Alcohol apprehension alleviated

The Linc’s Lifestyle editor Alex Colman and I went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting last week to get an insight into the lives of local people battling this horrible illness.  

It was apparent that there was a vast mixture of people in attendance: young, old, male, female. As everyone sat gathered in a small, well-lit room, set out in such a way that it was difficult not to feel exposed, the atmosphere was warm and friendly. 

Sitting in a circle around a table, the members took it in turn to read from the “big book”, which basically described the 12 steps of recovery in detail. It was set out a little like the bible, and that’s exactly what it was to them.

Whenever anyone talked, they always introduced themselves and said they were an alcoholic, which was followed by a chorus of “hello”. Everyone then took it in turns to say their bit, whatever had been on their minds. The theme of this meeting was focusing on the “making amends” step: apologising to those they had offended, upset, and even stole from, due to their drinking.

As the members revealed their own experiences and thoughts, I realised that one thing they all had in common was that they were so grateful to have the opportunity to speak, and so thankful that everyone listened to what they had to say.

One member said that in order for him to spiritually move forward, and to be completely happy, he had to let go of any lies he had told in the past, so that he could have a clear mind and move on. Another said that he had written letters of apology to his parents, who had passed away years before he wrote them, which was quite sad to hear.

Many of the people there were refreshingly honest about their past and, in most cases, present. One member said that, although she had hurt people because of alcoholism, instead of saying “sorry”, she just stopped drinking and subsequently changed her behaviour, showing the importance of actions and not words. One thing that I didn’t really think about until afterwards, was the fact that one of the members was drunk at the meeting, which gave a bit more reality to the experience.

I feared that I would come away depressed, full of horror stories I wouldn’t be able to forget, and an urge never to drink again. But I didn’t. The people I met were so grateful to be there, so thankful to be able to share their experiences and have a chance to be positive. To have gone through such a difficult time, and to have been strong enough to fight an addiction, it must be such a rush to then be able to talk about it so openly.

In a non-preachy way, we had hoped to come away with a few off-putting stories to tell any heavy-drinking student. However, even though there were several horror stories told (and many more probably kept secret) everyone had a good outlook on life. The room was full of positive energy, and it was easy to see that these people had turned into very strong-minded people (a strong-minded alcoholic may sound like an oxymoron, so take my word for it).

The aim of attending the meeting was to discourage students not to go the same path. However, I can’t say that the people I met were a deterrent by any means. I’m not for a second promoting alcoholism, but everyone at the meeting was grateful, self aware, friendly, funny, and polite. Maybe we should just strive to be just as well rounded and strong willed, just without the liver damage.

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