I’m not sure where I got the number for AA. My 4-year-old nephew was in hospital. I needed to drink to visit a child I love. I knew I was in big trouble with alcohol. My uncle was an alcoholic. He occasionally turned up at when Dad wasn’t there. Mum would feed him, give him clothes and money. I thought an alcoholic was a tramp in the park. That wasn’t me.
My ex-partner moved abroad and I thought I’d never see him again. Although heartbroken I was in the process of letting go by drinking every night. All I ever wanted was love and somebody to want me. One day he phoned and asked me to marry him. I celebrated for three days and four days later I came round. I had that ‘girl in the glass’ moment. Looking in the mirror I saw that I was an absolute mess. Why does he want to marry me? I felt horrendous about myself. That’s when I called AA.
The lady who called me took me to a meeting. I thought: I can do this on my own. I don’t need these meetings. Life is going to change. He’s coming home. We’re getting married.
We got married. I was drunk walking down the aisle. A week later we moved abroad. Nothing changed. I’d buy a flagon, as they were cheap. It’s tough hiding a flagon in a one-bedroom flat. But I did it. It got worse. One evening, six months into our marriage, my husband had to kick the door down as I was in a blackout.
Coming back to England I promised to stop, and managed about three weeks. We then went to another country to live. He had a job in a nightclub. I got one making beds. There were linen cupboards on each floor so I hid a bottle in each one. After a while we came back to England. My husband said: “if you drink again...we are done”. I stayed dry for three months. Christmas came. I was working as a hairdresser. The boss said to give a glass of sherry to each customer. So I had one with them. He sent me home drunk. I realised I cannot stop on my own.
I went to work as a market trader with my husband. I went to Sainsbury’s to get a bottle of vodka and took it to the toilet. It wouldn’t go down. I couldn’t stop crying. Somehow I was in a phone box phoning AA. They couldn’t help me as I didn’t tell them anything about me. A few days later I called again.
A lady called phoned back, she said she’ll meet me for a chat after hanging out her washing. I thought f**k your washing. I want help now. She came that afternoon. My first meeting in four years was on a Thursday night. I kept a bottle in my bag and went to the toilet for a swig, came back in the room and the guy who drove us there came up to me. He knew I drank. I said, “I’ve just had a drink”. And for me, that was the first time I hadn’t denied having it. On the way home the lady in the front turned to me, put her hands on mine and said: “This could be your last drink, Ann, you need not drink again, you’ve got us now”.
My last drink was in the toilet of that meeting. I was 34 years old.
At three months sober my husband and I booked a holiday to Sardinia. My first time away without a drink. I was petrified. One morning a Share magazine came through the post. There were listings of Sardinian meetings. I couldn’t believe it. I told a friend in AA that we had just booked a holiday to Sardinia and the Share magazine arrived with a list of meetings. “Oh,” he said, “I can do better than that. I know someone who goes to that meeting”. I met him in Sardinia. He asked if I’d do the chair the following week. I said, “Oh no. I couldn’t possibly do it”. He said think about it. By the end of the meeting I said I’ll try.
That was my first chair. I went through the agony of writing it down and reading it to my husband. I ended up just talking. I came out the meeting elated. I’d spoken. Finally. And, as a result, a woman asked me to do a chair the next day in at a women’s meeting.
My home group taught me about service. It was explained to me that I’d learn about alcoholism and the 12 steps by sticking with a home group. I began service as a literature secretary. Then I visited the wards at a local hospital. We would see if anyone admitted as a result of a drink problem, whether a broken leg or a broken heart, wanted to come to a meeting.
Somebody told me about the AA telephone service. He invited me to meet the group, which I did and loved it. Some of us are still close. I’m grateful these people came into my life when they did. I was part of that group for twelve years.
I went into hospital with back problems. I was away for about three months, unable to get to meetings. Pretty much everyone in the group came to see me at hospital or at home. We weren’t individuals. We were a group and that’s what I appreciate so much in recovery. I stepped outside my comfort zone to be part of a group with no leaders. It was brilliant.
I suffer from arthritis and can’t go out as much and miss the meetings. When lockdown happened, online meetings started on Zoom. I had that same anticipation as I did when I first came in as at an online meeting I can see people I have known for years.
My sponsor is still in my life. She took me through the program. At three years sober someone asked me to sponsor her. It was my first time, and I was nervous. We would go swimming, talk about life, the steps, everything, then go for coffee and read the step. She moved to Australia when she was ten years sober. Every time I go through the program with somebody it opens up, it’s never done. I began feeling my faith more, making that decision to turn it over. I’d come to God. To my higher power.
All I wanted when getting sober was to be there for my Mum. My Dad died when I was twenty six. It was hard at first, Mum didn’t need my help, she needed company. For twenty years I cared for her. She got the best and the worst of me. I’d bite back over stuff like putting on a pillowcase. She wanted it done her way. I’d argue until I surrendered and kept my mouth shut. It made life much easier.
A meeting was set up nearby and I began going again. The right people came into my life and helped save my sanity. For the last four years of Mum’s life, I was with her from 8 am to 3 pm every day. This meeting was my rock. We buried her on a Thursday morning. I went to the meeting after the funeral.
I’m proud that my Mum lived to be 89, with a good quality of life. I have many happy memories of her. Towards the end we had 14 weeks of hell. One day Mum didn’t have her teeth in. She didn’t know where they were. I looked and looked and, in the end, said, “Oh mum let’s leave it, we can get you other teeth”. I was kneeling by her. She put her forehead to mine and said “You’ve changed”. They were magical words. I’ve changed. I’m not the bolshy alcoholic who came into the rooms. I could never have learned this without the 12 steps. And God brought all these people into my life.
God got me here and keeps me here. It’s opened my mind to a whole wider higher power which allows me to be a person among people.