Franky’s story

My name is Franky, and I am a female alcoholic from Sydney, Australia.  I drank for many years, about 35yrs all up, but it got totally out of control once I crossed that little red line.

I was sooo unhappy and depressed and just lived for when I could have my next drink. After I had done all the things I had to do, like work, phone calls, driving and doing errands and I had the first drink of the day, I simply couldn’t stop. Whenever I allowed myself to drink I drank until I blacked out and did things I couldn’t remember. I’d phone people, at any time of the night and not remember what they said or what I said …. was lucky if I woke (or ‘came to’ really) in my own bed.  Sometimes, I scribbled notes on the telephone pad which I could not read the next day …. on one of those occasions I had invited some friends for dinner and a few days after I had been talking to them they turned up with a few bottles of wine in their hands at 7pm that night.  I opened the door and wondered what on earth they were doing there, I was already pretty gone by then and after joking about how forgetful  I was<LOL>, I suggested take-out Chinese ….. those friends did know I had a “drinking problem”.  They were actually drinking buddies and they soon caught up with me that night … I guess I passed out again…which is what happened every time I started drinking.  I did some terrible things that I’d rather forget about … but I have done my 4th and 5th Steps in A.A., so I don’t share that sort of stuff from the keyboard or from the floor at F2F meetings.

I had been able to drink ‘normally’ for about ten years or so but certainly loved it, I loved the taste and the effect it gave me. I used to love parties and always found excuses to have them just so I could drink. I used to give lunches at home so we could start drinking at lunch time. If I was out shopping I always used to find a place for lunch where they had alcohol. None of that coffee or tea stuff for me!  The next ten years of my drinking were getting worse; I started to use the drink to medicate myself if I didn’t like the situation I was in … I tried to block it out … and from there it progressed. At about this time I started to try and control my drinking.  Oh, all the different methods I tried …. changing drinks, not red wine but white wine … not spirits but wine and beer only … tried to time it, like put it off till later … and if I managed to wait until later I used to feel so good about myself, I would start to speed drink even faster than normal to reward myself. Forever trying to get that “high” I once got from having a few drinks in the early stages of my drinking. I never ever found that same feeling again.  I tried to control my drinking like – not drink during the week and only at the weekends, all to no avail. I would always break down and give in and try again the following week etc etc…

After my last partner and I split up, I was free to drink as often and as much as I wanted to and I did, they were the last 3 yrs of my drinking, it was alcoholic drinking.  I did all my “busting” before I came into A.A. My will power is really strong in all my affairs, but staying stopped was something I just couldn’t do … I still thought I only had a drinking problem, I never thought that I could be an alcoholic. I had many “rock bottoms” but I finally gave in and asked for help after just a ‘normal’ night of passing out …. but I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I rang the office of AA in St Ives (here in Sydney, Australia) and someone there said she was an alcoholic, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh dear, I am talking to a real alcoholic’. <LOL>  This lovely woman told me when and where the meetings were after I told her I wasn’t an alcoholic, but just had a drinking problem. She suggested I should go to one of those meetings. I then rang a friend from sailing; he used to drink as much as I did and even more, and he had suddenly stopped drinking all together, I was always in awe about how on earth he could do that, and he had told me that he was going to AA.  I remember thinking at the time, ‘Yes, you might have needed it but that’s not for me, I am not that bad!’

Anyway, I ended up ringing him and telling him that I wouldn’t mind checking out one of those meetings and would he take me.  Well, you should have heard his response, he said that he had been expecting a call from me with that request, since he had been watching me – he even rescued me once when we were all at a raft up with about 10 or so big yachts average size of 30 feet plus at one New Year’s Eve I tried to go from one boat to the other stepping over the rail and missed and fell in between 2 boats and would have been dead or a very squashed human fender had he not been sober and witnessed me doing it and pulled me up straight away….Oh that was a close one…..

He took me to my first meeting, and it was an awesome experience, the people there were really friendly and ordinary people just like me…and they welcomed me and they told me to keep coming back. They all seemed to be really happy and were laughing and cracking jokes…. I thought these people would have to be on something, they are far too happy since they are not allowed to drink.  You see, I thought if I can’t ever drink again, what’s the use of going on living? What is there to live for?  I had no idea that these people were on a natural high, because of A.A. and the 12 Steps. They told me at that first meeting that I only needed to do it one day at a time …. just one day …. so that’s what I did, and that was the only way I could do this….and I still do it that way now.

I am so grateful to have found A.A.  In the beginning it was very hard, but I stayed busy and went to meetings and started baking cakes and walking the dog every day. I didn’t eat the cakes , gave them away, but it has become a hobby now :-) .  One lovely lady who lived really close to me, picked me up and took me to meetings all over Sydney. She introduced me to where all the meetings were and to the members, mainly the winners, she always said, ‘stick with the winners’, so I have been and still am! We were sharing in the car going to and from the meetings and it was a great introduction for me. She also rang me every day and had a chat and got me used to sharing with her how I was feeling.

The people in AA were so helpful. There is no way I could have done this by myself! They told me to not pick up that first drink and to keep coming back and to do as many meetings as I could fit in. They made me feel so welcome and the women really nurtured me. It was really nice to find people that really seemed to care how I was doing.  I took on all the suggestions they gave me and have been sober now for over 14 years. My life hasn’t just improved … it is like I am reborn. God gave me another chance at life, and I am determined to live it to the fullest!

A lot has happened to me in my sobriety, My father died when I was one year sober and my mother 3 years later….and lots of other personal problems with my family. I have had plenty of struggles … but I know that I have my Higher Power, who I call God, and He is always there for me, all I have to do is talk to him and pray, and He gives me the strength I need to keep going.

I love living without the numbing effects of alcohol now . I practise living  life on life’s terms without the crutch of alcohol or other drugs. I even gave up the cigarettes! I am free, of all those horrible addictions by just following this simple program, go to meetings and do all the suggested things. I have learned to feel what a natural high feels like, and believe me, it feels fantastic!

I also have a lovely grand daughter from my eldest son, she is 11 years old now . The first year of her life I had her here at my house every second weekend, we did a lot of bonding that way and had I still been drinking there would have been no chance of that! And to this day she has never seen me drink an alcoholic drink.

I stay very close to my Higher Power, who I call God…and am very grateful that I have this program to live by and another chance at life. I am happy, joyous and free most of the time.

I Love Life!

Franky

 

Stephen’s story

Hello there …  to whom this may reach, my name is Stephen and I’m an alcoholic, but it is with the Grace of a Loving God that I am sober today as I have been since my first meeting 17/6/93.

I live in Queenstown Tasmania Australia, Queenstown is a mining town on the west coast.

Until I got into AA I had no idea of what was in front of me and as I look back I can see how God has had  his hand on my life inspite of myself.

I started drinking at an early age, always asking Dad for a sip of his beer, when I was about 15 years of age I got a part time job splitting scallops at a fish factory, I would go to the factory every night after school, that was way back in 1973 I think?. After one weeks work I earn’t nineteen dollars, and I thought that I was rich , so I went out on the Friday night and bought myself a half bottle of bacardi rum, usual story got blind drunk, but me and bacardi were an instant match, I had found this magic potion, that could make me feel how I wanted to.  It never occured to me at the time that my disease of alcoholism had already had it’s tentacles on me sucking the life out of me.

I left high school early , got a job at one of the first Kentucky Fried Chicken places , in Hobart, so after work on a Friday night I was invited out to a few drinks at one of the workers place, got pissed , spewed my guts up , waking up the next morning so sick , swearing never to drink again.

