A Traveler at Local Meetings

My name is Jennifer and I am an alcoholic.

I didn’t grow up in an alcoholic home, but there was alcohol and drinking around me. I had been given little sips of shandy to taste, whilst I was growing up. My drinking started with another girl I met on the way to school one day, we were both 13 years old, arranged to meet up one night and drank cider together in the local park. I never liked the taste but I loved the way I felt when I drank, so confident, so carefree and very quickly my drinking landed me in trouble. I started coming home late and on many occasions drank until I was sick. Not long after that I was introduced to drugs and they too became a part of my life and had a big impact on my drinking and I think sped up the process of my alcoholism. When I was 11, I had won a scholarship to one of the best schools in England and had a promising life ahead of me, but soon my drinking and staying out late began to interfere and I stopped going to school when I was fifteen. Why would anyone go to school when they could stay at home and get out of it?

I never got myself back on track and so when I was 22 my family thought if I went to stay in Australia for a while I might be able to get my life in order. It wasn’t to be the case for some years, my drinking was still causing me problems, I wasn’t able to predict when I would go into blackout, I would be violent when I drank and would often wake with a jolt remembering the awful things I had done the night before. My problems started to stand out to me more as I was working now in a corporate environment and even though I was very outgoing and gregarious on the outside my life started to become more and more isolated.

Through a long chain of events I was introduced to a counselor. I kept turning up week after week and talking to her about my life and every week some new drama kept happening to me. I told her my history, which was the sob story I usually pulled out for people, the only child, stepfather she didn’t get on with, terrible boyfriends, sent to live in another country. Of course I was having problems and it was all the fault of these other people in my life. She suggested that I try and control my drinking and maybe if I didn’t drink so much I would be able to manage my life better. I thought that was a stupid idea. Why would anyone control their drinking? I liked to get as out of it as I could and was proud of my large capacity for drinking. I kept going to see her as I was feeling very down and not able to cope with life and I wanted to try and fix the problems. I tried controlling my  drinking on a few occasions but then ‘decided’ I was going to have more, if I had stopped at 10 it would have been okay. Sometimes I could control myself and other times I would wake up not knowing what I had done, having lost things and with the most awful hangovers. I wasn’t interested in stopping drinking though and kept going for about 18 months. Things weren’t getting better so I agreed to go into treatment. Not because I thought I was an alcoholic, but because there was something inside me that wanted a better life and knew I needed help. When my counsellor wrote on my admission sheet that I was an alcoholic and an addict she assured me it was just so I could be sure to get admitted, I thought what a clever woman making sure I would get in there.

When we were in the centre we were taken to meetings every day, after a 5 day drying out and I did the 20  questions, which I answered yes to most of the questions. I still doubted I was an alcoholic, how could I be? I still had a job, still had a home, I didn’t drink every day at the end of my drinking. I remember members telling me that there were different stage of alcoholism and I wasn’t in the final stages and I didn’t have to get there, I could stop now. Those days were so painful and I remember thinking in our group therapy classes how did my life end up like this, what happened? I came out of rehab after six weeks sober and went straight back out into the old environment and picked up a drink, luckily everything was fresh enough in my mind to run straight back to meetings at that time. I stayed sober for 4 months and now I wasn’t wasting all my money on alcohol I was able to save up for a trip to go back and visit my family in England.

When I got back everyone told me how great I was looking and I felt great, so I didn’t see a problem with hanging back around with my old friends and sitting in the pubs I used to drink in. What the members had told me about staying out of the old environment went straight out of the window and I didn’t go to any meetings. After a week of this it was Christmas Eve and I was in a bar with some friends, they were pressuring me to have a drink. I said no six times; on the seventh time I said “Okay, get me a gin and tonic.” It says in the big book there will come a time when we have no mental defense against the first drink, well that was true and I carried on drinking. Within a week I was back into my old habits and on New Year’s Eve was in a mess drinking straight gin at the end of the night and I had a hangover that lasted for three days. Everyone who had told me how great I was looking was looking at me in the same way again, with disgust and disappointment. Even though I felt so awful I didn’t really want to stop drinking.

I went back to Sydney and carried on drinking and trying to control myself. I didn’t enjoy controlled drinking, I just felt really depressed. I didn’t like my life but just kept going on. One Sunday morning the woman who had been sponsoring me at the time called me to ask how I was doing. I told her I felt awful and she said why don’t you just go to one more meeting? For some reason and to this day I am not sure why, I listened to her but I went to a meeting. Thank God I have been sober since that day, that was over eight years ago now.

Now I was willing to do what was suggested, so I joined a  home group, went to meetings every day, (on the weekends sometimes I would do 2 or 3 a day as I didn’t know what to do when I wasn’t drinking) went through the steps in the big book with my sponsor and stayed away from that first drink. Those first few years provided me with a strong foundation to move forward and rebuild my life. Slowly I learned to live a sober life and learnt to apply the program in my life to the best of my ability and am so grateful for the tools we are given today. My life has opened up in the most amazing ways and eighteen months ago my husband and I got the opportunity to come and stay in India for a three month stint, which turned into almost two years.

I still remember walking into my first meeting in Mumbai in August 2008. I found a meeting in Santa Cruz East, not too far from the Western Expressway. After much driving around and the cab stopping to ask for directions we found the meeting hall. It was strange to walk into the classroom. I was unsure of the reception I would receive and I didn’t see a female face in the room, something I was not used to. I need not have worried I was welcomed with smiles and shown to a seat and many the members said hello to me at the end of the meeting and I was given a meetings list.

In those early meetings there was one member would come and meet me outside our hotel and walk me to the meeting so that I could find where I was going and didn’t have to walk the streets alone. I kept going to the local meetings and I didn’t see another woman at a meeting for about 3 months and sometimes a lot of the sharing would be in Hindi and speakers would be asked if they could speak in English so I could understand.

I moved to a new home and found the meetings in Bandra which were mainly conducted in English, I used to feel bad if there were newcomers at the other meetings as I felt they should be able to hear the sharing in Marathi or Hindi and be able to understand what was being said so I started going to the English speaking groups. I am so grateful to the people at those meetings who made me feel so welcome and put out the hand of AA to me.

It was about 3 months after I had arrived in India that I began to meet women in AA in Mumbai. After some time and discussions with both the male and female members we decided that a women’s meeting was really needed to allow the women alcoholics a place to share openly. So we got together, found a venue and started the meeting. Wednesday the 10th of June 2009 was our first meeting – which is also AA’s founder’s day! The meeting is getting good attendance and the doors have been kept open by various women over the period. We are just about to get our listing on the GSO website and hope to be able to reach out to more women throughout Mumbai as we are sure there are many more women who could come and join us. Thank you to all the women and men who supported the meeting and helped to make it work!

The women’s meeting will celebrate its 1st anniversary on the Wednesday the 9th of June and we hope the women from all over Mumbai can come. The meeting is held in St. Sebastion School, Bandra in the same venue as the New Life Meetings and starts at 8pm.

Jennifer P

The above sharing was first published in the “Twelth Step Magazine” April-May 2010 issue.

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