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!