The first time I ever remember getting drunk was at a friend’s house when I was about 16. My parents weren’t exactly strict but they didn’t entertain underage drinking in their house so I never had any exposure before that night. I remember all my friends having fun while drinking. Me, on the other hand, well I just went for it. I can’t remember there being a moment when I decided to get black out drunk, it wasn’t a conscious decision that I made 3 drinks in, it just happened. Knowing what I know now leads me to believe I was alcoholic from day one.
After that night I didn’t drink again for a little while, and that was the story of my drinking for the next few years. I swung between relatively heavy drinking for a few months and then I’d go cold turkey for a few weeks when my drinking affected something, like a relationship or my studies or finances. However, it didn’t stay like that forever and eventually the drinking and thinking aspect of alcoholism spiralled to a point and it was rare for me to make it through any 24 hour period without a drink. Once again I decided I’d start a diet that prohibited alcohol (as I’d done many times before when the drinking got bad) and I decided I’d do dry-January with my friends, it never occurred to me that this time I wouldn’t have a choice.
Things changed for me when I went back for the hundredth time to the doctors, complaining of anxiety, suicidal thoughts, not knowing how to get along with myself, slipping deeper and deeper into a hole I had no idea I was even in. For the first time my doctor asked me if I drank. Even through all of those silly attempts to stop my drinking I had never actually thought about how much I drank, not properly. My doctor recommended that I have 3 nights off from alcohol a week. Of course by that point I didn’t have a choice, I had gone past the point of being able to stop drinking by myself and for the first time ever it was shown to me in a way I couldn’t deny it.
After another 3 day binge I woke up on a Sunday morning and I couldn’t tell you what was different but something inside me snapped. I couldn’t live this life any longer. 5 days later I attended my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was 24, scared, sweating, anxious and fearful beyond anything I had felt. I knew that if this thing didn’t work I wouldn’t know where else to go, it was a fork in the road and I’m forever grateful that I decided to choose the road that led me to AA and to recovery.
A couple of weeks later I got my first sponsor and she started taking me through the steps. I grabbed the program with everything I had, with the desperation of the drowning man. That spiritual snapping that led to me coming into Alcoholics Anonymous led the way for my willingness and honesty which allowed me to allow my sponsor to guide me, without me interrupting her claiming I knew better.
The steps opened my eyes to what I had become, it gave me a taste of humility for the first time and a way to deal with life in the way I’d always been looking for. If I were to truly sum up the experience of going through the steps it would be that this program of recovery has revealed the person I always wanted to be. I feel as if I have the ability to be myself without worrying what others think of me, I can be happy and content in my own company and when something goes wrong (as it inevitably does in life) I have ways to deal with it, along with a daily plan that keeps me on the straight and narrow and helps me to focus on the right actions and right motivations, plus I don’t have to drink.
It’s hard to put into words quite what this programme, a strong home group, my sponsor and daily actions have given me. In exchange for my old thinking, I’ve been given a life which is quite literally better than I ever thought possible. Thanks to that desperation I had at the beginning saved my life, it has saved my life many times throughout my recovery so far and I know that it will continue to save me, as long as I keep working for this incredible life.
Caitlin M, Road to Recovery Group, PLymouth