In December 1973 I got a job as an apprentice Chef, I was employed by a chain of hotels called Four Seasons Hotels Motels.  I worked in the first place for 18 months.

My first transfer took my away from home at the age of 18 , I shared a flat with three other apprentices, but I never felt easy around others, always suffering from low self esteem , but I tried to cover this up by excelling at my work , which I did .  We had a fridge in the house that we rented , there was never any food in it , only beer.

The daily ritual of having that glass of beer became a  must. Sunday Hotel trading came into practice in 1975, I had this insane thought that I could drink heaps on Sundays and not get drunk, so I drank all the more, on Sundays.

I got shifted around a few times, some at my request , but mostly at the request of others. But as I look back now , I did work with  some practising alcoholic chefs.

My career as an apprentice blossomed , but on the inside I still felt very uneasy around others, just didn’t know why, but the glass in the hand at the end of the day with those that I worked with, enabled me to make amends. So I thought.

March 1977 I moved to Queenstown it was near the end of my apprenticeship, to do some relief work,  I got paid good money back in those days , but had no idea how to manage money, couldn’t save any .

It was then that I met Wendy, one day down at the golf club, after a game I went into the bar and there was George, so I sat near him and he began to speak to me as though he knew me, then he told me that his wife was working in the hotel that I was working at.

After I finished my apprenticeship , I looked around for another job, didn’t have any trouble finding another job, but my ability to handle my emotions was getting worse, going to work with resentments and fear, was the norm rather than the unusual.

I worked in a number of places over a short time, my arrogance was a result of low self esteem and self centredness, I would use my position of authortiy  to get what I wanted. Every job I started ,  it was wonderful  for a while , then the same problems would resurface, just like the blackberries out the back of my place do , no matter what I do to them, any spec of a weed of them and they will sprout up and just take over, whatever they can.

Wendy and I got married on April 17th 1982, with no money, we found a job where we could work together , and be together and save some money, after four years of working in this place the boss pulled me aside, and said , unless I organise your finances for you , you will finish up with nothing, so he showed me a plan where I could still have my beer money, this wasn’t a bad idea, so after 12  months we had saved something like $13,000 , so we deposited it on a house , a brick and tile, for $61,000 so we borrowed $50,000 at 15.5% , finally  I had achieved something, but still to much full of the wrong pride.

After working in this place , my drinking was getting worse, I did martial arts for 2 years, as I suffered from low self esteem, (result of Drinking), Would go and train martial arts for two hours, then go and get stuck into the grog after, built up a  thirst, to  quench.

Did an employment geographical in January 1990, twelve months later I sold my house and moved closer to work, the bomb of a car I was driving around was a 1967 Ford , and here is  me earning $30,000 a year, on the sale on my house I paid off all my debts and said to myself  I’m never going to allow myself in that much  debt again, with in a space of six months I was up to my earholes in debt again.

There was a finance place in Hobart called Personal Finance, I would borrow say $600 off of them , pay them back over a period of six months, get it half paid off then go back and borrow it again…

What Happened , it was one Thursday night , I had had a gutfull of beer at the local club, I bought a bottle of beer and a bottle of stout, went home , opened up both bottles , and poured some of each into the same glass, commonly known as black and tans, then the wife said to me that she was leaving me with our nine month old son.

After three days of living in sheer emotional terror and fear, I decided to seek help.

Went to a minister of the cloth , he  suggested that I  ring AA in the morning and that I may need to spend some time in a detox . This I laughed at, but as I know now , I wasn’t far from having no choice.

So I reached for the phone the next morning, and I rang Alcoholics Anonymous, oblivious to the fact of what was in front of me, see until I got into AA I lived in my mind and my mind was living in the past , past resentments and fear. I drank alcohol to escape reality.

Went to a meeting that night , then again the next night , it was there that I met my sponsor, he was the second speaker and he told me my story, it was at that meeting , that I knew that I had been given a choice, a choice that I  could  choose to do something with my life , or go back to the drink, but something was telling me that my drinking days as I knew it were finished.

After two months  of separation, my wife decided that she would accept me back , but in Queenstown, Upon leaving Hobart , Joyce gave me a little book , called LIM Australia, it was a bi-monthly meeting in print for those that are not able to get to meetings on a regular basis, so I joined.  I travelled a distance of 320klms every fortnight for a live meeting, I have not picked up a drink since, I have stayed sober since 17/6/93 one day at a time, my words do not justify the love that God has for me, words cannot express my gratitude for the wonderful fellowhip of Alcoholics Anonymous

No I am no angel, I struggle very much at times with in me.

love and hugs Stephen D

Frank’s Story

I’m an alcoholic, my name’s Frank.

I believe I was born an alcoholic. I came from a good family and they did the best with me they could but probably from the age of 5 I lived in fear and didn’t really know what the world was about. I got very confused because because during World War 2 we had to go to the nearest school. I was a Protestant and I was sent to the Catholic Convent for 5 yrs to get a Catholic education. Of course, on the weekends I’d go to the Sunday school at the Protestant school so I got very confused. When I was young. Religion frightened me. I first got drunk when I was 6 yrs old. My grandfather put all the sherry out for Christmas and I went round the table and drank the lot and all the family laughed not knowing what the future was going to be.

I really started drinking in earnest at the age of thirteen. It’s a funny thing about alcohol – but it made me feel like other people looked. It turned me from an introvert into an extrovert. At the age of fourteen I ran away from home and joined the Danish Merchant Navy… just to get away. Be a man! I stayed with the Danish Merchant Navy for twelve months and then I joined the Army as an army apprentice. I was drinking alcoholically by the age of fifteen. There’s no doubt about it. Every weekend was a drunken weekend. I suffered blackouts back in those days. I didn’t know what they were… it was just where you woke up the next morning and couldn’t remember what had happened the night before. I’d say “It must have been a bloody good time, I can’t remember a damned thing.”

As the years went on the blackouts got worse and every time I drank I suffered a personality change. That was one of the worst things about it, it didn’t matter what I drank or where I drank or how I drank this personality change changed me and I was a different person. I had fifteen years in the Army and during that time I met my wife and we had three boys.

It was the first drink and I couldn’t stop. That’s exactly how it was but I didn’t realise it at the time. I thought that that’s how people lived. I gravitated to those people who lived the same. I just couldn’t handle family life and actually I was a married a man trying to live as a single man. That’s how it was for many years.

When I wanted to leave the Army they were pleased because I wasn’t a very good operator… although I achieved the rank of Warrant Officer. I was never a stable person and always in fear of other people and I got very angry as time went on. Of course when I left the Army someone asked me what I was going to do and I said “If I had the money I’d buy a pub” and he said “Why don’t we?” So we did and I stayed in the hotel game for 15 years. That’s like giving a bank robber the key to the bank.

The drinking just got worse as it went along and I lost a lot of opportunities. I trained my wife to be my caretaker. She took all responsibility for the kids and everything. I never really saw them grow up, I never enjoyed any of their sports or anything like that. Sadly I missed their childhood. I didn’t realise. I didn’t know I was an alcoholic. I thought that was the way people lived. I became a Kitchen Cowboy… there was domestic violence. There was no physical violence with my children but there was the mental abuse and I did a lot of damage to that family over the years and I didn’t realise how bad it was until I got to A.A. and I was able to look at my life. The Twelve Steps of AA enabled me to look back on my life, get honest about it and find out something about myself.

