Thursday, 4 June 2015

AA, and when the virtual world isn't enough

Day 95, and I've been thinking about AA.

I never had the nerve to go to AA. For a start, it took me several months of blogging to come to terms with being an alcoholic (see Am I an alcoholic? Am I an alcoholic? Part 2 and Am I an alcoholic? Part 3!), and I still don't like the word and its associations, even if I accept the premise.

I was scared about bumping into anyone I knew, but, conversely, was terrified about opening up to strangers. I thought my bottle-of-wine-a-day habit might be scorned at by the two-bottles-of-vodka brigade.

I've never liked rules or being told what to do, so following 'steps' felt anathema to me. And I thought all the 'higher power' stuff might just make me giggle inappropriately.

I'm sure that I would have made it into 'the rooms' eventually. My habit would have got so bad that I'd have had no choice. My friends and family would have intervened.

But it would have taken a few more years, and I'm sure that the further down you let the elevator go, the more tricky it is to claw your way back up to the surface.

I'd tried hopping off the elevator 2 years ago, and managed 6 weeks. I think I failed because I told no-one (except the husband). I read some blogs and a couple of books, but I had no-one who understood what I was going through to share with.

And it's so easy to announce to everyone that you've taken the summer off alcohol, but now you're back on. You just get congratulated for managing 6 weeks and welcomed back into the fold with open arms.

What's made a difference this time is you.

I've thrown myself totally into the sobersphere. I've learned, from people who've been there, as much as I can about what we're dealing with.

You've made me laugh, you've made me cry, you've amazed me with your strength and your generosity. And I feel that if I had just one drink I'd let you all down.

I know how infuriating I find it when someone I've read about who's given up drinking starts again 'in moderation'. It totally shakes my resolve.

So (and apologies if this sounds narcissistic - I'm sure it's not true, but it helps me to think this way) I imagine announcing that I'm drinking again, and causing many of my virtual friends to topple over like dominoes.

I can't do it. So you, and the interweb have saved me.

But there are times when it isn't enough. There are times when you just want a hug. Something tangible. A friend with a face and not just a pseudonym.

I imagined, on my 3 month anniversary, what it would be like to face a crowd of real faces in the church hall. People who knew the physical me, not just the virtual me, clapping and patting me on the back, and I felt a little sad about hiding behind my screen with my sad little made up name.

Then yesterday I went to the postbox and found a letter addressed with handwriting I immediately recognised. (Isn't it amazing how we can see someone's writing after a decade and still recognise it? E-mail can't do that!).

The handwriting I recognised was P's - a friend I've known for thirty years and who now lives in the US. She is the only person I know (apart from the husband who sneaks a peek occasionally) who reads this blog. I gave her the link right at the beginning because she's battled her own witches. Not only has she been sober for nine years, but she did a post grad in addiction studies. Who better to share with?

I sat down and opened the letter. Inside was a card and one of P's own AA 3 month sobriety coins. It was a real, tangible thing from a real person who had not only thought about me, but given me something very precious of her own. I cried. Oops, I'm off again now.

Thank you P. It means more than you can possibly imagine.

And thanks to all of you.

SM x


  1. Wow! What a beautiful gift from your friend. You are truly blessed.
    To be honest, walking into the AA rooms was the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm a teacher in a small community so my biggest fear came true when I walked into the first one and a parent of a child I'm teaching is sitting right there..... first one to see me walk in..... I crawled into my own skin and thought I was going to die. I sat there and listened and to be honest I thought.... Hell with this.... I want what these people have. They laughed. They taught. They prayed. They had the freedom and serenity I wanted. I had only been sober a couple of weeks and a few people came to me to give me numbers and hugs and for the first time, I felt like I belonged somewhere. One of the old-times said that my "meltdown" when I spoke helps him in his recovery because he remembers all too well how easy it is to get sucked back into the vicious cycle of drinking. I decided from that day on ... if my stories and words can help one person heal in some way, then that's exactly where I belong.
    I'm done living in fear. Fear is not in control of my life anymore. I needed the hugs. I needed people in my lives who I can relate with. I love the blogging world. It keeps me sober too. But, nothing beats walking into a room full of loving people in recovery. Nothing beats that! I even get hugs from my student's father.
    Hugs to you.... wish it were a great big one!! xo Jen

    1. Thanks so much for sharing that, Jen! Big hugs xx

  2. I like you received a 90 Day from a friend, I have never been to a meeting. That friend is not dead, as a result of her drinking. Though she had several reprieves and fresh starts, it never stuck. She made it 6 years one time, which is a message to me to be ever vigilant. I know if I did relapse probably the first thing I would do is head to a meeting, but right now, I'm happy in my recovery. There is an openness in my virtual community and a lack of censorship that I find very liberating and comfortable. But, also like you, sometimes, I wish I had another recovered person to link arms with. Thank you for being here.

