What do you think of when somebody mentions “an alcoholic”?
Do you have a set of criteria, or a description? – maybe that they drink vodka for breakfast and hide all day behind drawn curtains dysfunctionally; or maybe you imagine flamboyant ‘drama queens’, who lie and manipulate; or maybe you picture the lonely, ‘down-and-out’ with a brown paper bag hiding the cheapest tipple; or a sorry soul, stooped so low as to be stealing and downing the ‘meths’?
That’s what I thought too. I had these images.
I didn’t imagine I was an alcoholic! I could stop if I wanted to.
I had a family and a professional full-time job.
I was a Christian!
I just liked the wine of an evening… Every evening maybe, but… I had a past I wanted to forget and life was hectic and stressful…
… and a glass of wine was ‘me-time’ – time to chill-out, relax and unwind!
In my earliest memories my dad was mad drunk sometimes, mad drunk! Other than that, there was sherry at Christmas… and on seaside holidays, Granddad would always let us sip his ale.
Then at 15, my big sister worked in a pub, so I’d go in after my Saturday job and have a bottle of Pilsner, or a vodka and bitter lemon…
At 17, I left home, and soon enough, I’d be partying, getting drunk and ‘having fun’.
In UK culture, ‘a good night-out’ meant getting as drunk as you could, as quick as you could.
Pubs were crowded with rowdy folk buying round after round before last orders…
I worked in the pubs and drank in them.
In time, I became more ‘refined’ and a bit of a wine snob (as long as it was on offer) and the evening glass, or four, of wine became an entrenched habit.
I stopped for Lent most years, but that was it.
I dreaded Ash Wednesday!
Then one year, I didn’t give up for Lent. I didn’t give up for anything – I didn’t want to!
Oh, I made deals and promises with myself, strategies for ‘dry-days’ and other good intentions, but I failed over and over and the self esteem plummeted along with every bottle. I couldn’t do it!
Most people had no idea of my struggle; some thought I perhaps drank too much sometimes, but most encouraged me to not worry about it and have a drink! They thought I could ‘pull-myself-together’.
But most of them could drink if and when, or have one and no more – they could choose.
That was the difference – I didn’t seem to have the choice, or any control!
I wonder if now you think – “Of course you could choose! You were just weak-willed. Nobody was forcing you! You could control it if you wanted to!”
It took me a very long time to accept that I had no control after the first glass, and that I really needed to just stop drinking alcohol altogether.
And then it took still another long time to actually have the courage to do it!
But I prepared myself, set the date and stopped.
That date was 9th March 2015. This week I celebrated 6 years sober!
When I first stopped I had to go to bed at 7pm, because I didn’t know how to do an evening without wine. Of course I woke up early every morning too, but little by little, one day at a time, I remained sober and learned new ways to relax and chill-out.
And finally my journey of recovery could begin.
I do thank God for His patience and for never giving up on me!
I had the privilege of joining AA and serving and sharing in that absolutely wonderful community. The 12 step programme is truly inspired by God – or by the ‘Higher Power’ as they say in AA. The 12 Step programme and the beautiful people who humbly follow it, are inspirational testimonies to Hope. And I can sincerely say, that if anyone is willing to follow the programme, it works 100%.
On this 6th Anniversary of my sobriety, one day at a time, I wish to publicly give thanks to my God for doing for me what I could not do for myself; for inspiring and sustaining me through this journey; for forgiving me and being so eternally patient with me.
I want to thank all my family, friends and church family – for loving me, despite me taking so long to see sense, and for forgiving me all the pain and concern I caused to some of them – for being less than I should have been!
And I want to thank the founders and the continual members of AA for spreading the message and community of hope around the cities of the world.
I have to end with my all-time favourite prayer, which I have known from childhood, as my Grandfather had engraved it into a wooden plaque, as a schoolboy –
it is the “Serenity prayer” of AA –
“(Using the word, God, as you do or don’t under stand it) –
God, grant me the serenity to accept what cannot be changed,
the courage to change what can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
PS If you want to stop drinking and don’t feel you have the power to do so, please contact an AA group (look online or in the phone book) and ask to speak to an individual member or find a group. They will be so happy to help you.
I wrote one poem after 6 weeks without alcohol, called, “AA Season of Pain”
The link is here if you wish to read it – https://wordpress.com/post/dawnfanshawe.wordpress.com/25
And another after 9 months sober, called “Giving Birth to Sobriety”.
The link is here if you wish to read it – https://wordpress.com/post/dawnfanshawe.wordpress.com/46