'It ruled my life' - How alcoholics unite to overcome the curse of addiction
PUBLISHED: 11:29 22 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:29 22 April 2019
Outside the village halls, leisure centres and churches, few have much in common.
But inside those crucial spaces, the countless men and women who regularly come together are all bonded by the same never-ending war with alcoholism.
For decades, people battling addiction have united in their fight to help each other stay sober through life's everyday trials and tribulations.
It is the unrivaled sense of support and encouragement from fellow Alcoholics Anonymous members on which so many are able to transform their lives.
After sitting through a local AA meeting earlier this month, our reporter spoke to Ryan* and Emily* about their fight against alcoholism.
Ryan said: “I was always a heavy drinker. I was brought up with it all around me as a child but it became a clutch that I depended on far, far too much.
“I would go out to the pub with people from work and no one would leave until after your boss left, but then I took the department over and I would keep everyone there all night.
“Whenever there was a crisis I would depend on alcohol far too much. It ruled my life.
“I could drink for 24 hours a day, and I would pay for my family to go on holidays without me so I could spend time drinking without worrying about the impact it would have on them.”
For Ryan, it took hitting rock bottom before finding support through AA. He, like countless others, travels dozens of miles most days to find a meeting.
He said: “There was an incident and I ended up being arrested and remanded in custody. I got sent to prison and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
“I had totally given up the will to live, but I met up with a group in Great Yarmouth and someone I met there called me the very next day.
“If it wasn't for that, I can say 110pc I would not be alive today.
“That is why I am passionate about being here and helping anyone else who needs it.
“I was given a bill for £13,000 from my solicitor, but if I got a £50,000 bill from AA then I would happily pay it because of everything they have done for me.”
For most AA members, the battle against alcoholism is an ever-lasting one, with challenges appearing every day.
Whether it is driving past a pub advertising your one-time favourite beer, or recalling an upsetting drunken memory, crossroads appear in most people's day-to-day lives.
And it is the help and support of people experiencing similar battles that so many in AA find the most beneficial.
Ryan said: “I have never had a better quality of life and that is why I want to help others.
“This allows me to stand in my own life and has been a bridge to normal living.
“Sadly, not enough people fighting alcoholism realise that, but the ones who do find it truly remarkable. I did it, so it is possible.
“If just one person reads this and goes to an AA meeting, and they pass it on, then we can help more and more people.
“I did nearly slip just a few days ago, but these meetings have allowed me to get on with my life.”
Part of the problem, Emily believes, is a fear of labelling someone an alcoholic.
She said: “We have all been in the same position. You don't think that you have a drinking problem, but it is an illness.
“The difficulty is that the medical services are frightened to label anyone an alcoholic.
“They are terrified of telling people to stop, and they are more into controlled drinking, but we know you cannot control it.”
AA meetings up and down the country see men and women of all ages with their own unique background walking through the doors to share their battle to keep themselves and, equally, everyone else around the table sober.
Emily said: “There should be no shame with it. It is an illness, but the shame we feel is huge and it is often our families who carry that burden.
“Everyone hates being told what to do, that is why all of the AA steps and traditions are just suggestions. It is your fight, but we are all going through our own and are here to help.”
*The names used in this article have been changed to protect their identity, as per the AA tradition.
When and where are AA meetings held?
Tuesday, 7.30pm, Barsham Village Hall, NR348HA
Wednesday, 12pm, Barsham Village Hall, NR348HA
Saturday, 7pm, Friends Meeting House, NR349AB
Tuesday, 7.30pm, Brandon Leisure Centre, IP270JB
Tuesday, 7.15pm, Methodist Church, NR191AS
Friday, 7.15pm, Methodist Church, NR191AS
Monday, 7.30pm, Sarcred Heart Catholic Church, NR191AS
Tuesday, 7pm, St Cecilia Church, PE316YE
Monday, 1pm, Friends Meeting House, IP224PA
Friday, 7.30pm, Friends Meeting House, IP224PA
Wednesday, 7.30pm, Methodist Church Rooms, PE399JE
Friday, 1pm, St Dominic's RC Church, PE389AB
Wednesday, 8pm, Salvation Army Hall, NR213DY
Friday, 8pm, Salvation Army Hall, NR213DY
Thursday, 7.30pm, St Peter's Church Hall, NR316FP
Sunday, 7pm, St Peter's Church Hall, NR316FP
Monday, 12pm, Friends Meeting House, NR30 1LN
Wednesday, 7.30pm, Minster Mission, NR303DG
Friday, 12pm, Friends Meeting House, NR301LN
Friday, 7.30pm, Christchurch Methodist Church, NR302HL
Tuesday, 8pm, The Barn Room, opposite St Mary's Church, NR294EZ
Thursday: 7pm, Holt Community Centre, NR256DN
Sunday, 6pm, Holt Community Centre, NR256DN
Sunday, 6pm, Scout Hall, PE366BU
Tuesday, 1pm, CGL Building, PE301NF
Thursday, 7.30pm, Reffley Community Centre, PE303SF
Monday, 7.30pm, United Reform Church, NR321HB
Monday, 7.30pm, Trinity Methodist Church, NR321HU
Wednesday, 8pm, St Nicholas Catholic Church, NR330LQ
Thursday, 12pm, London Road Baptist Church, NR330LQ
Friday, 8pm, Trinity Methodist Church, NR321HU
Monday, 8pm, Methodist Church, NR289JH
Wednesday, 8pm, Methodist Church, NR289JH
Monday, 1pm, Norwich Central Baptist Church, NR33AP
Monday, 6.30pm, Norwich Central Baptist Church, NR33AP
Monday, 6.30pm, Hellesdon Hospital, NR65BE
Tuesday, 10am, Norwich Central Baptist Church, NR33AP
Tuesday, 7.30pm, Norwich Central Baptist Church, NR33AP
Wednesday, 12.30pm, Norwich Central Baptist Church, NR33AP
Wednesday, 7.30pm, Norwich Central Baptist Church, NR33AP
Thursday, 6.15pm, Women in Recovery, Chapelfield Methodist Church, NR21SD
Thursday, 8pm, St Mark's Church Hall, NR13HL
Friday, 7.30am, Norwich Central Baptist Church, NR33AP
Friday, 6.30pm, Chapelfield Methodist Church, NR21SD
Saturday, 11am, Chapelfield Methodist Church, NR21SD
Saturday, 7.30pm, St Mark's Church Hall, NR13HL
Sunday, 10am, St Albans Church Hall, NR12QF
Sunday, 4pm, Friends Meeting House, NR21EW
Tuesday, 7pm, Swaffham Community Centre, PE377RB
Wednesday, 11am, Parish Hall, IP243AU
Wednesday, 7.30pm, Parish Hall, IP243AU
Saturday, 8pm, Cloverfields Community Church, IP242TZ
Tuesday, 7.30pm, Fairlands United Reform Church, NR180AW
Friday, 8pm, Fairlands United Reform Church, NR180AW
Sunday, 4pm, Women's meeting, Fairlands United Reform Church, NR180AW