    1. Sorry, meant to say my friend is "now" dead.

    2. That's so sad Kary Mary. Btw I just read your post on banning the word 'alcoholic'. So beautifully put. SM x

  3. I say go to a meeting. The 12 steps are used by many groups for a reason. They are a good path to self awareness.
    I went to my first meeting at about 80 days. By then I had accepted I needed to do more than take a break, and I read Drinking a love story.
    And I realized I was trying to do his alone, like everything else in my life. And I was tired.

    So I went. And I loved the honesty that flowed.

    I don't have a sponsor. There are few women at AA in my small city. I don't want to take on that aspect of the program. I have a therapist to deal with the emotional stuff.

    But I think everyone should go to a meeting once to hear the truth. We are all the same. The vodka drinker is no different. The heroin addict is n different.

    We all go caught up in addiction. Compulsive behaviour that was hard to stop.

    And those of us who are able to break the chains-however rusty or gilded that may be- are some of the strongest, most inspiring people in the world.

    1. I hear you, Anne. I'd like to meet the people. Still scared. Still not sure about the steps. Hugs x

  4. Congratulations on three months, that's just incredible. A real milestone. I went to a good few meetings and I really struggled with them. The first one was terrifying and I cried at it but I struggled with the whole higher power thing (even though everyone said not to think about it) and I struggled with the stories that I heard in the meetings.

    I felt that for me I had a hard time really relating to the stories. I also had a real issue with the saying of the Lord's prayer at the end. But that is just me, for now. I am open to AA and to going back if I need to. And I also see that huge amount it does for others. I just don't have to say that I'm an alcoholic everytime I speak at a meeting for the rest of my life and I'm not sure I could adhere to their 12 steps. But I'm really glad I went. I think i needed to to admit to myself that I really have a problem.

    1. Hi mtts! I'm sure I'd have the same problems as you, but I'm much more open to the whole thing now than I was at the beginning. Love SM x

  5. SM congratulations on 3 months. Not only have you achieved something really amazing but inspired so many if us on the way. I stumbled across your blog, had been having similar thoughts as you and decided as I have a competition this weekend and I want to really be clear headed to give up. I stopped last Saturday and am taking it each day at a time. It's hard but I have been reading drinking a love story which I had on my bookshelf and you inspired me to open. It has really made me think about what the relationship is. I can already look myself in the eye, feel clearer and see and hear more. And most of all I feel like I am honouring my true self not showing a veiled diluted version.

    I have many things to be truly present for and many things that have driven this slow insidious slide (like all of us)

    Be very proud of what you have done and whom you have touched

    1. Also strongly recommend for transformational support Women Who Run With The Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés

    2. Thanks so much Eowyn for your hugely kind words. And the wild wolf running woman sounds fab! SM x

    3. SM, you inspired me to take the leap to be AF one day at a time. The competition was a long slow unraveling of years and much more recently feeling uncomfortable with so many feelings about alcohol. I deserve to be the best of who I am for my family, competition partner and me. Thank you wish me luck for this weekend and getting through a first sober Friday in a while. 6 days today :0) xx

    4. Good luck Eowyn. Friday evenings are tough initially! I suggest good TV, a hot chocolate and an early night. And keep thinking about Saturday morning, which will be awesome! Love SM x

    5. Ironically I have done long periods of not drinking before. But and here is the big but we go back thinking maybe we can drink moderately or "manage" it. And it becomes a slow exhausting dance (see the red shoes story in women who run with the wolves -I promise it is a book that will give you more than you ever imagined on all levels) But getting there this time was much harder. That's why your posts have been an enormous help. Not only are you doing something amazing but you are creating sharing and supporting. This is the first time I have even commented on a blog. Huge massive thanks and huge respect for your hard work, generosity and honesty. Xx

  6. There is no way I could ever face an AA meeting but finding soberistas and subsequently reading your blog (and a few others) has been life changing for me. At the moment reading blogs and books about life AF is enough. Am not sure what I'll do if that changes but in the meantime it's enough. I'm saying that not to add extra pressure on you but really just to say 'thanks'. I'm so pleased you got your 3 month coin as you really deserve it - for your sobriety and for your example x

    1. Thanks so much EH. You're doing great too - virtual hug to you xxx

  7. Hi SM. Congrats on 3 months. That's so awesome!!
    I have thought of going to AA but something always stops me. I might consider it further down the track, but for now, I think I'm ok without it. Your friend sounds lovely. What a generous thing for her to do. I would have been so touched. I would really love to have a sober friend in real life. Who knows, if I went to AA I might find one. A x

  8. Great story!
    I do go to AA as well as blog, telling my family and friends. I am doing all and everything this time, because just doing one thing was not working.
    I love knowing real people I can call if I think I want to drink.