Escaping the chaos

November 2019 | 8 minutes

If you are struggling with your drinking, there are different types of support available that can help you - here's Kate and Victoria's story on how support from Alcoholics Anonymous changed their lives for the better.

Kate’s story:

I had my first taste of alcohol aged 13 and I know that my problem with alcohol was there from the start. As a mid-teen my drinking wasn’t frequent but it was certainly enthusiastic. My friends and I would raid our parents’ drinks cabinets at the weekend in an attempt to get as drunk as possible. In my late teens and early twenties, although many of my friends were also drinking heavily, I had an insatiable appetite for alcohol and lack of regard for the growing number of risks and consequences that my drinking produced. I was seen as the person who loved to get drunk and would often need to be carried home at the end of a night out. To an observer it would look like I was consciously choosing to drink so much. In reality however, once I had the first sip of alcohol, I was on autopilot to drink myself into oblivion.

My life became messy and chaotic. I underperformed in every area: at work, with my finances, in my family and with my friends. I was full of shame and anxiety. I felt like I was on my own in a world of normal drinkers but I didn’t think I was an alcoholic. On my last night drinking I really tried not to get too drunk but it ended the same way it always did and I was done. The next day I realised that I had hit my rock bottom and something had to change.

I rang the Alcoholics Anonymous helpline and they advised me to go to an AA meeting. For the first time in my life, I realised that I wasn’t alone with this problem, these people really understood what it was like to be powerless over alcohol. What was different from the portrayals of AA meetings was the positivity and camaraderie between members. People were happy with their lives, grateful to be sober and looking forward to their futures. This was very appealing to me!

For the first three months I went to AA meetings every day and through the 12 steps I realised that I wasn’t a bad person. I had been unwell and the ‘medicine’ I took to make myself feel better was the very thing that made everything worse.

When I was drinking, I thought that alcohol was the thing I needed to cope with life. Giving up drinking seemed like a life of punishment. I have now been sober for seven years and coming to AA was one of the best things I have ever done. I don’t have blackouts, or hangovers, or shameful drinking experiences. My life has improved in so many ways and am happier than I ever was before.

Victoria’s story:

I am NOT an alcoholic! This is what I would tell myself over and over and over again. For over 15 YEARS!

Another Monday morning waking up crawling on my hands and knees to the bathroom to be sick. I have to lie with my head and body on the cold floor. Not the best way to start a working week. And I didn’t even intend to get drunk.

Not wanting to get drunk but being drunk on ‘autopilot’. Coming around drunk without even realising I had started on a bender, again. Passing out drunk when I was trying to impress. Blacking out drunk when I was drinking on my own. Or worse still, when I was out with a group of friends or colleagues.

These occurrences became so regular they were ‘normalised’. I had to find more and more ways to rationalise why I would live this way. Why I would absolutely hammer my body and mental health like this week after week, year after year.

My drunk co-dependant mother. My insane work pressures. Never having enough money. Loneliness. Past difficulties. Bad relationships. Bad me. Blah blah blah. There was always an excuse.

Towards the end of my drinking I couldn’t fool myself anymore. Deep down I knew the excuses were just that. Excuses. They did not come anywhere close to justifying how I was treating myself or how awful I was treating those I said I loved.

Towards the end of my drinking the emptiness I felt inside was immense. The ‘hole is the soul’ would not be filled with any amount of booze or other substances, relationships, work. They say only an alcoholic knows depths of loneliness like this.

Spiritual bankruptcy described how I felt so perfectly that when I heard it for the first time ever in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, I knew somehow that despite every fibre of my being not wanting to be sat in those AA meetings somehow I belonged there. I knew somehow that if I didn’t stay in that seat and keep coming back that it would not be long before I was dead. Someone said ‘if you are lucky you’ll be dead soon, or you might get another 10-15 years of alcoholic hell first’. Lovely.

I learnt in AA that it doesn’t matter when you drink, what time of day you drink, how much you drink (although these obviously play a factor in our entry into AA). What makes me an alcoholic is what happens when I drink.

I am powerless over alcohol. I have no idea when I am going to take a drink. I think I have control over when I drink because I only binge drink.

Yet I regularly drink when I don’t want to. I regularly drink more than I want to. When I say no to a drink I congratulate myself for not drinking. Apparently a common thing for alcoholics!

I would estimate that 8 out of 10 times when I drank it was not really a problem. But those 2 out of 10 times were so bad that I often felt suicidal afterwards and then, of course, there were all those horrendous consequences…

I know today I am an alcoholic. I cannot drink safely. The answer is yes or no. Not sometimes.

Attending AA

You can contact Alcoholics Anonymous by calling the free helpline on 0800 9177 650, emailing help@aamail.org or visiting their website.

If you need support to change your drinking there are many options available.

Find out more.