drinking mine, and only leaving the flat to get more.
That was reflected in what I heard in the meetings, and I became swiftly aware that if I didn’t do something to stop, I would keep plummeting to depths I couldn’t even comprehend yet. I was told if I wanted to right my course, I had to get a sponsor, a Big Book and work the steps.
I was wary at first, I’d been in many situations where I wasn’t accepted as a transgender person, the idea of being guided through a program by someone who didn’t understand the difficulties I faced alongside my alcoholism was a very scary step- and though I’m male, I initially felt more comfortable around the women of the group as it felt generally safer. I asked a woman to sponsor me, and was blown away with her understanding, but also the fact that all she saw was a fellow alcoholic. She knew exactly how to help me understand the program and guide me through the steps.
With her acceptance and experience, I started taking actions, just a few things daily, towards getting better. I’m amazed by how quickly my thoughts and attitudes changed – I started to feel lighter, I felt less aggression, I could smile again and talk to people even better than when I was drunk. I learned to become less intolerant of things I deemed ignorant and understand people’s views on more neutral territory. Things that would terrify me are now easier to cope with. These 12 steps, fellowship, book and a sponsor have entirely changed my life and I wouldn’t give that up for the world!
Jake M – Road to Recovery group, Plymouth.