Helping Others brings me Happiness Now
My name is Mathew and I am an alcoholic. Six months ago I arrived at AA lonely, afraid and desperate. Alcohol controlled me and I was beaten. Six months on, AA has transformed my life. I was always running away but things are so much better today. Life means something at last. I have been given a new freedom and happiness. I have peace of mind I never thought possible. God is doing for me what I could not do for myself. This is my experience.
As a child I was extremely introverted, quiet and shy, a loner. I liked school, but felt different, never joined in and worried what others thought of me. I found alcohol early and was drinking frequently throughout school life. I went to parties, got wrecked and did stupid, disgusting things. I got a buzz from everyone talking about my antics, but the ‘fame’ didn’t last. The keen pupil evaporated. After ‘O’ levels, I dropped out halfway through 6th form, went to art college, only to drop out again.
I found employment but soon I was drinking lunchtimes and after work. The pattern from my teens repeated itself. I suffered depression. A girlfriend slowed my drinking down briefly, but talk of engagement and living together scared me. We broke up and I moved home and job, hoping life would get better. But I started drinking on my own and consciously drinking on past events.
A few years later I met someone new, became a father and started living family life. The relationship deteriorated very quickly. I was miserable all the time and didn’t want to be there. I took it out on my partner, son and stepson inflicting physical and psychological abuse on them. I was drink-driving. I watched my mum die from a series of strokes but wasn’t there for her or my dad. Instead I wallowed in self-pity, selfishly drinking on all that had gone wrong in my life. By now I hated myself, drinking every day to block things out.
After a reckless affair, I separated and was living on my own. I was in self-destruct mode. Life was pointless. My drinking continued all day, every day for almost two years. I walked out of work, was usually too drunk to see my son, and shut myself away. I was totally consumed by past events and having ever more sick and suicidal thoughts. I was obsessed with alcohol but however much I wanted to stop, I could not. I wanted God to erase my life so I could just start again. Life was slipping away until one day I rang the AA helpline and everything changed.
Half an hour after making that call, two men came to my flat and told me there was a way out. I went to my first AA meeting that night. I was incredibly scared, but immediately began identifying with the loneliness, fear and desperation others shared. I heard other people explain that when they took a drink it set off a craving and they couldn’t stop. That was me – drinking to oblivion every time. I went home and read the Big Book. Everything fell into place. I had long suspected I was alcoholic without really knowing what it meant. Now I was sure. I was convinced it would only get worse, that alcoholism was a progressive illness, that if I carried on I would lose everything. So I resolved to take action.
Everyone in my home group shared how sponsorship and taking The Twelve Steps had worked for them. So I asked for a sponsor – one of the men who first visited my flat. He gave me some simple suggestions that I started doing that evening. I prayed for God’s help to keep me sober. I started to write a list of things I was grateful for. I ‘phoned other alcoholics and met up for coffee. I started to do service at my home group. I continued to read the Big Book and the Just for Today card.
Very soon, I wasn’t thinking about a drink and my outlook brightened up. I started to sleep better and felt real hope and optimism for the first time ever. Things were changing. I was changing.
Soon my sponsor began to take me through the Steps. I knew I was powerless over alcohol and handed my will and life over to God’s care. My attempts to run the show had only brought misery and frustration. In Step 4 I wrote down years of resentments, fears and bad behaviour but, crucially, saw that I was to blame for all of it. Reading it out to my sponsor brought an enormous sense of relief. A massive weight was lifted. By now the obsession to drink had completely gone.
Today I am back at work; I see my son regularly and enjoy time with him; I am helping my stepson find a college place; I make time for people now when before I would shut them out. I have started to make amends to the people I have harmed and every day try to think of others and how to be more useful. I try to carry the message to newcomers.
Those – not selfish things – make me happy today. The promises in the Big Book are coming true. I was lucky to find AA and am grateful for another chance at life. So long as I continue to take the simple actions suggested to me at the start, and try to live according to the Steps, whatever lies ahead I know that I can live comfortably and happily and be the person I am meant to be.