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Loving My Career Change

Jane, United Kingdom

I live in England in the South East - near to the coast. Beautiful when the weather is good - windy when it isn't!

I have two children - a boy aged 16 and a girl who will be 15 in May. I have two cats - Nancy and Essie (short for Espresso as she is very dark brown!).

I have been married to my husband for 16 years and I have no idea why he stuck with me for so long. I guess he was hoping to change me - but he now realizes there's nothing he could have done. I had to want to change myself.

I have been in recovery since March 19th, 2007.

I was brought up living in bars, clubs and restaurants - but when I was living in them, I didn't actually have a drink problem. I knew when I had drunk my limit and then was able to stop. Unfortunately, I had a very bad first marriage, which was a very violent relationship. I eventually summoned up the courage to leave without taking a cent and that's when life started to go haywire.

I suppose I had been under my husband's control for so long (I met him when I was very young) that I just went mad and drank to excess and did lots of crazy things. I'd wake up ashamed of what I had done the night before (before the blackouts entered my life) and promised myself next time would be different. But of course it wasn't.

When I met my second husband, all his friends thought I was on serious drugs which I wasn't. The joke being I didn't take them because I didn't want to be out of control! I remember a long weekend in France with my husband and his friends and for some reason I was drinking super-strength lager out of a can and then topping up with Pernod. Lethal combination.

And I guess that was the path I was to go down for many years. Every time, I would say, "Never again" and every time I made the same mistake. I did curb my drinking when pregnant, but would still have the odd glass of wine.

Life was very stressful (my husband became the househusband). I suppose deep down I resented him for the fact that he didn't have the same earning potential as me. I would come up from work and always have two glasses of wine through the evening, along with a beer or two. I don't know when it happened, but I was then drinking a bottle of wine, or more if I could get away with it.

Even when I lost a highly paid job through my drinking, not once did I think about stopping. It was my pleasure after all. I started my own company and life was going well. By this stage I guess I was a functioning alcoholic, but didn't admit it to myself, let alone anyone else. Some days I would think that I did have a drink problem, possibly an alcoholic, but I drank the same way as the rest of my family drank so what's the problem?

Soon though I was cancelling projects - I would go out for lunch and have a few glasses of wine (or more) and then continue drinking through the afternoon. Then the lying and sneaking came in - buying a bottle of gin and hiding it in my office. Buying strong cider and hiding it in the cupboards. Keeping a glass of alcohol hidden in all the rooms "just in case." I even had a stash in my bedside cabinet!

It was so tiring being a drinker. I had to drive round to different stores to get the alcohol (I live in a very small village). I would then decant the drink (God knows why) and then I had the problem of getting rid of the empties. I would wrap the empty bottles in newspaper and then go through the village putting an empty bottle in the bins as I passed by. I was exhausted with it all.

By now my husband had started a job and was away a lot. I just saw this as party time, even though I had the kids with me. I would be drinking 24 hours a day. I didn't cook for the kids, I didn't clean. I was a slob. I would only get out of a bed to a) get another bottle from my stash or b) if the stash had run out, to go out to the village and buy more supplies.

Now I knew I had a problem. I spoke to my doctor who could only recommend AA. I refused to go. I was referred to the alcohol advisory service but soon stopped going, as I was being treated like a child.

I started to drink alcohol as it bolstered my confidence. Now my friend and ally had turned on me, it was zapping me of my confidence and I became a shell. I started to suffer from all sorts of problems. I was on the verge of being diagnosed with anorexia - preferred to drink rather than eat. My skin was a mess, my hair was a mess. I was just a total mess.

I often thought about ringing the AA Helpline - but normally this was when I was drunk. Then I entered the stage of not even being able to get out of bed without a drink, run my bath without a drink, pick the phone up without a drink. I realised now that the drink had the power and I had none.

I went along to a private rehab clinic for a free assessment. I went along with my sister, as for some reason I knew I wouldn't be honest if she wasn't there. Driving up to the clinic I said to my sister, "I just want to be taught how to drink like a lady!" Having completed a 4 page questionnaire, I soon changed my mind and I said to my sister that I was past the learning how to drink like a lady stage. I finally admitted to myself and my sister that I was an alcoholic. I had the assessment on a Friday and had a room for the next Monday, signed up for a 28 day programme. Luckily for me the clinic worked the 12 step programme, not that I knew anything about it at the time.

That last weekend I went on an almighty drinking session. On the Monday, I started drinking about 7am (very large gin and tonics!). Went for lunch just before entering and had a bottle of wine. Don't remember much about my first day, apart from the fact that I couldn't have Librium as my alcohol intake was too high!

I realized in rehab I was a very angry person and I certainly made myself known in the clinic! Slowly but surely my weight crept up and I was looking human again, rather than a corpse. I had already accepted that I was an alcoholic and that I was powerless. I did, however, have problems accepting that my life was unmanageable because I was a functioning alcoholic (or so I believed!). I struggled with the allergy element to alcoholism and initially thought it was just a "cop-out" but now I can see that I am in fact allergic to alcohol and I will always be allergic to it.

Luckily in rehab they made us go to five AA meetings a week, otherwise I don't think I would ever have gone to a meeting myself.

I have realized that my whole life was centred around fear, and yet I didn't believe I was fearful of anything. I was dreadfully unhappy, as was the rest of my family.

I am now able to eat normally, sleep normally and able to wake up and feel glad that I am alive, rather than constantly planning different ways I could kill myself to get away from me and the way I was feeling.

I am free from shame, guilt and the consequences of my drinking. I also now have freedom, which I cherish.

I am able to do "normal life" and face whatever's thrown at me, although I don't always like this. I suppose I am slowly growing up!

My only difficulty at the moment is my sister, who is also a heavy drinker. I have to keep reminding myself that I was once like her and not to preach. She has to decide whether she is an alcoholic or not, no one else can do this for her.

I go to three to five meetings a week and am fortunate that within a 30 mile radius there is a meeting every day. I haven't yet got a sponsor but I have identified someone. However, I am working the steps with my therapist in the interim and just going through Step 4.

I love going to AA conventions. I have plans to attend a convention on the Isle of Wright Convention. I also hope to go to the Spanish Convention.

My sister has a house in Turkey and we are both going out there together, so will be sampling the delights of the Turkish AA meetings twice weekly.

I did have the pink fluff cloud feeling that I am slowly getting over. I did become a bit of a tree hugging hippy but am through that phase now! But I have retrained in the healthcare and wellness field and am loving my career change - something I would never have contemplated in my drinking days.

Kind regards

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