This is a weekly column about abstinence based twelve step recovery, finding small moments of beauty, and getting over your ex.
The next two instalments of BHA will be taken from an in-person interview I conducted with my sponsor Freddie. He came into AA at age 27 and has been sober through working the program for the past four years. He has also sponsored numerous young people, like me, in that time.
In this instalment I have asked him to speak candidly about his personal journey with alcoholism and AA. This is Freddie in his own words:
The first time I went to an AA meeting was February 10, 2019. I knew about AA, or I had heard about it from my mother. She’s in the program, and has been for 14 years without a drink. My grandfather was in the program before he died. He was 53 years without a drink.
I knew I had a weird relationship with alcohol before I went to my first meeting. It was characterized by going to a private school and drinking to blackout and vomiting with my mates. That was considered normal. It wasn’t abnormal to be doing those things. What became abnormal was the frequency I was doing it. Every time I drank, I’d be vomiting. I didn’t like doing it, but if my mates were doing it as well, it didn’t matter that much. Waking up in the morning with a scratched throat, stomach turning and all that.
So that was my teens and my early twenties. And then it started to get worse when I got a partner. I got into a long-term relationship. I started living with her and alcohol started to hurt that relationship. In the beginning, it wasn’t a problem at all, it was just something I did. What started to happen was when we went out together with our friends, I’d leave the group. I’d go off on my own little adventures. Trying to find the centre of the universe or something. I don’t know what it was. And I’d always try and get to somewhere where I could find more (alcohol).
And then the cheating started. And I really hated myself for that. I would just try to ignore it. I try not to think about it. I’d wake up with shame, guilt, remorse, all that on the Sunday or the Monday morning after a bender, telling myself ‘If I don’t think about it, it won’t be that bad’. And then it would get worse, and worse, and worse. And obviously what happens is you get caught.
And that was my first inkling into alcohol being a problem.
If I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t doing those behaviours. So, if I just stopped drinking, those behaviours wouldn’t happen. And so, my partner kicked me out of our apartment, and that was really hard. I spent three months in my sister’s house paying the rent of an apartment I wasn’t living in. And I stopped drinking.
I said to myself: I’m going to stop drinking, start going to the gym, start going to go see a psychologist and turn my life around. Fix it all. And I did all those things, I was doing it, and I stopped drinking. And it was… okay?
It felt like I was standing on… I don’t know. What are those tight rope things? You know, when those people have those big wooden planks under them and the circus and twirling fire? That’s what it felt like.
I was doing better, and I was standing a bit taller, but it didn’t feel too stable.
I convinced my ex to take me back. We started living together again, and I thought everything was ok. On my 27th birthday, I’d been sober for three months and I had a Sazerac and one beer.
Straight after that, I drove home and again I told myself I was ok. I can control my drinking. I was making a mountain out of a molehill.
It felt horribly uncomfortable, though, only having two or three drinks and stopping.
But I said: ‘this is good. It’d be great if I could have more. I mean, it is my birthday.’ I was already getting angry at my partner, who had just taken me back, for not letting me drink more. And then within two or three weeks, I was back to the old behaviours. Blacking out, being gone for a night or two, dealing MDMA, taking a bunch of coke, like whatever I could get my hands on. And, again, being a creep and being inappropriate with women.
After two or three more months that, my partner (of seven years) came home one night and told me she was leaving. She packed her bags. And that was the last time I ever saw her.
That was really hard. And I thought would be the rock bottom, right? That would be, yeah. Well, I know it was the drinking, and that was that, and I’ll finish now. But no, I was finally free. After seven years of being in a relationship, I could finally drink the way I wanted to. So, I didn’t even really register that she’d left. And so, for the next three months, I drank and drank and drank and drank, so much. We’d been saving for a house and an overseas trip together, and all that money would split down the middle. I spent all of mine on booze and drugs.
But still it wasn’t enough. I had lost the relationship. And then what happened is I nearly lost my job. I was a salesman. And when you’re a salesman, you’re constantly going to dinners and lunches and all of this, and when people start to see you as a creep or the guy that’s getting blacked out at every event. It’s just not a good look. Someone that I trusted rung me up and said, ’You’ve got to stop this.’
We talk about having these masks, and it was like all my masks were coming off. The mask that I had with my partner, that came off, and she left. And then this mask I had with work that was about to come off, and it was somewhere in that that I realized what I’d lost. You know what I mean? I was given a warning at work, and then. It was like it finally clicked that my partner was gone. For three months. I hadn’t really thought about it. And so, I went to my first meeting that night.
My mum took me to it February 10 2019, and I cried my eyes out. I was coming down off MDMA, I think I was just a mess. I was surrounded by, this woman called Mary. She was 70. This bus driver, or taxi driver, Andrew. I think he was 60 or 70. All these guys that were all a lot older than me. And then there was this one Pommy bloke called Matt, mid-forties in a suit. And after my first meeting, I shared. And while I was sharing, which is just talking about where I was at currently, I’d realized that she was gone. She was actually gone.
And this was reality. Alcohol really helped me escape reality. Disassociate and make me think that I didn’t actually have feelings for her. I didn’t actually care about what was happening. But it was finally on that night that I realized how much pain I was actually in.
The first three months, I just went to meetings. I went to a meeting nearly every night. I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea what AA meant. No idea. Didn’t know any other young people. I was just going to meetings, and kind of talking to people after the meeting, but really just going straight home. I didn’t know what the twelve steps were. I didn’t know anything. But I wanted to sound like I did. So, I’d go to meetings and try and talk about the steps, but I just hadn’t done anything. And after three months, it got worse. The pain got worse. It didn’t get better. I didn’t get happier. It got worse. I didn’t have alcohol anymore. And I started to realize all these things.
And so, I asked that Pommy bloke from my first meeting, to be my sponsor. And he was a spiritual businessman, doing big deals during the day and then going home and meditating and reading books at night. It was just interesting to me that there was someone like that. I just thought spirituality and anything like that was all to do with hippies or I don’t know what I thought. I just thought it was all dumb. It’s only because someone’s stupid enough to believe that, or they needed it enough because they’re such a bad person, or they’re trying to get into heaven. He started taking me through the steps. And when that started happening, that’s when things started to change…
If this column has raised issues for you about your own alcohol consumption and you’d like to talk to someone, you can contact AA General Service Office 24 hours a day on (03) 9529 5948. A family member or a friend may be a great option too. We’re never alone even if we feel like we are.
The world is better with you in it.
Editors: David Farr and Eliana Fritz