Before I went to AA I was suicidal and felt desperately alone.
I hated everyone and everything around me and I hated
myself most of all.
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I quit drinking before I came to AA. I came and stayed because I wanted to continue to not drink and to see if it could work to make my life better. AA has worked. Before I went to AA I was suicidal and felt desperately alone. I could barely take care of myself. Bathing, washing my clothes, living life, all of it was unbearable. I had gotten to a place where I hated everyone and everything around me and I hated myself most of all. My resentments about how people had treated me distorted my perceptions and obsessed my thinking. I was filled with regret for the past. All of my best efforts to live life had gotten me to this place of pain and self loathing. I have been sober now for 2 years and 7 months and my life has improved dramatically. I did the steps and work with a sponsor who has also done the steps. I´ve started to mend my relationships and I´ve made some new friends who help me to stay sober. I no longer think about killing myself daily and I´m learning to face my fears about people and life in a healthy way. I can get out of bed and go to work and I no longer feel so alone. I am so very fortunate to be sober.
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*If drinking is a problem, this phone number can help you get in contact with someone from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The service is provided by LGBTQI volunteer members of AA from the Berlin area. AA members are not counselors. We are volunteers who provide information to people seeking the help AA has to offer. We make our best to ensure phone is answered 24 hours daily, but if it happens that we are unable to take your call please leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
My smiles had grown forced and I learned how to create an acceptable facade: 'well-adjusted', 'capable'...but my inner life was something very different.
I'm lucky enough to live in a time when understanding about the addiction to alcohol and its treatment are on the rise. As an expat to Berlin, when I took my first, fragile and fearful steps towards recovery, English-speaking AA was there for me. Lost in a world of confusion, crushing psychic pain, demoralization, my personal potential blocked, unable to align my behavior with what I wanted for myself, sometimes feeling a danger to myself - my inner landscape was bleak at best. My smiles had grown forced and I learned how to create an acceptable facade: 'well-adjusted', 'capable'...but my inner life was something very different and the chinks in the wall began to show. I slowly began to lose control over when, where and how much I drank.
It took me many years of intense struggle before I would seek out help in earnest. Although alcohol was an issue from my early teens on, I didn't recognize that my relationship with it was different than for many people. I never had a natural 'off-switch' with booze. It was like a magic potion that almost always had me craving more. When others had had enough and gone home aware that 'tomorrow' existed, I would need to continue. It was like a nuclear explosion that wanted to end in oblivion. Black-outs were typical, leading to accidents under the influence, brutal 3-day hangovers after binges, promiscuity and associating with people who frightened me. In the end, it was totally bewildering and scary to me and those who loved me. I had terrible guilt about what I did when I drank, but more than that, who and what I had become. I was never strong or determined enough to really change anything for very long. The shame and confusion were crushing. I believed that my failings were among the worst in all the world, after all, didn't I have adequate intelligence, and every opportunity to do well in life? Why had I squandered it all? There were countless attempts to fix myself, reduce or manage my drinking, promises made to myself and others. This cycle lasted many years and the lows always got lower and the hopeful episodes got shorter.
Finally I saw that on my own I wasn't able to do it. It's not in our human makeup to easily surrender, and I didn't yet know that this was my key to finally experiencing change and the first blush of healing...at the time it felt like dying. Life was hardly worth living and the fact that I saw people living with apparent ease and joy made it all the worse. Such a torturous existence, almost constant depression and anxiety, being robbed of the gifts that I felt were given me in my original personality before the world, my own failings and my drinking defeated me...this was never supposed to be my life!
But in that crushing realization and admission that I couldn't do it by myself (and I honestly didn't even want to try anymore), I reached out.
Looking back, my first meetings were transformative. At first I only listened, and heard stories that fascinated me. People described their drinking lives, and they described their inner worlds. Finally I wasn't out of place. I wasn't a freak. I learned that I had simply been experiencing what it's like to suffer alone as an alcoholic. All of a sudden I saw that I wasn't alone. In this group I could find a way of living where I wouldn't have to drink AND I could learn to live again (or for the first time).
I love that AA is not about promotion. Take it or leave it. It's a spiritual program that demands nothing, not even that you believe anything to participate. This inclusive philosophy kept me coming back. Now I'm almost 9 years sober. When I began, a week or a month sober seemed a pipe-dream. I got and stayed sober in Berlin English-speaking AA and I consider the LGBTQ Group to be one of my home groups. Has recovery been easy and a straight trajectory upward? It has been many things, 'good' and 'bad'. I'm able to go through life's challenges without self-destructing. I feel infinitely more connected to life, people and myself. I've slowly learned to befriend my mind. I'm more able to see beauty and enjoy life. For me, AA's promises have come true. I know happiness is not a constant but an experience, like sadness, and all humans have this in common.
