I became a member of Alcoholics Anonymous in August 2019 two days after being discharged from a psychiatric unit. There, I had been told that I needed to go to AA once discharged. I would argue with the medics that it was my circumstances that had led to my mental decline and that alcohol was my coping mechanism. Genetically pre-disposed to mental illness, failed adoption, neglect, family disownment, teen pregnancy and dysfunctional relationships.

I looked at the other inpatients in the unit and thought myself to be very different from them. I am a nurse, not a patient. They’ve got this wrong I thought. I flitted around chatting with staff and ‘helping’ with the other patients. The others were so obviously unwell, shouting and lashing out. But I wore my smile and didn’t cause any trouble often just retreating to my room to escape the noise. The noise inside my head was so much louder. One lady, who up until now had not really been making any sense, suddenly stopped in the dining room one day, grabbed both my hands and stared into my eyes. I smiled. She said ‘you’ve got the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. You keep holding yourself as if to check you’re still here’. It felt as though this lady, so outwardly unwell, could literally see right through me, into the depths of my soul. I began to realise that perhaps I was sicker than she. The veil dropped.

Sat in the garden of the unit, I looked at a lady who had suggested AA, skin and bones and on a merry-go-round of psychiatric units, she openly said she was an alcoholic. She reminded me so much of myself and it was like looking at my reflection in years to come. In that moment the ground beneath me collapsed like never before. I was absolutely powerless. I was no longer able to manage my life, never had been. How on earth had it come to this? The floodgates opened, the tears flowed and I was brought to my knees, literally. I have come to know, through working the steps, that God was revealing himself to me through others during my inpatient stay.

Unlike not feeling like the others in the unit, I was astounded to find the fellows at my first AA meeting were exactly like me! Not always in their stories, but absolutely in the way they felt and thought. After my first meeting I bought a Big Book and read it front to back. I was educated on what it is that I suffer with and the message of recovery was clearly there in black and white, clear instruction. Precisely how these hopeless alcoholics, those who like me could no longer live with or without alcohol, had recovered.

With a strong home-group, sponsorship, taking the 12 steps and living in steps 10, 11 and 12, I have a wonderful life, a peaceful life, and the promises of AA are being fulfilled. My life literally depends on daily action. Constant thought of others and praying and meditating around how I may fulfill Gods Will. I am becoming the person I was always meant to be. And who is that? Who am I? I just am. In this present moment.

So long as I put God and AA first, in that order, I need never smash my life to pieces again. My dark past has become my greatest asset. Heartfelt gratitude from this recovered alcoholic.

Mary E, Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth

September 2021