I first came to AA in 1984. I’d just been let out of the Fremantle lock up. I’d been put in there the night before. I had a big blackout, I smashed up my mother’s furniture and I woke up in the morning in the lock-up wondering what the hell had happened the night before. Of course, with a blackout, you operate ‘full on’ even though you don’t realise what you are doing. I am only a little man but, by God!, the strength I showed when I was full of booze was really bad. I can do a lot of damage, not only to furniture but to people too. I believe it took two policemen to put me in the Paddy wagon the night before so that’s an indication.

I woke up next morning in the lock-up and I wondered what the hell had happened. I was wearing a tailor made white business shirt, which was covered in blood. Not my blood! I didn’t know where it came from. If I had asked the sargeant what I’d done and he said I had committed murder I would have had to believe him. He also told me to find a new address because I had been kicked out of home. I was devastated because I needed my caretaker. I couldn’t take responsibility for living my life and I didn’t know what to do.

Even though I had been in hotels for years I’d heard of AA but I thought they were this crowd that went around the backstreets of Fremantle and Perth and picked up the drunks and took them off to hospital. That’s what I thought AA was. I had no idea of anything about the principles of AA. So I rang up the Samaritans and they asked me if I had been drinking and I said, tongue in cheek, “yeah one or two” which was an absolute lie. They sent somebody out to see me and it turned out to be an AA member. He asked me “do you want to stop drinking?” and I told the lie straight away, I said “yes”. I didn’t want to stop drinking. I wanted someone to sort my life out … sort out all the women in my life. That was the worst part of it. My mother, mother-in-law, my wife… it was all pretty disastrous. I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do but, anyway, this little fellow talked me into going to an AA meeting. So I sat in there and I thought “My God… these people really need this AA meeting… I don’t.” I couldn’t see that I had a drink problem. I thought I was mad actually, I really did.

Years ago one of my aunties had been in the Claremont Asylum, back in the ‘40’s, and I didn’t find out until a couple of years ago that she was an alcoholic. Back in those days thats what they did with alcoholics, particularly the women, they put them in the asylum. So, I hung around AA, hoping that they would fix my family life and get me back into the family home and, of course, it didn’t happen. I was going up before the judge on the following Wednesday for aggravated assault because I had hit my wife over the head with a broom handle and that was where the blood had come from.

I hung around AA for a little while, for about four years actually and I got back into the family home after a couple of months. That wasn’t anything to do with AA … my wife let me back in. But the reason I hung around AA was because it gave me somewhere to go to get away from the family actually, but I couldn’t believe that I was an alcoholic. No way in the world! And the denial was so strong. So for four years I didn’t drink because I thought I’d get kicked out of home, but I didn’t have a drink problem! I couldn’t see it, you know, and I was a very angry person. Full of fear and anger and to overcome the fear I became very arrogant… very, very arrogant. When we look back on our lives, my wife and I, that was the worst four years of our married life together.

I used to go to AA meetings and I’d ‘talk the talk’. I’d tell them things that I thought they wanted to hear and that’s exactly how it was. God! I was a sick person, I didn’t realise how sick I was. After about four years I turned around to my wife and I said “Well, I’m cured now. I’ve been to AA and I can now drink socially.” I’d never drunk socially in my life! I was one of these people that when I drank I drank to get drunk. One was too many and a hundred wasn’t enough. I heard them say things at the AA meetings like “If you don’t pick up the first drink you won’t get drunk”. When I tried the first drink I said “I’m not drunk! … I’ll have another one!” That’s the craziness of it, absolute craziness!

Anyway, I picked up a drink and it took me eight years to put it down again and it came back worse. They say the disease is progressive and there is no doubt about it in my mind. From my own experience, before coming to AA I was what they call a binge drinker and I’d get drunk for two or three days and go off the rails somewhere and come back home again. But when I picked up a drink again I became a daily drunk. It wasn’t that I needed to have a drink every day, I needed to get drunk every day, and that’s exactly how it was. I held down a job for that period purely because I knew that if I got the sack I wouldn’t have the money to drink. That’s all it was. Every morning I was off to work with a hangover. I was one of those lucky people, I’d only have a hangover in the head, a headache, and the stomach would sort itself out pretty quickly so I was a pretty good worker. My life was a bloody mess but I didn’t realise it.

Eventually my wife left me. On 30th May 1997 we went out to dinner and I drank until I was so drunk you wouldn’t believe and I had a blackout. I don’t remember a damn thing about it… only what I’ve been told. The next morning I woke up and there was all this broken furniture around the house and it was just devastating. My son came around and he said “Mum has left you, she’s going to Sydney and you’re on your own.” So there I was on 1st June 1997 in this empty house with all the broken furniture and nobody to talk to. My children didn’t want to know me, my wife had left me and I’d driven all my friends away too. That was another thing about me, I drove people away like you wouldn’t believe, through my actions.

Its strange, I do believe that during that first period in AA that the seed must have been sown without me knowing it. I stood in that empty house and I said to myself “Frank, you need AA.” And that was the first time that I actually admitted – not only admitted but accepted – that I was an alcoholic and that was probably the greatest thing I have ever done in my life, without a doubt. I rang up the AA number and I found out where the nearest meeting was and they said it was up at Armadale. So I went straight up to a meeting at Armadale that night and I haven’t had the need to pick up a drink since and that’s incredible. That’s over nine and a half years ago now.

I threw myself into AA, boots and all and I realised that I had to change my life. My wife did come back eventually – after about three months. I sat her and my daughter down and I said to them “I’m going to AA for me this time” and they were beside themselves. My daughter said “You bastard! What about us?” I said “well, I’ve got to do it for me”. I realised that the first time I didn’t do it for me, I did it for the family, to get back in the family home and all that. It was me that needed sorting out and it was funny how the realisation came to me. I’d say that that moment was, for me, a spiritual awakening, there’s no doubt about it. My wife turned around and said to me “I don’t believe that you’re an alcoholic” and I thought “Oh God!” So there was the denial in the family which was so strong. They say that the alcoholic has the disease and the family gets the sickness. I do believe that. It wasn’t until recently that I saw an AA sign in Melbourne and it said “If drinking is costing you more than money AA might help” and that’s true. It was costing me more than money.

So, I went to AA and the first meeting, about 40 people, was devastating for me, I’d reached my rock bottom, as they call it. Since then I’ve been to meetings on a regular basis and I still do seven or eight meetings a week. I find that if I do a meeting today there is a fair chance that I will have a good day tomorrow.

The principles of the program are really something I’ve worked on and with the aid of the Twelve Steps I have been able to change my life totally and turn it around 180 degrees. Its quite incredible, when I came to AA nine and a half years ago I was neither needed, wanted nor loved and today its quite the reverse. I am needed, wanted and loved and that is incredible, you know. My children talk to me today. They ring me up on a regular basis and say “Love you heaps, Dad”. Nine and half years ago if my name was mentioned they’d say “Isn’t the bastard dead yet?” So, the change is so dramatic. I’ll never forget one of the oldtimers – they are the great people in AA, the oldtimers, the wise people who have been there and done that – one of them said to me “you’ll have a life beyond your wildest dreams” and I didn’t understand what he meant. I do understand today and I have a life beyond my wildest dreams. Its quite extraordinary, actually.

Barry’s Story

My name’s Barry and I’m grateful to God and AA that I’m sober tonight.

I was a slow starter, being brought up in a non-drinking family, and was not the “instant alcoholic” that I hear other people share about. My drinking built up gradually over many years, going from social drinking to anti-social drinking to alcoholic drinking. I had some warnings along the way – an aunt was an alcoholic and found (was found by) AA.

