For Suzie* (not her real name) avoiding alcohol this Christmas is something she no longer has to battle with any more as she has lost her obsession to drink through the 12 steps of AA.
The 49-year-old runs a weekly lunch-time meeting with a group of other members for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) at Castle Hill. The group has grown enormously since it started meeting at the Wesley Uniting Church at Castle Hill on Thursday afternoons.
Suzie had her first drink at the age of 15. “I had lost my Mother very young and I had suffered from depression and anxiety, an eating disorder and suicidal thoughts.
“I had also been interfered with by a neighbour at a young age so when I first had a drink at 15 years it was the first time I felt ok … it took away all the pain I was feeling.
“As the years went by my alcoholism progressed and once I started drinking I just couldn’t stop and when I stopped I couldn’t stop thinking about alcohol.
“Every day I would wake up with shame, remorse and guilt, not really wanting to drink, it was like being on an endless merry go round.”
Suzie said over the years she also took drugs mostly because she was “a blackout drinker” and as a young woman was scared of what might happen. “Many times I had found myself in dangerous and harmful situations and drugs gave me the ability to drink as much as I wanted and keep me safe. “
“I always wanted to have a family and have children and this is when I really noticed alcohol was a problem for me as I struggled to stay sober and would try my best to be a good mother and just couldn’t understand why other mums did not drink like me.”
“I had been to AA in my mid-30s due to alcohol causing problems in my home and family life. I was drinking daily. I would do anything to distract myself from drinking but the days were long when all I could think about was my next drink.
“I then got desperate and went to AA. At that time I still had my house, children, partner, my job so I really did not identify. I thought an alcoholic was a homeless person in the park and I really thought I was better than that, I was quite ignorant.
“I left AA after the death of my father and that’s when my alcoholism really took me to a dark place.
“I remember this day when I was drinking and hiding my alcohol in the cupboards from my children and partner. I could not do anything without alcohol and I thought oh I am in trouble … this is what they were saying in AA meetings, it gets worse and it can kill you.
“I felt hopeless and a real failure and thought I am going to die like this, as it was getting impossible for me to do life, to work or even be a mother to my children.
“I was severely depressed. I did not want to live anymore. Eventually I lost everything, even my children. I was unemployable. I was really scared. That’s when my journey to recovery began and I went back to AA and was welcomed with open arms. I got myself a sponsor and went through the 12 step program, attended AA Meetings and now live a spiritual life.
“It has not been an easy journey but my life and relationships with children have transformed and I am coming up to 4 years sober in February.”
Suzie says when she was asked to open a daytime AA meeting at Wesley Uniting Church at Castle Hill she was initially scared and asked a fellow AA member to help, calling the group “the most amazing experience” for the past 5 months.
“We started meeting in the first week of July on a Thursday @ 12.30pm and we would get 20 to 25 visitors each week ranging from 19 years to middle age and people in their 80s.
“There was a real need for a meeting in the daytime in this area. “Our meeting is open to everyone, we are child friendly and run every Thursday from 12.30pm at the Wesley Uniting Church Castle Hill, 32, Showground Road, Castle Hill.
We are open all year and throughout the Christmas period. “My message to anyone that has lost hope or feels helpless around their drinking, that there is a solution and a life that you could not imagine … freedom from alcohol and peace.
For more information visit https://aa.org.au/