Early Twenties in Sobriety

Early Twenties in Sobriety – One Man’s Experience

Prior to coming to A.A. I was dependant on alcohol from my early teens.
To socialise, to fit it, to give me social status and identification – alcohol practically gave me everything.
The confidence, power, lack of fear, lack of caring, the wit, the reputation alcohol give me was very desirable. In my early days of drinking as a young teen, I loved it! I could intimidate, entertain, and lead the party on the council estate where I grew up. I was like a local celebrity! Younger generations looked up to me; my mates and I were ruling the roost.
As the years rolled by and the drinking continued and progressed, things started to get ugly. When drinking spirits I would fight and fall out with my mates. I would insult and intimidate their families and make sexual advances at their sisters, and girlfriends.
I began falling out with people big time and I would wonder the streets looking for people to mix with. As a loud, intimidating, insanely drunk lad- I would fall in with like minded people. At the end of my drinking my associates were ‘old school’ hardened alcoholics and addicts.
After 6 years of alcoholic drinking and progressive mental and emotional illness (alcoholism), I turned up at my first A.A. meeting. I was 19 years and1 0 months old. “Everybody drinks” I remember saying “I can’t imagine life without alcohol”.
I had dropped out of school with no GCSEs; I had no work experience or employability skills. I had a Crown Court hearing pending, I couldn’t stop drinking, I had a bad reputation, I had enemies, and whilst sober my life was unbearable. I felt as though I had a severe mental illness. I was full of anxiety and fear, I couldn’t communicate with people, I had low self worth, self hatred, and paranoia. The only thing that relieved me of this torture was alcohol and, that was causing me greater problems. ‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable’. I couldn’t imagine life with, or without alcohol. I had Step 1.
To cut a long story short. I worked through the 12 step programme as set out in the big book with a sponsor. Before I had made my first amends I was at College doing an Access to University Course. Sober less than a year, 20 years old; back in to society with a radically changed outlook and perception on life. I had a clean sheet, a fresh start, a new life!
What have I done as a sober young man in the middle of a society where drinking is a central part of most people’s lives? Allow me to explain.
There’s no hiding the fact that there’s a difference between me and other young men. I have been sober since 5 days after my 20th birthday. A lot of men and women in their early twenties live for the bars and clubs. I couldn’t drink alcohol at all.
When I started university I soaked up the buzz of Fresher’s week, and got amongst all the promotional campaigns. The feeling of being a part of life, happy and sober was strong upon me and I was extremely happy with the way my life was going. I made new friends on my course, and to my surprise they were not all as excited about alcohol as I thought they would be.
Many of the clubs and societies at university have a big drinking element amongst them- apart from one that stood out to me- The Christian Union. “Alcoholics who have derided religious people will be helped by such contacts. Being possessed of a spiritual experience, the alcoholic will find he has much in common with these people, though he may differ with them on many matters. If he does not argue about religion, he will make new friends and is sure to find new avenues of usefulness and pleasure.” I had a miraculous spiritual experience from going through the Steps and I was interested to know more. I spent some time with these people and learned a great deal. My time spent with these people was paramount to my early stability and recovery, and I enjoyed it very much. However, it just wasn’t really me! Fundamentally, I was different from them in many ways.
By day I studied and by night I went to meetings. My immediate friends on my course were not exactly heavy drinkers so we would go for food, go to the cinema and things like that, of an evening. I attended athletics club and break dancing for a while too, but never really got far with the dancing! Running has become a hobby of mine though, and I enjoy running for fun to this day.
Coming up to 3 years sober I started to want a girlfriend, and this is where the ‘fun’ really started to begin! I always used alcohol in the past to help me with girls, what would I do now! 3 years sober and 3 years single! Yikes! Apart from a relationship I got in to earlier on with a girl in recovery; which was the most dreadful experience, and the biggest mistake of my life- I had no sober skills with girls whatsoever!
This is where the ‘old character’, witty, funny, needed to come back. I had to bite the bullet and crack on. Raw courage was needed, and I went at it! There was plenty of opportunity to ‘practice’ on university campus, so away I went. I would complement girls, and be witty, and forward with them, and as my confidence grew I asked a few out for drinks (soft), and chats, and meals etc. As my confidence grew I became very comfortable chatting up, and asking girls out. This was a revelation to me; because I just couldn’t do it sober prior to A.A. A cornerstone it would seem!
During the summer of my second year at university, I got a part-time job at my local Tesco store. Whoop! This was even more fun. It was packed full of 18-23 year old girls and lads, and my confidence was sky high. I made friends with the lads at Tesco, and they were ‘lads’. Very different from the Christian Union folk, but very funny too. They were more like my natural self.
I hit the clubs sober, drinking Red Bull with mates from A.A. and we had great fun. Back at Tesco I asked a girl out, and we have been together for 11 months. I have been out, and to parties with my girlfriend and mates from Tesco, and have had a lot of fun.
My life today is very good, and I am happy and content with the way things are. I have completed a BA Honours degree in Business Administration, and I am now seeking a full time job.
I don’t go to the clubs anywhere near as much as other young men, and when I do I seldom stay as long as they do.  
I think today I am happy to be growing up. Growing up was something I was very scared to do when I was a young teenager, and I simply couldn’t accept it. That’s one reason I used alcohol.  
All the dignity, worth, confidence and ability that alcohol robbed from me has been given back through A.A’s 12 Steps. Everything I thought I needed to drink alcohol for has been given me through A.A. I feel, and believe I can do and attain anything other normal people can do in this world. I feel I have acquired a wise outlook on life, and have a simple, stable, normal attitude towards things.
No words can explain the sense and presence of a Power greater than myself that I feel within me, which has done for me the things I couldn’t do for myself. Peace, freedom, joy, esteem, love, zeal, zest, enthusiasm, perseverance, faith, growth, stability, and security are some of the words I can use to explain it. To really know, you have to give in to the 12 Steps.
In January 2011 I will be 5 years sober, and I will hit my mid twenties. I am one very happy, very grateful, sober alcoholic.
From a boy to a man. An alcoholic to a sober person. An uneducated bum to a graduate. A fearful lonely inadequate boy, to a stable, secure, handsome boyfriend. A shameful son, to making my mum happy and proud. A disgraced brother, to an inspirational brother. These are the joys of the journey so far!
Recovery is available to anybody, and we of Alcoholics Anonymous will bend over backwards, and do anything to pass on what we have found to any suffering alcoholic willing to be helped.
One day at a time, let’s not have a drink, and work together, moving forward.

Jamie, Road to Recovery Group Plymouth, July 2013