I lost my licence several years ago – pulled over by a booze bus and blew 0.13. That’s nearly 3 times the limit but isn’t particularly high for an alcoholic, but I was on my way TO the party at the time!!! I realise now that I always got tanked up before going out to dinners, parties etc, so when I got there I wasn’t too desperate, and could pretend I was a normal drinker! When I lost the licence I couldn’t drive for 13 months, so my drinking just got worse – no drink driving to worry about – whoopee! When I got the licence back I was drinking heaps more and can’t believe that I didn’t get caught again. I was one WORRIED drink driver.

My boss eventually got me sober by threatening to sack me if I didn’t stop drinking. The thought of no income – no money to buy booze was a real incentive. I was put in touch with the company doctor and booked into Pinelodge Clinic in Dandenong (near Melbourne). They got me dry quite quickly and then made me go to group therapy sessions, and then to AA meetings.

I wasn’t impressed with AA at first but I think I realised that there was something there for me. They told me “don’t pick up the first drink, one day at a time, and go to lots of meetings”. I didn’t fully understand why but it did work! Now I see 2 things that I learnt then which have kept me sober for over ten years. The “ODAAT”(one day at a time) principle is so simple – initially it was just a few hours or even minutes at a time. My big problem before was that I couldn’t face the rest of my life without a drink – it wasn’t even worth thinking about, but now I found I didn’t have to – just today was enough. Even now I am not comfortable with “the rest of my life” without a drink, but I am comfortable that I won’t (don’t need to) drink today. I probably won’t have a drink tomorrow, but I’m not going to worry about tomorrow because if I do I’ll have to have a drink today!

The other big thing for me is meetings. I didn’t like them at first, but I found that they helped – after a meeting I just felt more able to cope. Now I see that it’s only at meetings that I find people who really understand me. My family and friends love me but they cannot understand, because they’re not alcoholics. So at meetings I hear the stories, get a chance to tell my story, and can share the problems that face us all. I hear warnings about how bad it will get if I pick up that first drink, and I need to be reminded – it is so easy to forget and the disease is so cunning, baffling and powerful.

So today life is good. I drive my car whenever I like without worrying (took months of being sober to get out of the habit of worrying!). I don’t have the constant nagging worry about whether there’s enough booze hidden in the garage! I am myself, not perfect but not incapacitated by alcohol either.

My family life has improved dramatically. Today I have my lovely 2 year old granddaughter in my life and I am sure they wouldn’t have entrusted her to the drunken sot I used to be.
Things are not perfect; health deteriorates a bit as my wife and I get older, but we can still enjoy life. I’m working part-time so we have enough for a few minor luxuries.
Overall, I like my life now and (as I think someone said) wouldn’t be dead for quids!
Thank you all for your contribution to my sobriety.

Robert’s Story

I grew up in Newcastle in Australia and had what I consider a not so good childhood. Teenage years were the same … I don’t have many good recollections but I feel this is because of the fear and insecurities I experienced as far back as I can remember. My relatives thought I was a good quiet boy but i was keeping out of everyone’s way because I was frightened of people and places. I was always living pretending I was someone I was not.

School was a nightmare and I made very few friends and, untill I started drinking, I had few associates. Once I left school at 15yrs old my father got me a job with a friend of his. I resented this but realised, once sober, that I probably could not have got a job myself because of the fear in me. Work was traumatic for sometime but at sixteen I was drinking daily and life was bearable now I had an escape mechanism.

As the years rolled by I tried other forms of drugs but they frightened me so alcohol was the priority. Relatioships were few as I always became obsessive and drove people away or they realised ‘here was one sick unit – keep away!’ I met my wife in 1971 and still beleive she was the first person on the planet I had any real feeling for that was not fear based. She was living in an alcoholic enviroment and looking for someone to rescue her. I was looking for a person to protect me from the world. We married in 1974 and have been together ever since. She would leave me when drinking for short spells but I would make all the standard promises and she would come back. We both knew I had a problem with booze and denied it. At times we would set out to solve this problem but we never had any success.

In 1978 I reached a rock bottom like never before and ended up in an A.A. meeting, delivered to it by the local parish priest who I went to looking for a loophole out of the trouble I was in (police etc). I went home from that meeting and my wife asked me what happened I said I didnt know but I was going back the next night. One alkie talking to another is what happened. Unconditional love, acceptance, aliens talking to another alien, bullshitters talking to another bullshitter. I was handled by experts from the start and owe these people my life.

I have not needed to drink or drug since that first meeting. My wife started going to Al-Anon about 4 months after I got sober and is still a regular attender. She does not need rescuing anymore and I don’t need protecting. We have a strong relationship based on trust and each other’s needs. The A.A. and Al-Anon programmes have given us both an identity as individuals and have made us powerful as a couple. We have 4 children, none of which have seen me drink. One of them is sober and straight in the fellowship – about 6 months now. My sobriety is my invaluable asset and a gift from my God and, regardless of my life’s situation, I have felt love and a power at work in my life. Having survived alcohol, anything is possible.

I have had good sponsorship and literature based meetings so I was made aware of my malady and the solutions and the benefits of recovery for myself and others. I work the programme and continue to look to myself on a daily basis for the source of my concerns and to God and the fellowship for the solutions. I am 21 years sober, still reading my books, still have a sponsor, still taking my vitamins, still talking it out, still sharing … it works. A lady from Sydney used to say to me “life’s in session, are you present?” I didnt like it because I wasn’t but, after some programming, I was and still am. I owe my life to this fellowship and all the gods of the people in it.

Della’s Story

Hi, my name is Delores and I am an alcoholic.

I am a grateful member of a traditional face-to-face group, and also belong to several online AA groups. When I first started doing AA meetings; I hated the thought of being called up to share, because I just didn’t have the tale of drinking chaos and mayhem, the jobs and family lost and hurt, no blackouts, no jails, not even ever sick anywhere in-appropriate !.

I got ‘sober’ in October 1996, after a life of drinking which started at age 13 and continued until I was 51 years old. At first when they told me I might be an alcoholic, I was amazed – how could I have ‘suddenly’ turned into an alcoholic, when I’d been drinking all my life? How could I be an alcoholic, when I still had my high-powered job, fancy car, own house, friendly kids (well, grown ups now of course); ok so I’d lost a few husbands along the way – and yes, it was getting a bit expensive on a full bottle of brandy a day, but I was still functioning .. or so I thought.

Then they told me, it was not unusual, that I was just a ‘high-bottom’. [I thought this was a personal remark and was a bit wary about THIS compliment !]. However, I knew I was drinking ‘too much’, and arranged to have a little holiday in the local D&A clinic .. the brochures were quite nice, and I needed a rest.

I had a very unhappy childhood, followed by a lifetime of being ‘different’. I am the child of a white mother and a black father, an American soldier stationed in Northern Australia during the war years. I never knew my father, and my mother struggled to raise 3 of us with very little money. North Queensland in my childhood days was also known as ‘the deep north’, and prejudice against colour and illegitimacy was common. We were also Catholic, and very poor. My mother just pretended we were white too (I have an older sister also black, and a younger one half-chinese) .. and she would tell us that the other children who threw stones and names just didn’t know any better, and that we should just ignore them.

At a very early age, I was the victim of sexual abuse. My mother had to work a lot, and we were left in the care of neighbours .. there was one dirty old man who would give us money – and I quickly learned that if I had money to buy lollies to give to the other kids, they would be my friend and not call me names. I exhibited all the characteristics of the abused child .. (as they now know) .. the bedwetting, the lying and stealing, the cheating, the self hurting. I graduated to shop lifting, car theft, running away from home constantly, and eventually ended up in a `home for delinquent girls’ at age 13. I had also started my drinking career, the gang I mixed with were all no-accounts like me, and alcohol was the answer to good times.

