All I knew about AA was that an uncle of mine had been sober for a few years. A family friend called Jimmy Mac had found AA and he came to twelve-step the whole family. Once he started talking about God, we thought he’d gone insane.
My last drink was at a company party. I was calling my boss names. I wasn’t pleasant. That was my rock bottom. But so many bad things happened before that. I knew the drink had me.
At my first meeting they spoke of an illness. I felt sorry for them. I knew I couldn’t drink, but didn’t think I had an illness, or that I was an alcoholic. There was no string tied around my waist. I helped Sheila make the tea. I identified with the speaker, and thought that they’re nice people. Not very well, but quite funny. I knew they knew about drinking.
I could stop for a certain amount of time by keeping busy. But I’d always end up drunk again. Bill W says in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, that he was banging the table and asking how did I get here again: another trip to the sanatorium. The hook for me with AA was they could help me stay stopped. There is so much hope and love in AA. And some madness too.
My first year I went to meetings and I knew God was with me because three months later my Mum came to AA. My Mum, my sister, Andrea, and I went to my Mum’s first meeting.
One day I fell on the floor and sobbed and knew I was going to get drunk because I wouldn’t follow AA’s suggestions. I just went to meetings. So basically I was doing this on my own. Trying to take what I needed. So I know what it’s like not getting involved while pretending to be well. That was when I decided to get involved properly.
My first sponsor gave me her time and her kindness. Then I met a man who was 50 years sober. He was the first person I confided in and felt safe with. He’d buy me tea and a Chelsea bun. I was four years sober and thought I knew his game. The truth is he helped save my life. He listened and that is what I needed. He would say stick with the meetings, you’re doing great, keep phoning people.
One guy would tell people in his American accent when their heads go “You just gotta scrub that tub” meaning keep yourself busy. If your wife or husband left, he’d say, go scrub that tub. We were buzzing. The meetings were packed with recovery, we wanted to save the world and I realised I could have a life.
One man saved my life. He picked up after a long time sober, he spoke about the bottle of whisky on top of the cupboard, he’d look at it constantly. One day he put his thumb in the whiskey and that was all it took. My head was jiggered, it was saying ‘you’re 23 years old’, ‘you cannae be an alkie’ and it was like a punch in the head when he talked about drinking again after a long time being sober. He showed me that it is cunning, baffling and powerful. If it took this guy away, it could me. I’m here to learn and hearing him speak of drinking again made me realise other things can take me out. So this is an inside job and God helps me with that. I was driven by a hundred forms of fear and of everybody’s opinions of me. It isn’t like that today. Today, I sleep great, I’m pretty present and I love myself.
My Mum and I were buzzing off sobriety. We’d get drinkers off the parks, take them home, feed them, clean their shirts. Our intentions were good, but they were scared. We’d take them to meetings and they’d drink. I’d lose it, saying you’re an alcoholic you can’t drink. Then I was told, no Susie, YOU can’t drink. You can carry the message but not the man or woman. With sponsoring my experience is you have to live this stuff for a while, you may have someone’s life in your hands. It’s okay taking someone through the book, the book does the work.
Over the years I have seen AA change with the number of young people joining. There are more meetings and more people up for the programme. It still has the same attraction for me. I love this stuff. The other night I was out with Lizzie, 33 years sober, Henry 32 year sober, Billie 15 years sober, and young Kevin who’s been sober for 3 months. All my buddies. I surround myself with good people. We’re all just trying our best. I love Alcoholics Anonymous. This deal has given me a life.