I was a square peg in a round hole. I felt like I came from outer space. I picked up a drink at the age of twelve, after my two sisters had their wedding receptions in our home. I left school at fourteen-and-a-half to work with my father as a bricklayer. The money was good. But I was not cut out for it. I would have liked to be an artist and paint people and landscapes.
After drinking with a lot of English lads on Sydney’s North Shore I thought it would be nice to go to England, as Sydney was the problem. London in the late sixties was all the go. And I could drink as I liked, without Mum and Dad seeing me. (They were the problem!)
A lot of people thought I was English as I would put on the accent. I always imitated other people’s talk, I just could not be myself. I hated myself, and never fitted in. I had a big mouth when drunk, and became violent, nearly killing a few people. But I could not see it was the drink. I thought I was just mad. (Mad from drink!). The next day I would have the “hair of the dog” to feel all right. And try to forget what had happened. But I could not.
I thought people who told me what I did during blackouts lied. I had to tell people not to live with me in my flat as I did not know what I might do when drunk. I hated the world. I thought if I drank a lot it would kill me. I couldn’t do it myself as it is a sin.
Back in Australia, I went to my first AA meeting at St Canice’s, Kings Cross, when I was twenty-eight. I saw where Alcoholics Anonymous met there on a Saturday night, I’d been crying inside the Church – after being sacked from the Crest Hotel, where I was a bar cleaner. (But I wanted to be the Bar Manager!) At that first meeting of AA I was so full of fear that someone might ask me to say I was an alcoholic. I could only do that when drunk, to excuse my behaviour.
I could not accept myself. Now I know that acceptance is the answer to all my problems. I was always looking for someone to save me! Pub to pub I would go. Looking, looking, looking. I would tell friends in AA that I would meet them at the meeting the next night. But I did not, I went and had a drink. What was the cause of my madness? I thought I must have cancer so I had some test. They were negative.
Ten years later, much worse. I forgot that I had been to a meeting. Or it did not work? Who knows? In a violent blackout I am supposed to have said to someone that if it got real bad I would go to a meeting of AA. I went to a Chinese doctor in who knew about AA. He asked me if there had been a death in my family or had I lost my girl friend. I just said, “I am an alcoholic”.
I felt I was dying. I wanted to die, and at the same time I wanted to live. I cried out to God not to let me die alone. It was the loneliest time of my life. I was paranoid – I thought I heard my flatmate and his girl whispering about killing me.
The doctor sent me to the noon Thursday, Maroubra meeting and I have not had a drink since. It was not easy. It has been the hardest thing I have had to do. But the best. Washing and wiping up after meetings helped me greatly. And the coffee shops got me eating in front of people and talking about myself. I found out that it was all right to be an alcoholic and just be me. “Living in the now”. To be able to drive after twenty years of not being able to was fabulous.
I had a mate who helped me so much, talking on the phone for hours and hours, takling me to lots of meetings all over Sydney. Sometimes we’d do nothing else but go to meetings for a whole day. One early in the morning, a midday one and one at night. – we would make a day out of it.
The section in the “Big Book” (the book Alcoholics Anonymous) called Freedom from Bondage got me praying for my dad whom I hated. It turned hate to love and set me free. I had thought only drink could set me free. Instead it held me in bondage for years. I have been able to look after my aged mum for three years. She is eighty-eight, and needs twenty-four hour care. It became too much so I had to put her in a home. I felt a bit guilty about it, but handed it over to a power greater than myself.
My little dog had to be put down. I was upset but I did not drink. He came to a lot of my early meetings. He was a fine friend, in my early recovery. I have just come back from a holiday in England, going to meetings in all the places where I had drunk, and in Ireland too. After almost 11 years, I can say that “the best is yet to come”. So keep coming back, as I still need you all, to give me hope – and a place to go.