I grew up thinking I was stupid and ugly – a social outcast, the boys just didn’t come near me, and I always knew it was because I was black and ugly! At age 20 I fell pregnant, and married the first of my three husbands (so far). This deteriorated fairly quickly, and within a year I had moved myself and my son to New Zealand. (my first geographical – leave behind the mess, start fresh somewhere clean etc.)

Met my second husband the week I arrived in NZ – and this started a wonderful period for me – we had a daughter, he adopted my son. In the much less racist atmosphere I was able to hold my head up a little, then a little more, and eventually became quite the normal person. I got a good job, made some good friends, joined local sports committees, realised I wasn’t stupid, and generally grew heaps – I was somebody.

Only problem was, he was a womaniser, and after putting up with it for 10 years, I eventually came to realise that although I owed him a great deal of gratitude (for having me) it wasn’t really the way I was prepared to live forever. He promised to change, and did try (I think), but after another 5 years, I gave up and left him. I still have good contact with him, we share concerns for the kids, and I still think he is one of the nicest people I know.

Then came the shock .. back on my own, free, alone. I went wild, drinking, partying, men .. frightening stuff, and made me think that, there see, I really am a bad person – it was only his involvement that had kept me straight. Quick, back into marriage, where it’s safe !.

This one lasted for 12 years, we moved back to Australia, he was an accountant who quickly became employed in a fairly high-roller job. (He was the finance director at a big casino, and that life with its perks and promises was great). Life went well for me too,I moved my own career along very well, and life was again wonderful. I was somebody again, big house, fancy cars, all that good stuff.

Then devastation – he was younger than me, about 8 years, and he fell for a woman nearly 10 years younger than him. No competition – she was blond, beautiful and ambitious, I’d like to say bimbo, but she was an accountant who worked in his office, much more suitable for the image he now thought he had, than an old black woman. I’d also had a battle with breast cancer by then, and been reduced to having only one and a half boobs left, so I was feeling pretty sorry for myself all around. The night he left, I went to the bottle shop, bought 3 bottles of brandy, several casks of wine, a bottle of cognac, and settled down to drink myself into oblivion.

It was during this first drinking bout that my daughter (then 18) chose to tell me that she had discovered that she was gay ! She had been seeing a boy from the same accounting firm where I was working, for nearly a year, so this was a great shock to me. I just didn’t have any resources left to help her with, and I thought at the time that she needed help. She didn’t, she only needed my understanding, which fortunately (bred from the many years of prejudice and bigotry I had learned to cope with) I was able to give her.

God knows (and now I know He did) .. how I survived the next few years .. I had to keep working .. he left me with a mortgage with huge repayments .. I realised we had no real friends, I’d left mine behind in New Zealand. More devastation – when we had met he was only just qualified, out of work, no money, no assets – I had a pretty good setup, gained from the settlement of my first marriage, my own house, financial independence etc. Well, he had thought that because we had been together so long, that he was entitled to a half share of everything, and because we had been living the good life, not saving, we hadn’t improved on our financial status at all, so that meant I wouldn’t have had enough left to even keep a roof over my head. Fortunately, after 2 and a half years of nasty court proceedings, the judge saw things my way and I was able to gather some resources and at least keep my head above water.

Through these years I had managed to keep myself together fairly well, I’d sold the big house, bought a couple of smaller places, one to live in and one to rent out (it was a good buy for what little money I had left, though I still have mortgage to pay) .. I left the firm I was working for and started my own computer consulting business – which took off very well and kept me very busy. Unfortunately, this meant that I was now working from home, and since I’d bought that first bottle of brandy, I had continued to do so regularly. I had turned into a daily drinker, never out of control, but always topped up. I share that I was literally `running on alcohol’ like a car runs on petrol. Nobody but my kids knew how much I was drinking, I presented a `normal’ face to clients and other people I had to see.

I couldn’t work without a drink, and the anxiety attacks I had had all my life intensified. I couldn’t face anybody or anything without a drink .. I had reached the stage of having to start into my second bottle of brandy before I could get to sleep at night. I decided that I needed a complete change of environment, I needed not to have to work, or to worry about paying the rent or how I would live. It was at this time that I heard from my stepfather that he was getting very tired and needed help to look after my mother. (She had become totally senile many years earlier and depended on him for everything.)

This was a God-send, I thought at the time, because they had a small flat at the back of their house, in which I could live .. and with a small income from the Adelaide properties I could try and survive and get well (stop drinking).

Well, I soon realised why I had run away all those years ago (I’d been away for nearly 30 years), my stepfather was (is) an abusive controlling bully, and once I’d moved into the flat, he thought there I was to do his will, at his mercy, so to speak. We quickly fell out, and I was accused of `interfering’ with the way he was looking after mother .. he’s right, I was, there were several things I was unhappy about – and although I knew he was doing his best, I thought that I could in some way make a few changes. Of course I was drinking steadily, so my judgement in the way I went about trying to change things was distorted and wrong.

In the meantime, I’d seen an ad in the paper for the clinic (drug & alcohol rehabilitation) so I rang them and admitted myself. I spent 6 weeks in the clinic, and it was there that I started the work that has helped me to put all of my life into perspective .. to start to realise that I was not an inherently `bad’ person, and that I could change and grow, and begin to develop my own self-esteem.

It was also from there that I went to my first AA meeting .. I haven’t had a drink since the night before I went into the clinic. I’ve bought a little house here on the Gold Coast, I found work that suited me, although that has recently dis-appeared and I need to find something else quickly. I do have a new relationship – (God help me, am I a total fool ?.)

I was very lucky, in that the people who were around me when I first came here, were the most caring and loving, and spiritual and giving people that would be found anywhere in the world. They gave me hope and renewed my enthusiasm for life .. they also got me into service work in quick time, and for that I can never thank them enough.

Finding a HP was not difficult for me, I have always believed that I am not alone, how could I have survived otherwise ?. My guides through life have been spiritual ones, God was forsaken as a punishing and authoritative figure .. I have always been a rebel. Today I know a different God, and I was lead gently to that discovery by the wonderful concept we have in AA, that our God be of our own understanding .. today my ‘spirit guides’ take the form of angels, of which I am surrounded by many …..

What I do know, is that this program has been, and will continue, to make my life manageable if I continue to work it.. I am so grateful for so many things .. I love how and who I am now,

I love AA, the people, the books, the meetings – my fellowship family, and the joy of discovering that I can extend this family through the use of my computer and the internet .. I am truly home, and here to stay. Thanks
Della July 2000

Paul’s Story

My name is Paul I am an alcoholic. Grateful to the AA program. My last drink was on or about 13 March 1986. I lived in a small town in the South Island of New Zealand called Hamner Springs which is a very touristy town now because of the beautiful scenery of the Southern Alps and the hot pools. When I lived there the forestry was the main industry ..that and a hospital for alcoholics and drug addicts called Queen Mary Hospital. I used to sit in the public bar of the pub at Hanmer look across the wide tree lined street at the Queen Mary and discuss with my mates what a waste of money the hospital was, where all the “dregs” of society ended up. After my life had become unbearable and I was crook with the grog, I asked to be admitted into that wonderful place. It was there I was I began to think maybe there was a place for me in this world.

