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