I'm a bi-woman in a long-term relationship with a woman, I'm gainfully employed and finally, in great part, that 'well-adjusted person' that I wanted to be. But there's a vast tapestry of states and changing emotion that flow through me. I'm a work-in-progress and will always be so.
If I had known that life would be this amazing in recovery, I probably would've gotten sober 10 years earlier. I thought giving up alcohol and drugs would be a lonely life sentence but really it was the beginning of a fun incredible ride.
Alcohol was the way I got through my awkward early adulthood. When I drank I felt fearless and able to be social, sexy and comfortable in my own skin. But looking back I never drank because I liked the taste or that I wanted a little refreshment. I drank to get wasted. When I chose to be a DJ and music producer I am sure I chose these professions because of their proximity to alcohol (and drugs) and boys. They were my twin obsessions that continued to prevent me from doing the things I always wanted to do. When I finally bottomed out at 38, I could no longer DJ or write music which was what I had done for work for years. I was sure that life would be a miserable ride and that the best had come and gone; that I had missed my chance. My ex-boyfriend suggested I try AA and took me to a meeting. I decided I would give it a try. I went to meetings, got a sponsor as suggested and I worked at staying clean as though my life depended on it. Soon I was doing service at the meetings, started working again and rediscovering my love of music. I found a great boyfriend at 2 years sober and at 3 years I became passionate about new music artists and threw a festival. My life took off much bigger than it had been before recovery. Subsequently I wrote hits for pop artists and DJed around the world. After being clean 16 years, I decided to start a clothing company and I am proud to say the clothes have been worn by amazing people. It has made my life so exciting. If I had known that life would be this amazing in recovery, I probably would've gotten sober 10 years earlier. I thought giving up alcohol and drugs would be a lonely life sentence but really it was the beginning of a fun incredible ride. I feel like I have an advantage over non-drinkers because my personal life is filled with great people and my career has taken off. I have peace of mind. No question, recovery is the best thing that ever happened to me.
I worked the steps from 1 to 12 with a sponsor, but I continue to live in that work of the steps. It’s not work that makes me sweat, it’s work that makes me smile.
Dear Sober Friend,
I am writing to tell you how I keep my emotional sobriety. I have a home group, a sponsor and a service commitment at that homegroup. I don’t need to over-complicate the recovery process, it’s really simple. I don’t drink, I go to meetings. Emotional sobriety is key for me and I get that by working the steps. So my emotional sobriety is dependent on how close I am to a step. I work the steps everyday to the best of my ability. I worked the steps from 1 to 12 with a sponsor, but I continue to live in that work of the steps. It’s not work that makes me sweat, it’s work that makes me smile. I have 9 years and 7 months clean and sober. I see my reocvery as a painting. My emotional sobriety has not been the paint in the tube, it’s been the paint on the palatte and the act of placing that paint onto a canvas. Sober living is an action living. It’s up to my hands to either make the painting weak or strong. I am writing now with the sun on me - I would not have this gratitude 9 years and 7 months ago if I was hungover.
Step one makes me calmer in emotional sobriety. To be calm is to know that I am powerless over drugs and alcohol, and I always will be powerless. I get power by knowing that I am powerless over them.
Step two makes me clearer in the emotional sobriety, because I can let go of this idea that I have to be perfect. The restoration of sanity comes from a power – I call the sun or many gods – greater than me.
Step three makes my emotional sobriety graceful.
Step four makes my emotional sobriety real and mature.
Step five throws, kicks and tosses out shame, embarrassment and convoluted sobriety to another helpful sober mind like my sponsor. My sponsor now – like my sponsors in the past – have caught the chaos that was often my own making. He or she has helped me let go and move on.
Step six helps me in the reality of me, what I don’t like about myself and all my emotions of which I am tired – that don’t work for me. Emotional sobriety winks at me here and says now move on to step seven.
Steps six through nine help me with alcohol and drugs and also with my relationships with the other people, with the world.
Step seven is the closing of the eyes, the deep breath of humble satisfaction. It’s me as a worker among workers and gives me the lessons just like I deserve – no tricks, no gambles, no alternative justification of my behavior, just life on life’s terms.
Step eight is a tangible look with a list at the emotional sobriety.
Step nine is the willingness to clean my side of the street and not worry about others, but to take responsibility for my own actions.
Steps ten, eleven and twelve are the great gifts and results of staying sober – I can constantly do this work and help others as I continue to get help.