Hi Everybody, I am Archana, sober by Gods grace and the help of this wonderful fellowship of AA.
Born and brought up in Mumbai. I came to this fellowship at the age of 25. I say this because I am eternally grateful to have got the message at an early age and wished that I knew about this fellowship even earlier. I came at a time when there were not so many women. I think I was the youngest lady AA member and I thought I didn’t belong here. Like most people, I had a good upbringing, raised in a catholic background, went to one of the best schools in Mumbai. By the age of 20, I had a great job, that involved travel based abroad earning 1.5 lac a month. I was in love with a great handsome guy. I seriously thought I had conquered it all.
As a child I was alone for 6 yrs until my other 2 brothers were born. Till then I obviously got all the attention and was pretty pampered. In school I was shy and an introvert. Around the time I was in college I started to smoke and occasionally drink. I knew I felt different and I now was on a different plane. Three years into my job I had by then reached my pinnacle where I could say “Oh I can drink and hold my drinks”. I know for sure that by that time I started to feel confidant. If I received any news or was faced with a circumstance that was exciting, good or bad I had to have my drink. Today I know, addictions suppress emotions so that we don’t feel them. If we don’t want to deal with what’s in front of us, or if we don’t want to be where we are, we have a pattern that keeps us out of touch with our lives. That’s exactly what I did; I wanted life on my terms.
I learnt here in AA that this disease of alcoholism is progressive and so it was with me. I became a loner and preferred drink at home avoiding all occasions. I started to lose time from work and the cunning, powerful and baffling disease off alcoholism, I was often able to camouflage it and yet at times when I wanted to stay off the alcohol I would immerse myself in work and then reach a stage where I was so exhausted that I find this as reason enough to start again.
Deep down within me I wanted to stop but did not know how. My first step was to admit I was had a problem. It’s here that I learnt that the first drink does the damage because we have a physical craving. All they mentioned was stay away just ”One Day at a Time”. I could never imagine staying stop drinking nor could my family. It was the loneliest feeling in my entire life when my family didn’t want me and soon my fiancée left me. Here in AA they called it Spiritual Bankruptcy. This was so with all my friends and relatives.
I contemplated ending my life several times by then. I was under several psychiatric treatment with 7 or 8 detoxes but none of them mentioned or even suggested AA as they had no knowledge of the disease of alcoholism. By this time my mum found a solution and put me in rehab. I stayed there 3 months but came out with a vengeance and drank again. Every time I started drinking, I was threatened to be put into rehab and later told I would have to leave home and find my own way. I entered the portals of the AA classrooms and was shocked seeing elderly men. I thought “Is my mum mad?” These guys are a bunch of drunks and talking nonsense. There was not a single woman and at 26, I had been brought here! Sorry I will not going to be humiliated. I told myself “Archana you can do it on your own”. But that was never the case. I was a binge drinker this meant I would drink and suddenly stay stop for a month or 2 but if I started that was it.
It was a one such phase that I was off the alcohol for 2 months and went to a very private Ladies meeting set up by 2 nuns. I thought what nuns knew about drinking. It was there that for the first time met 2 women who were sober, one 7 & 5 yrs. That was the first time that I had some identification. I don’t really know what happened but had a slight change of mind. I am grateful to that lady who was eventually my sponsor who literally guided me into this fellowship.
Here began my journey in this fellowship. One day at a time, and began my road to recovery. I was fortunate to be at a convention in Bangalore. I identified with other women who would hide their bottles in kitchen cabinets, medicine cabinets even the flush tank. Many women who I have tried to help are scared to be seen at an AA meeting and the same with their families. I know of husbands who bring bottles home and say let her drink in her room and most of them die. Some women seek help but once sober never make AA meetings. I was told 90 meetings in 90 days. I made 180 or more because looking at all these wonderful sober men and women. I wanted what they had. I wanted to know what made them tick. I realized the 12 steps of AA made me understand how to live life and changed my attitude. It brought me back to my Higher Power. Reaching out to others makes me never forget the fact that I am alcoholic and we all pledge to carry this message to a suffering alcoholic.
In my years in AA, I know that Women in India have a social stigma, more women in India die of alcoholism because we are closet drinkers and most of us drink straight from the bottle so we cannot be seen drinking. According to research from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse women, because their bodies contain less water and more fatty tissue and because of decreased activity of the enzyme (ADH) that breaks down alcohol, one drink for a woman commonly has the impact of two drinks for a man. Moderate or heavy drinking increases the risk of breast cancer.
Today as women you are not alone. I know Loneliness is a human condition that afflicts all people at some point in their life cycle. “Loneliness is a fact of life; we all must contend with it. Loneliness is always present to a degree; there is no complete escape”. It is a part of living, of being human, of loving and being loved, of caring and being cared for. It can be a devastating experience-or a creative one. If individuals who had good interpersonal relationships, devoted and loving families, satisfying careers, and busy social lives experience loneliness at one time or another.
Women in India are dying because of the social stigma. When an Indian women comes into AA she is beaten, bruised, sometimes raped, shunned and in a number of cases disowned, either a single mother, with kids and nowhere to go. Very few people in the medical fraternity know that Alcoholism is a disease and that it should be treated. They are very few rehabs and no women shelters. Here in India the Indian women has no family support , nor do we have social security, or NHS like in the UK or Dole money like in Australia to name a few. We need to wake up to this and I feel strongly about this and I am sure the other women who came to AA before me experienced it. Today’s youth is more exposed to drinks in bars and pubs. But when you become alcoholic you drink behind closed doors.
Life has been beautiful. I have gone through too many ups and downs in life and I can truly say I have used the 12 steps of AA in every aspect of my life. My relationships have improved with both families. I am grateful to Dr Bob & Bill W for giving us this wonderful fellowship and the tools that’s the 12 steps. This is nothing but divine intervention. Specially sitting with other AA member I know today that I live life on Life’s terms and not of my own. I have understood unconditional love. Those resentments are bad, because it builds up and plays tricks in my mind. I have to learn to accepts the fact that I can’t change other people but change myself and whatever happens I need to remind myself on a daily basis that it has to begin with me.
I would like to quote a plaque that I was presented by my sponsor on my first AA convention “What you are, is God’s Gift to you! What you make of your life is your gift to God!”
I am still doing that one day at a time.