Thursday, 9 June 2016

My names's Kate but I can't say the next bit.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to discover you are an alcoholic? It's hard.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to say, "I'm an alcoholic"? Even harder.

It transpires that saying it is actually the easy part, believing it takes months.
Everyone else was doing it but I couldn't do it. So at my first meeting that's what I said, "My name's Kate, but I can't say the next bit". No one judged, they just listened. What a beautiful group of people.

I only went to AA meetings to prove that I wasn't an alcoholic. But after ninety meetings in as many days, I learnt that alcoholism is a disease of denial and I was indeed an alcoholic.

I'm grateful to my friend who first suggested I go. She was very clever and discreet in her method. I had admitted myself to Christmas Island Hospital because I was so afraid of committing suicide, I felt safe at the hospital. She came to visit me and brought me some reading material. The book had a blank cover, very odd. When I opened it I saw it was a book from Alcoholics Anonymous. I was furious. I didn't want to divulge my fury to her as it would expose my denial. So I took the book and read it, showing that I wasn't afraid to meet my demons (believing I didn't have any). It was a fascinating read. I was horrified when I read that an alcoholic was someone who craved another drink after the first. I too craved more alcohol after I started drinking.

But no! I'm not an alcoholic. I wear pearls and drink champagne from flutes. Alcoholics were those who drank more than you, alcoholics were those who drank from brown paper bags and drank alone, or in the morning. Well, as I slowly became educated I learnt so many things about alcoholism. It was a disease that didn't discriminate, it chose poor people, educated people, famous people, my friend's mums. I saw all kinds of people at meetings. Some had lost jobs, families, dignity, pride, houses, there were so many different types of alcoholics and so many stories, but all craved another drink after the first and drank to get drunk. All were running away from pain.

At meetings I felt as though I belonged, I had something in common with those in the fellowship. After many many meetings I had finally completed the first of the twelve steps, I had admitted I was an alcoholic and that my life had become unmanageable.

The next eleven steps followed. It was just amazing what I did. It involved regularly questioning myself, holding myself to account for my behaviour. Once over the shame, one begins to carve out a self with which one becomes happy, content, even proud. Another relieving step was to apologise to all I had hurt. A monumental task, I'm sad to say. Firstly, I had to recall all the people I had hurt. This was not so easy. The people to whom I had caused grief, were fortunately not so numerous, but they continued to pop up, and for this I choose to continually make amends. It was rather unexpected the incredible love and forgiveness offered me. Perhaps they were shocked into it?

The final step was to help others overcome their alcoholism. This was a great honour. I was fortunate enough to have been one of dozens of women worldwide who went to the five metropolises in India to share our stories of recovery hoping to inspire women in India to do the same. This was like the jewel in the crown of sobriety. I shared my story with university students, doctors, rehabilitation patients and alcoholics. I was greeted with vast thanks, warmth, humility, dahl and chai. I found the people of India to be so spiritual, happy and generous. I was expecting to see poverty, but I found wealth; wealth of colour, wealth of flavour, wealth of community and wealth of acceptance. Meeting recovering alcoholics and their families in the slums of Mumbai I viewed, joy, gratitude, love and support. It was almost as though their detachment from materialism was their key to happiness.

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