“People talk about getting their life back, but I don’t want it back, I’ve got a better one.”
15:18 03 January 2013
The Christmas and New Year holiday can be a time for many to overindulge. Beer, wine or spirits are consumed in large quantities, but at what point does alcohol become a problem? The answer, according to two members of Alcoholic Anonymous, is that it can be very different for each individual.
At 27 years old it looked like the world was at her feet.
She was being promoted at work, had a company car, a flat she loved and a group of close friends, yet she was trying to hide something. She was an alcoholic.
Her drinking started when she was around 12 years old, continued through university and came to a head in her mid 20s.
But she wasn’t drinking heavily every day or sitting alone downing alcohol, she was out with friends, bingeing.
“I’d tried different drinks at different times with different people but the consequences were getting worse.
“I never drank every day, I binged,” she said.
“It was planned, one evening a fortnight, one evening a week, I could be at work that day, the patterns varied so much.
“I was never sick through it. I never drank in the morning so I didn’t think I could be an alcoholic.
“And yet my hangovers lasted for days and when I drank I got into trouble.
“Once the police were called on me. I suffered memory loss from drinking, with black outs where I couldn’t piece the evening together.”
Her hangovers would be a form of mini detox, but although she was suffering, she didn’t think she had a problem as it wasn’t everyday and she often drank less than others.
“Some people pointed out my drinking two or three times and said, ‘don’t you think got a problem?’ but I was telling myself that I was not drinking half as much as everyone else, I just got very drunk and very quickly,” she said.
In November 1991, at the age of 27, she attended her first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, having “very reluctantly” come to terms with her problem.
It was this first step that saw her life change for the better.
She said: “I saw how well people were in the room and wanted that.
“I saw how articulately they spoke about their illness and thought I’d like to be like that, rather than not knowing the following morning what I had done.
“I was expecting it to be full of street drunks, old men in dirty rain coats drinking meths from bottles, but I was greeted by well dressed men and women of all ages who spoke articulately and unbelievably honestly about their condition.
“They were healthy and had a sparkle in their eyes.”
The message was to take it one day at a time and today, now 48 and living in Norfolk, she continues to do that.
“Now I have a lot of friends in the fellowship, a place to go when times are good or bad and people who understand if my head starts to tell me that drinking would be a good idea again,” she said.
Alongside her at alcoholic anonymous is a 70-year-old from Beccles, who has been a member for 22 years, but his is a very different story.
He drank every day and all weekend. For him it started through business, drinking with contacts, but soon it had taken over.
“It worked for a long time and I had some good times, but I did not have the control,” he said.
“It was not the fifth or sixth that was the problem, it was the first.
“I’d have the first drink and I was off.”
Now he says he has a totally different life and has accepted that he will not drink again.
“People talk about getting their life back, but I don’t want it back, I’ve got a better one,” he said.
“Everyone wants to be able to control their drink, but that is the illusion of alcohol, that some day I will be able to drink normally.
“It is about accepting you can never again drink normally. Often many try if but if you are alcoholic it gets worse.
“Half the art is being around other people who are in recovery.”
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held across the region every day of the week and there is also a local phone number that is manned at all times. For more information, call 01603 621128.
Waveney and Great Yarmouth meetings:
Monday – Quaker Meeting Rooms, Howard Street, Great Yarmouth, 12.30pm; Friends Meeting House, Frenze Road, Diss, 1pm; Archway Drop in centre, London Road South, Lowestoft, 7.30pm; Imperial Buildings, Bevan Street East, Lowestoft, 7.30pm
Tuesday – The Barn, High Street, Hemsby, 8pm; Barsham Village Hall, Bungay Road, Barsham, 8pm
Wednesday – Barsham Village Hall, Bungay Road, Barsham, noon; The Hut, Tolhouse Street, Great Yarmouth 7.30pm; Trinity Methodist Church, High Street, Lowestoft, 8pm
Thursday – St Peters Church Hall, Lowestoft Road, Gorleston, 8pm; Stella Peskett Millennium Hall, Mights Road, Southwold, 8pm
Friday - Quaker Meeting Rooms, Howard Street, Great Yarmouth, noon; Trinity Methodist Church, High Street, Lowestoft, 8pm; Imperial Buildings, Bevan Street East, Lowestoft, 8pm
Saturday – Quaker Meeting Rooms, Smallgate, Beccles, 7pm
Sunday – Eye Volunteer Centre, Broad Street, Eye, 10am; Meeting Place, Bevan Street East, Lowestoft, 10.30am; Patrick Stead Hospital, Bungay Road, Halesworth, 5pm; St Peters Church Hall, Lowestoft Road, Gorleston, 8pm.