Eighteen years earlier I was a volunteer soldier heading for Vietnam. First do a years training in Malaya and Singapore, learn jungle skills , how to survive and how to drink like a man then up the “Nam”. After numerous repetitious episodes of trouble, embarrassment, fights, losing friends, frightening experiences and totally still trying to master booze.. particularly spirits.. I was trained and ready to go to Vietnam! In, I think, November the Kiwi army withdrew from the Vietnam scene. I was a month off going up. That, as far as I was concerned, was the end of everything. I couldn’t believe how unjust the world was that I couldn’t go shoot the communists and prove how much I was a man. So now I thought I had an excuse to wipe myself off with the booze.

We had to finish our tour of duty in Singapore and Malaya and I wasted myself on grog and the “poor me’s” . We returned to NZ and I was told I had “no NCO potential” so that was my army career. We were treated not so well by public, by the vets who had fought in the “real wars”…and that really fed Paul’s resentment. A few years later I married a beautiful Maori girl from Gisborne. She bore us three wonderful children. They just wanted a Dad and husband to grow with but I was still stuck and going down with alcoholism. Finally after repeated attempts she finally took the kids and left. I drank to destruction for seven months. The lounge was filled with empties..some filled with urine, me being too wasted to walk to the toilet. I had the DT’s, every time I looked at pictures of our kids I cried. When ever my Mum rang I cried. Well that was my bottom. To add insult to injury, when I tried to drink myself to oblivion and a spell from myself I got headaches so bad I would sober up . Lord what a nightmare!

I went to see the ministers wife at the suggestion from my wife over the phone and she invited an AA member to talk with me. I latched on to him with the thought if I went into Queen Mary for a “spell”, I could have a rest and get back on my feet (and drink again). One of the requirements of staying at Queen Mary was that we had to attend three AA meetings a week and I couldn’t help but be affected by the idea that maybe a group of sick people who all were in Queen Mary for the same reason could help each other with the guidance of a loving , caring and patient staff. We followed each others progress, laughed and cried (God how we cried), learnt to give “warm fuzzies” (hugs) admitted out aloud that we were alcoholics. Then decided maybe we weren’t, were sad when one of us dropped out because of lies and deceit.

Then we were at the final meeting, before going out into the world again, clutching our anti-buse with our “bag of tools” ( we had worked up to Step five..we had the tools ..now go work the program). From the 1st May 1986 to beginning of August was the most inspiring and loving time of my life. I think of Father Ray who told me ..when I said I was having trouble with the concept of a Higher Power ( I felt foolish to say the word God) “Paul all I want you to do is become willing to believe..can you do that”? I said a bit hesitant “yes I think so “, and so it happened. I think of our group therapist who pulled apart our shrouds of self loathing and distrust then sewed us together with stitches of love. Our PT instructor who I still consider friend. June and many other staff whose names have faded but faces will always remain in my mind. Finally the other patients in our group, like Debbie whom I was in love with and was told by the staff not to speak to on the threat of being expelled from the group because we were getting too close. In spite of ourselves we stuck to the programe and until we lost contact after I emigrated to Western Australia and I pray she is sober today. Marie ,Phil, Hardie,Dave and another whose name escapes me. Please God they are all as happy and sober as I.

I stayed in Hamner for another year attending AA meetings learning and listening and being in awe of people like George who with eyes blazing thumping the “Big Book” telling us about GOD (he would yell it and I would cringe in case God really was real and would hear!) In his pommy accent he would say “its in the Big Book!!on page 570!! “There is a principal which is a baaarrr… against all information, which is proof against all arguments( at this stage he would glare at me!) and which cannot faaaiiilll…to keep a man in everlasting ignorance- that principle is contempt!!!!….(and almost as an afterthought) prior to investigation.” George would then tell us how much he loved us and saunter back to his seat. And so from this grounding in AA , one month after my Dad passed away, after being made redundant from the Forest Service, and with the best wishes from my group I emigrated to Western Australia to work in the bush operating machinery (with an ego as large as the state) I worked my way through life .

Many times I was “stark raving sober”. A lot of the time I was “white knuckled sober” but I always carried my “Day By Day”,”Twenty Four Hours A Day” and “Touchstones For Men”. The “tools” of Queen Mary and never took the first drink. It is amazing how many AA people you find in the bush. I walked into a mining camp cookhouse for lunch at Gidgee Goldmine, about ’88 I think, and the cook walked up to me shook my hand and said ” I believe you are in the same fellowship I’m in ” Boy! we were grinning like a “horse eating thistles” !!. The cleaner had seen the Big Book beside my bed and she had seen Ron’s Big Book and mentioned to him that there was someone else in the camp with the same book as him. God was with me all the time. He would drop clangers like that all around me perhaps with the thought that with enough coincidences I might recognize them as spiritual experiences one day.

And to the final “miracle” in my life. I never, try as hard as I might , never fell out of love with my wife, though I sure hated her for leaving me and betraying me to the world , making me face my problem of alcoholism. Seven years into my sobriety, after I was able to provide for a family and after she had sorted out her “issues” of abuse as a child, she and our three children joined me in Western Australia. She left a successful career as a social worker for us to try again at our relationship. We are still trying after 8 years, the children have grown up and every morning we wake up in the same bed with the same idea that today, just for today, we will keep trying with our relationship.

I hope we never stop trying.

So that is Paul the alcoholic,grateful, human. I make lots of mistakes, I have lots of defects but I have a program of Twelve Steps and the love of my family and true friends. Truly God is great!

Laura’s Story

I hope to share with others the horrors I experienced as a practising alcoholic – yes, I am an alcoholic – powerless over that most deceitful of drugs, alcohol. My early life was traumatic – parents divorcing when I was very young, sexual abuse, abandonment by my mother, early obesity and difficulties in the home. When I discovered alcohol – I mean really found it, it was such a relief. I was funny, gorgeous and socially acceptable with a few drinks in me. Then I drank too much and I became romantic or homicidal or, on rare occasions both at the same time – very daunting. For a while it was ok – I was limited by time, circumstance and money and only occasionally got rip-roaring drunk. But as the disease progressed in me the drunkenness became far, far more frequent.

The blackouts were terrifying – to come to and not know what had been happening, sometimes not knowing who I had been with. And trying to pretend as if nothing was wrong. To nod knowingly when people discussed the events of the night before and not having a single clue what occurred. And the hangovers were so bad. I would vomit until sometimes there was blood in the bowl, my head felt like it wanted to expel my eyes and towards the end, my hands shook uncontrollably.

I tried changing drinks, I tried time limits, drink limits, people limits and nothing could keep me from the booze. If things would just change, maybe I could stop – pressure of work, kids, husband, etc. I just had to have that drink to get me through the thing that was my life. And it was endless and hopeless – Groundhog Day – each day the same pitiful event as the last. No matter how much I wanted things to change, or people around me wanted things to change, nothing changed except to get worse and worse. Arrests, car accidents with and without children, infidelities and basic dishonesty are all part of my drinking story.

Then after yet another traffic “Incident” – another time when I had forgotten I had kids, forgotten I had people to dinner, it all came to a head and I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous. I was terrified; I really did not know what to expect, only that there was hope that I could get out of the nightmare I was living. I found in that room compassionate and caring people who had experienced a lot of what I had been through. They understood. Others had told me to stop drinking, or at least cut down, or not to drink while driving, or not to drive drunk with the kids in the car– people in AA understood that my power of choice left me with the first drink.

I found a tremendous freedom made wonderful friends, and learned how to live. I must have been out to lunch when the ordinary life skills were being taught – I had no notion how to cope with very simple and basic stuff. In the group I learned about me – there are things that I absolutely cannot do and there are things that I ought to have a go at for my own development.

