The term ‘alcoholic’ can seem a little scary, overwhelming and extreme in most peoples minds. It is also vastly misunderstood and can be really confusing. This however was a question I was faced with 40 days ago when I began this journey.
What I knew of Alcoholics Anonymous prior to all this was much similar to most people I would think. I’ve always been quite against anything resembling religion or restricted ways of living and so I would happily have described the ‘fellowship’ as somewhat of a cult. Even the word fellowship pissed me off a little.
The way AA came into my life was quite serendipitous (I have found myself using that word a hell of a lot more lately). I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was thinking about giving up drinking and he said he happened to have a copy of the Alcoholics Anonymous ‘Big Book’. He also added that he wasn’t exactly sure of how it had come into his possession but would I like to borrow it? I figured why not – I was at a rock bottom with really low self worth after my last binge so all ideas were welcome. Also as you can tell from my previous blog posts I didn’t do so well quitting on my own so perhaps there was something in this whole ‘AA’ thing..
It was pretty soon after starting to read ‘The Big Book’ that I decided to go to my first meeting. It was a Saturday evening and I dragged my sorry self to central London in the pouring rain (fitting really). At this point I was still pretty sceptical and listened to the brilliant ‘F*cking Sober’ podcast for moral support the whole way there. There was a few people chatting outside and I figured I didn’t want to go in to soon so I had a quick chat with my mum on the phone like a proper fanny. When I finally found the courage to go in I was met by the ‘greeter’ and was faced with a whole room of people who all seemed to be chatting as if they knew each other. This came as an unwelcome surprise as here I was thinking I had signed up for a ‘Newcomers’ meeting. This did not look like newcomers to me! However to my also pleasant surprise there did seem to be more people in my age bracket than not. I chose the only real space I could see on the bench which lined the walls of the room, and sat down in my extremely rain soaked clothes like a wet turd. People were more spaced out due to Covid but all seemed to be well versed with proceedings. All but me.
Queue new kid at school feeling.
Eventually after what felt like an age, a couple of girls next to me kindly introduced themselves – they could probably sense the fear. This definitely helped to ease my nerves a little and now it was time for the meeting to begin. I won’t go into the ins and outs of it all but there was time for any newcomers or visitors to the meeting to introduce themselves which I did, but only after a couple of others were brave enough to go first. This is when I realised I would have to say the dreaded words… How did I feel about this?? Was I really ready or willing to say it? Luckily I didn’t have much time to think about it and just threw myself in the deep end.
‘Hi I’m Kayla and I’m an alcoholic’
It stung a little to say the words out loud, but it also felt very liberating – thrilling almost. The group kindly replied with hello, welcome etc.
I’d done it.
After a ‘chair’ by one of the members (yep I didn’t know the lingo either) the meeting is then opened up for others to share their thoughts for a few minutes, followed by time once more for any newcomers to speak. I figured I’d come this far so I might as well push myself. I’ve recently been of the belief that you grow by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and this situation definitely constituted that. So I said a few words but kept it quite short just to say that I didnt have much to say yet as I was new (smooth), but I was excited to be there and begin this journey blah blah.
And that was the moment I officially joined AA and knew that I’d in some way already committed myself to the idea. It felt thrilling and put simply, it felt good.
Also as it turned out it was a ‘chip meeting’ meaning that they give out little chips to mark any sobriety milestones. As I was within my first month I received my 24h sobriety chip along side claps and verbal well wishes & pats on the back. I felt like a child with a gold star – but i loved every second of it. I felt part of something. I’d done something good for once.
Sitting and listening to numerous others speak about their stories I found I could relate in some way to all of them. Maybe not the daily drinkers, but most definitely the blackouts, feelings of shame, remorse, ruined relationships and friendships. The inability to have ‘just one’.. I was also wrong about the religious part, it really isn’t. Spiritual yes, religious no. AA is inclusive of people from all walks of life – and isn’t that what I’ve always sought? A community where I feel supported ad accepted with no ulterior motives?
After the meeting a few of the women approached me to welcome me, thank me for sharing (apparently this is not common so soon) and to swap numbers. I very quickly had to learn to be comfortable with phone calls from strangers as this is a large part of AA. It’s amazing how many people are out there willing to offer support and share their stories. I’ve met some really fantastic people who I already regard as friends, and I’m only 40 days in..
So to circle back to the title of this post. Am I an alcoholic? The short answer is yes. Yes because I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Yes because I have an intolerance that means I black out after just a couple of drinks now whereas I used to proudly shout about how I could drink you under the table. Yes because I no longer recognise or like the person I become once I have a couple inside me.
If I drink there are always consequences be it physical or mental and that is no longer a price I am willing to pay. But the wonderful thing is that there are so so many people just like me who understand, and who also want more from their lives. And it is because of them that I feel strong enough to make this stick. There is always someone at the end of the phone for a chat, or someone willing to go for a coffee and a walk. Theres meetings both physical as well as online meaning that this programme is more accessible than ever.
I actually feel immense gratitude for lockdown in a way as it’s been the down time I needed to reflect and have time away from social pressures.
So yeah sweet I’m 40 days in. Only a whole fucking lifetime to go babayy!
P.S. Quit smoking 8 days ago. Yes I’ve been an irritable pain in the arse but so worth it.