No Cut-Off Switch

My name is Matt and I am an alcoholic.

I started drinking at school and always got insanely drunk. I could never control it. I have no cut-off switch when it comes to alcohol. I could never drink socially or moderate it and embarrassed myself countless times. In my teens and 20s I could leave it alone for a bit, but always went back to it. Everything looked respectable – good job, car, house, money, partner, kids etc. – but in my 30s it got worse and I was frequently off work with depression. I started to drink alone or in secret to escape problems and block out feelings of anxiety and loneliness. I saw doctors and counsellors. My behaviour got worse: I was so angry, lashing out at my partner and kids, smashing things in the house, drink-driving; then I would cry uncontrollably, wracked with guilt and shame. Then I wound up in hospital after taking an overdose of anti-depressants on top of alcohol. Instead of going home to face the music, I found my car where the ambulance had picked me up, bought more booze and drove to a lonely spot to do it all
over again!

By age 40, drinking had become a very dangerous game, and not drinking had become unbearable, as without alcohol I was plagued by dark, suicidal thoughts. That’s when I called the AA helpline.

I started going to AA meetings. The people there had once been just like me, but they had recovered and were living good lives. I learned that I had been very sick, in fact suffering from a fatal, progressive illness – alcoholism. The problem was physical, mental and spiritual: I had an “allergy” to alcohol, a physical craving beyond my control, which explained why I could never stop at one or two drinks. On the other hand no amount of professional help, willpower, consequences such as my trip to the hospital, fear, pills or the love and support of my family could keep me sober either. The walls were closing in, I felt completely alone and I was consumed by self-pity. I saw that I had a very clear choice: go on drinking to the bitter, tragic end or accept spiritual help.

So I made up my mind to join AA. I got a sponsor, just another alcoholic who had recovered and who was willing and able to take me through the Twelve Steps. I did that and within weeks I too recovered. The obsession to drink went. All that anxiety, loneliness and depression disappeared as well. I have found a degree of consistency and stability I could never have imagined. I have been sober ever since, more than 10 and a half years now, with no temptation. I don’t need, want or think about alcohol anymore.

Looking back now I see why all those doctors, counsellors and a series of other failed attempts by various means to stop drinking couldn’t and didn’t work. It’s because those things could not remove the obsession to drink – only a spiritual experience as the result of the Twelve Steps could. And nothing else could offer me a way of living comfortably sober – only being honest with a sponsor, trying to help others and practising the principles of the AA program can enable me to actually enjoy life and match my frequent problems with any common sense, dignity, sanity or serenity.

AA is so much more than stopping drinking. It’s what I’ve always been looking for, it really works and it’s transformed my life in every way. Relations with family, friends and work colleagues are better, I’ve started a whole new career, and I have been able to stay sober comfortably through good times and bad times. I know that whatever bumps in the road lie ahead, AA offers me everything I need to face and overcome them.

Matt D. Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth

August 2021