It’s been 25 years for me without a drink but, like everything else, we do it one day at a time!

I am grateful for my life.

Russ’s Story

I was a child of about ten when Dad gave both my elder brother and I a very light shandy at Christmas dinner.  My younger brother, suffered petty mal seizures as a result of an early childhood accident and could not share this experience. He was also only six. The reason I mention these details is so you have some idea of my growing up environment. Mum and Dad were workers and part of the great Ozzie battlers generation, working hard to raise the family properly and earn a living with some spare to put away for the future. We went to church on Sundays and were taken on road and fishing trips in our holidays. I suffered from croup until we moved from a timber home to a brick and tile one in 1962 when I was eight.

So all pretty normal and I can’t find a reason to blame my childhood enviroment for my disease.  That shandy was significant because it was my first taste of alcohol and although I hated the beer taste I loved the effect, behaving like a souped up drunk on this most insignificant taste. From that day I was banned from sharing the shandy at celebrations and did not get a chance to taste alcohol again until when I was confirmed into the Anglican church at 12 and took up duties as an altar boy. The church use fortified wine as part of the communion ritual and as an altar boy I had unlimited access to it.

When I volunteered to serve at daily 6am mass on my way to school everyday I was hailed as a pious young man who loved God and his church. In fact all I did was serve at these services so I could access the altar wine after the services and remove money from the collection plate for cigarettes. Even at this age my disease made me cunning and I never got greedy enough to take anything near what could be noticed. These crimes were never exposed. Consequently I would breeze through the mornings at school and start to fade after lunch. Come end of the school day I would cycle home via the church for a lifter and then home to peel spuds etc and cook a simple meal for my family. The family would come from work, first Mum then my older brother (who had left school early to become a boiler maker’s apprentice) and then Dad to dinner and a couple of beers. Mum liked a brandy sometimes and I stole what I could. Even though I hated the stuff, the effect was powerful.

At 15 I cooked up a scheme to release myself from the bonds of Mum and Dad’s drinking rules and joined the Naval Junior recruits in Fremantle W.A., 2,000 miles from my childhood home in Adelaide. After 6 weeks’ aboard’ we were given weekend liberty for the first time. I had been quick to gravitate towards those prone to alcohol use and even before this leave we had pulled off one raid on the Wardroom, or Officers Mess, managing to steal and drink a number of bottles of whisky without detection. We headed out for our first leave and although due back at the gangway at 1900 (7pm) we stayed out and partied with newly made drinking partners, not arriving back until the Monday morning… very much worse for wear and pleased to be the first in our division to be called up on Commodore’s Parade (discipline) and relegated as MUPs ( Men Under Punishment). No more leave for 6 more weeks and extra cleaning duties in the scullery or sullage hut ( rubbish detail). When next leave became available I was ready for another escapade but found only one other willing to risk it with me, same behaviour same result, over and over again.

After being draughted to HMAS Vendetta in Sydney as an electrical mechanic I discovered my behaviour aboard a real ship was not to be tolerated by the ‘brass’ or my fellow seamen and I soon found the offer of an optional discharge posted in my mail slot. The idea was you took optional or waited to be dishonourably discharged. I took it.

During my short term of service Mum and Dad had moved to Queensland so that is where I had to be sent. I worked as a shoe salesman, used car yard groundsman, labourer, steam cleaner, brickies’ labourer and finally settled for a few years as a prefabricated roof truss maker, a job which required accuracy, varied skills and a good work ethic. I enjoyed this work and the enviroment and co-workers. I still I found reason to party on my 1 day weekend, ensuring I was never absent or late for work because such behaviour would hinder my upward climb on the jig floor (Jig: apparatus used to build repeated copies of a specific shape with accuracy).

Much to the surprise of myself and those around me I met a lady who fell instantly in love with me and, after some rebellious adventures that took us to Mildura, Adelaide and jail before she was 16, we ended up back on the Gold Coast married and pregnant in quick succesion. I was able to get my old job back and things began to deteriorate from there. It was my habit to go into Surfer’s Paradise on Saturday nights alone to upmarket bars and drink alone. My wife had no say in it, I just went. Even when our oldest son was born this habit did not change. I never looked for other women or even mates to drink with; I did however get ‘connected’. The criminal underground was fertile and available money from simple tasks for ‘The Big Guys’ easy. Most all of the jobs I did I was never caught for and therefore I got cocky and a reputation for reliablity and silence.

As time went on I would do more and more while drunker and drunker. The whole thing came to a head one night when my only income was from criminal activity. I had been set to guard a man in his unit to make sure he did not run away while his partner took gang money inter-state. We had drank a great deal of spirits and I was very much worse for the wear. The man, a homosexual made an indecent advance to me as I layed semi-conscious on the couch. I took a knife to him and hurt him badly, somehow his neighbours heard and called the police. I was in a security building and could only make my escape by dropping to the balcony below four times until I landed on the ground. The police had to chase me for hours as I knew the place well in those days. I led them to a 30 story building site I was familiar with and lost them. This was the beggining for me of a life on the run from myself, police, responsibility and any limitations on my drinking.

When I was caught it was decided that I would be better commited to a phsyc unit for evaluation. The court ordered a 3 month stay and the hospital put me in a minimum security unit beside a golf course. The weekends were alloted as leave days and I would spend Friday till Monday night outside and free, coming back for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evaluation sessions. I was provided with such heavy tranquilisers as Largactyl and Rhohypnol to add to the joy of the experience. The combination, with the drugs and alcohol, made me bullet proof and I staged four armed holdups during this time.

My wife had gone to Western Australia and after my 3 months with only a court report from a psyhcologist I left the State to try and recover our marriage and meet my second son. We launched into an on-again/ off-again relationship of another 5 or 6 years when, with my two sons and only daughter, she left me for the security of a relationship with a truck driving gambler who trucked my family all over the country for years. I pursued them for the first year but luckily they eluded me.

When I finally returned to Perth I began a series of relationships with all sorts of people in the criminal catergory. I lived from day to day becoming an artful thief and fraudster. Some would say I was a good criminal because the only jail time I served was mostly for unpaid fines when I chose to not pay and serve the time as a rest from the booze or to get to someone who had “done the wrongy”. I got the name as a dangerous, unpredictable, nasty fighter who would not hesitate to smash a glass in a man’s face. Such a rep gained me the respect of the hard core element and I soon found myself living with mobs of bikers, drug addicts and violent criminals. We cornered a part of the drug market and gained a good reputation as not to be messed with. Of course we had to hurt a lot of people as part of our daily work to get this. We buried many freinds and enemies, from such causes of death as drug overdoses to cycle accidents and murder. I was terrified to let my guard down. Terrified I would be discovered as a frightened boy so I worked, drank and fought hard.( When I hear people say that staying drunk was the hardest thing they have ever done I know immediately what they mean.)

It was our habit to drink 24/7 and we bushwacked many legal contractors for jobs that only existed on pay day, most of us had Centrelink benefits and all of us had money coming in from drug deals and constant stealing. As the security measures in banks became more sophisticated we moved to organising gangs of street kids to steal for us and we would fence their goods for 20cents in the retail dollar, selling on for 40 or 50. Garage sales all around Perth and weekend markets being our best way of disposal. Towards the end I had entered the inner sanctum and was given the job of finding major suppliers of ‘grass’ around the town. We needed a constantly increasing supply as more and more users became sellers and expanded our buyers. Self propagating business is great for a while but eventually it takes over all your life.

