Alcoholics Anonymous: Dealing with a demon
AN ELDERLY gentleman in a tweed jacket and wearing an earring is sitting near me at my table.
I assume he must be some down-and-out who has found redemption at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
As this is an Alcoholics Anonymous-hosted luncheon, he is the kind of stereotype I expected to fit the profile of those seeking help.
Low-income, uneducated, divorcee... that's what I was thinking anyway.
That was my first mistake. When it comes to alcoholics and those brave enough to admit they need help, there are no stereotypes.
AA held the event in a bid to make professionals aware of their services.
There are 300 to 500 members on the Sunshine Coast.
I met three "alcoholics" who shared their story, and the wife of an alcoholic who explained how this disease doesn't destroy a person, it destroys a family.
Their names have been changed to protect their anonymity.
"Hi, I'm Brian and I'm an alcoholic" is how Brian chooses to introduce himself.
He is 68, lives in the hinterland, has been married for four decades and is a grandfather. He is in his 34th year of sobriety.
"I was a 32-year-old and had lost as much as I was prepared to lose when I went to AA," he said.
"I had lost all the things money can't buy, friends, family, work ethic, self-worth...
"I was married and had two small children. I was desperate. My wife had given an ultimatum and she was the last friend I was going to lose.
"It was Caloundra in 1979, I owned a successful business and was a 'brick veneer alcoholic'. From the outside it looked like I had everything.
"I came to AA and found people who cared and loved me back to health when I didn't have any love of myself.
"It's been a long road, it's allowed me to be accountable. The door is always open and thank God for that.
"I walked through the 12 steps and have reaped the benefits. It was worth it.
"There are only three options for alcoholics - insanity, death or sobriety.
"Its tough love. We come for understanding, not sympathy.''
Georgia, 51, is from Caloundra. She stopped drinking during her first pregnancy but resumed after the birth of her first child.
"I was sitting on the floor in my kitchen and thinking that I had nothing. I had a lovely husband, a newborn son and I thought I had nothing.''
At her first AA meeting "I sat with others who shared their stories I had tears. These people knew what I was talking about.''
Georgia is coming up to her 17th year of sobriety.
Jack is a relative new member. He has been sober for two years.
But the 63-year-old was first introduced to AA 30 years ago.
"I had an extremely good life in construction work," he said. "I always drank. I first thought about AA 30 years ago.''
But it was only 30 years later when he was facing the collapse of his second marriage that he attended a meeting.
"My life has changed beyond belief," he said.
"This includes being accepted again by family, my grandchildren and my friends."
Emily is one of the collateral damages of alcoholism. Her family life and her own self-worth were nearly destroyed because she was married to an alcoholic.
When she was first encouraged by her husband to attend an Al Anon meeting - a support group for family of alcoholics - she protested.
"I was 30, I didn't want to go. I wanted to kill my husband or leave him, but I couldn't do either."
She went to the meeting expecting to be surrounding by "old people". What she found was a group who understood her deepest fears.
"They taught me the three C's. I didn't cause it, I couldn't control it and I could never cure it," she said.
She learnt her husband was suffering from a disease and she had a role in helping him cope.
Emily learnt to live "one day at a time".
The 12 Steps
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to other human beings the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We're entirely ready to have God remove all the defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
- National helpline: 1300 222222
- Sunshine Coast offices: 5444 8616, 5476 2166, 04571 10009
- Call a local number to find your nearest meeting venue
- Al-Anon: 1300 252666