By the time I was forty I was drinking two bottles of spirits a day, usually vodka and my mind was beggining to suffer. I found a gold mine in a supplier who could and did provide me with any amount of weed and other harder drugs such as ecstacy, LSD and amphetamines. I took a distinct liking for ecstacy and began to smoke big cigars. I had made it, all i had to do was call through an order, deliver the money and pick up the goods. The rest was handled by the other boys and I reaped large profits.

By 43 I was constantly paranoid, carried a firearm, had a bodyguard and could not count to ten. I could not sleep, remember more than a few hours past and had to have somebody take over all my business, throwing me a few crumbs but enough to keep me quiet. Come 44 I was given another option, bow out gracefully and leave all that I had built behind or go down shooting. I chose to bow out. Within months I was living in a run down hovel in Midland, drinking cask wine and frightened to step outside in daylight.

I went back to AA as I had over the years had plenty of exposure to the programme through jail and rehabs I had hidden out in for a while. I had a serious battle on my hands. Much of my early recovery is a blur; depression and thoughts of suicide were constant companions. I was scared to drink and could not use drugs. I was also scared not to drink and my head was full of scrambled brains. I had so many amends to make and most was very serious stuff. How could I face down the fears of all these years on the streets. How could I level out and fly straight?

I sat on my bed one night, 6 weeks behind in my rent, drinking a cask of claret and contemplating suicide via the gas stove. I rose and went to the oven only to find after living there for 6 months that it was electric. I went back to the bed in tears. I was finally beaten. Not even capable of doing the honourable thing and taking my own life. In the corner of the room a spider spun a web. I realised the spider had two things I did not – a home and a purpose.

At 45 years old the boy who was once judged second out of 350 in a high school IQ selection test was no good to anyone. I cried in self pity, I raged in anger and finally I let go and said the following. “God help me because I cannot help myself.” From that point on I believe HP got busy with me and showed me how to adapt to a ‘one day at a time life’ with a God dependence as utmost in my life. I began to go to meetings and start to believe there was hope. I made freinds and I got close to a special man who at first I disliked because he would laugh at my hard luck stories. I nearly got violent with he and another member once in his kitchen because they were laughing at my conditioning, not my plight, but, my stupid beliefs about street righteousness or some such unimportant thing. I was sick and in need and this man (who choses not to be called ‘sponsor’) loved me in a way no-one ever had – unconditionally. He was just there when I needed him, he never turned me away and he never laughed without telling me I was hard headed but not hopeless.

I was in a world so different to what I had lived in for so many years it was like being in a dream. People did not bag and bash each other for recreation, they were not to be wary of and nothing I could say or do changed their minds about there being hope for me. The only thing I had to do was listen, learn and act on what I was given. No preachers, no musts and no judgment. Do it whatever way you like but do it. Tell the truth and listen for the similarities. There were few to begin with because few had been to the depths I had. Few had even lost their homes or families. None but the oldest had been as far down as I and had I looked for the differences I would have died.

Today I share a home in an upmarket suburb in Brisbane with my ex wife and 27 year old son, my married 23 year old daughter (who has given me 2 grandsons) lives a few miles away and I see them all regularly. I have just come back from a 6 day trip to northern NSW to see my 76 year old Dad who loves to see me and is coming over this afternoon for cake and coffee. I have a home group in Brisbane and a dozen or more mutually respected friends I see on a regular basis. I have too many to count aquaitances, in and out of the fellowship, and I can even get credit at the chemist and newsagent.

I speak to my ‘not sponsor’ twice a week on the phone and I visit Perth whenever my limited budget allows. God has done for me what I could not do for myself. All this in less than 5 years without a drink and 6 seriously trying to work the programme. It was done with my support and the support of hundreds of walking miracles one day at a time. I even have people who want me to sponsor them today and I know how important it is to be ready to give it away.

Thanks for the opportunity to share this summary and I pray that God uses it to serve.

Pat’s Story

I was born into an outwardly normal, successful family – Mum, Dad and a brother (I’m 2 years older)…but Dad was an alkie AND a gambler, and Mum was angry! Dad was a fairly gentle drunk, but could be quite sarcastic. Mum was violent towards Dad on several occasions. We kids were loved though, and not abused. But I was scared…not sure of what, just scared. I was still wetting the bed and sucking my thumb until my teens (not at school, needless to say!), bit my nails and was scared of anyone new, and even scared of my aunts, uncles and cousins.

When I was 10 we moved to Darwin, which was a big drinking town (still is, I guess) and Dad’s drinking got lost in the general ifestyle, so tensions at home were considerably eased. I got less scared, but was still on the timid side. And then when I was 16 I discovered alcohol…YIPPEEE! God it was good. I was no longer scared, I was able to speak my mind (even if I couldn’t remember what my mind thought!), socialized with the rest/best of them – had a ball for about three years. And then it started going pear-shaped, although I wouldn’t admit it for decades.

I moved from Darwin to Auckland, got pregnant, came back to Perth – and became a victim! It wasn’t my fault ( whatever “it” was) it was down to everybody else. And instead of being a happy drunk, I became morose or angry. So, it must have been Perth’s fault and I went to England. Guess what! I became morose and angry again – poor me! My drinking was quite horrific in the UK … no-one knew me so any restraints I might have felt just vanished. I drank in fairly unsafe dockside bars with people who looked after me, thank Heavens. Not the most socially acceptable of people, but good friends just the same…so any ideas I had of socially superior people died after that, which is a good thing… even as a drunk I was able to learn some lessons!!

I married in England, came back to Australia via the Bahamas and settled into normal suburban life. My drinking became a bit controlled, but even more unhappy. I guess if you throw enough depressant down your throat, you’re bound to become depressed…I didn’t know alcohol was a depressant until I came into AA. Eventually, like so many of us, I just got sick and tired of being sick & tired – no particular reason, except that I could remember the details of what was to be my last drunk. (I mostly I drank in blackout, which probably prolonged the misery.)

I was still employed, still had the house and husband – but life was just one long lurch between drinks, I had no idea what was really going on around me and my fears had come back big-time! Whenever I said to myself I wasn’t going to drink today, I’d be drinking by about 5.00pm regardless. I rang AA because I just knew that if I didn’t I was stuffed – I would live for years just feeling progressively worse. I don’t know how I knew this, I just did – and I do believe in Divine intervention although I don’t really know what that means. I do know that I couldn’t have rung AA left to my own devices – I didn’t even know what it was about… but ring I did.

Judy came out to talk with me for a while; Teresa took me to my first meeting ( in a detox – I didn’t even know what a detox was!) I have remained sober ever since, for which I am very grateful. I did heaps of meetings and stayed close to people who were not only sober, but happy to be sober. They were also “service freaks” and I never knew I had a choice to be in service or not – I just thought it was part of the deal. Which it is, of course, and I’m very grateful I was never told I didn’t have to do stuff. Or if I was told that, I didn’t hear it.

Eventually I also got a sponsor and started working on the Steps (AA’s 12 Step program). Some things took as long as they took – years in some cases, but I was never far away from older sober members. I lived next door Ruby for about 3 years, which was a great help. I moved there at about 6 months sober when I finally lost the house and husband. I also ended up in hospital for the first time in my life (other than when I was born), lost about 18kg in weight due to stress and fear. But the hope and encouragement I got in AA outweighed the rest and I’ve gotten weller over the years. I don’t do many face to face meetings any more – mostly because I live too far out and don’t drive at night-time if I can avoid it, but I would be absolutely lost without this online group and without the AA friends I have made. I keep in touch on a regular basis and just love the feeling of being in AA, and still do service work whenever I can.

I love being sober.