Substance Abuse

An Inside Look at Alcoholics Anonymous

Last week, we talked about What Al-Anon is really like and had a look on the inside by someone who has dealt with loving people with substance abuse issues. Chris Stachura shared her story with us. Thank you, Chris!

This week, I want to give you an inside look at how substance abuse can cause a multitude of problems for people. Thankfully there are programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that can help. I’ve been told many times that it literally saved someone’s life.

Darlene Steelman has generously offered to share her story with us today in the hopes that anyone reading this that needs help will seek it. Like Chris, I met Darlene online. Darlene and I had each signed up for an online class. At the end of that class, some of the members decided to form a group to support each others’ writing efforts. There are many wonderful people in that group that I greatly admire, but none more so than Darlene.

At her blog, Sober Living – Life At Full Throttle, Darlene talks about a variety of topics, but there is a general theme to her posts and that is to live life to the fullest. She doesn’t shy away from her former problems. In fact, she uses her blog to show how great life can be while sober. She’s also talked about AA and how she has benefited from it.

So without further interruption from me, I’m going to let Darlene tell you her story.

Hi, my name is Darlene and I am an alcoholic.

I am here at Rhonda’s blog today to share my experience, strength and hope.  Rhonda asked me to share my story regarding my alcoholism/addiction and I am always eager to spread the message to other still suffering alcoholics and/or addicts.

A painfully shy, geeky kid, I was thirteen the first time I drank.  I realized that it made me feel different and I felt free, loose and relaxed. Of course, my mother (who put the fear of MOM into me) caught me and I did not pick up again until I was fourteen.

I could go into my trysts, adventures and dilemmas over the span of my active addiction, but the ultimate result was never positive, never pretty and usually ended up with me waking up naked somewhere with some person I did not remember.

Yeah, not cool.

In 2006, I hit my bottom.  I lost my house, my job and eventually my kids.  For three weeks after Child Services came to visit me and take my children, I went on a major, self-absorbed pity party tear.  If there was booze, cocaine or pills around, I was there.   If there was a man giving me the once over?  Even better.  I never admitted it, but I wanted to die. Looking back, I see that I put myself in dangerous situations purposefully.

I guess God had a bigger plan for me.

One night came and I had my cocaine, my booze, and my pills. My purse was in the other room on the bed and I had to get my cigarettes.  I walked by the full-length mirror that whispered empty promises to me just three weeks earlier.  Now, it screamed the truth into my sunken face.

I looked like hell.

I looked like a crack whore, although I never smoked crack. I had dropped down to 115 pounds.  That never sits well on a 5 foot 10 inch frame.  I looked around the two-room apartment in which I had been staying.  There were dirty dishes everywhere, empty cigarette packs and crushed up Oxycontin residue all over my desk.

I dropped to my knees as tears streamed my face, and I begged God for help.

He must have heard me.  Someone did.  I know the strength I mustered in the three months I lived in that basement (a married couple still using lived upstairs) getting clean and sober was not of my own doing.

I called the agency that took my children.  I was ready to get help.  I was ready to get clean. They directed me to an outpatient program in Bensalem, PA.   They had groups where I could share my story with other people who turned out to have stories similar to mine.

That is the thing about groups, meetings and outpatient therapy.  We all think we are so different, but we realize we are not after we meet other alcoholics/addicts.  Sure, our stories vary, but we are the same.

My sober date is May 26, 2006: two days before my oldest daughter’s sixteenth birthday.  I am happy to say I continue to live clean and sober today.

The road has smoothed some, but in the beginning, it was rocky. It was a hard deal realizing I played a part in my own addiction/alcoholism.  I blamed everyone else for my problems.  I was a victim subjected to unwanted dilemmas and drama.

It was not my fault.  But then again, it was. As soon as I accepted that and said, “Okay, I screwed up.  Now I need to make it right.  How do I make that happen?”  And always tried to do the next right thing, good things started to happen.

To the Family Member

If you or someone you love has a drinking or drug problem, I suggest getting them some information on Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.  These two programs help people who want help.  The hardest step after that is walking away.  Because, ultimately, a person cannot be helped unless they want to help themselves. All of our making excuses, calling them out of work and giving them food and gas money is called enabling and it hurts them while it quells our own guilt.

To the Alcoholic/Addict

It works if you work it. You get out of it what you put into it. The one thing you always must do – ALWAYS – is be honest with yourself.  If you are not honest with yourself, it will not work.  Sure, you can do it for your kids, for your mother, your dog, your boss, your boyfriend or your job.  That will last a little while, but you have to do it for you.

What is a meeting really like?

A typical meeting is really filled with people that are there for support and to support. They are not dark and gloomy as depicted on television or filled with disheveled people who look down on their luck.  Meeting types vary.  There are:

open (anyone can attend)
closed (only people with a desire to stop drinking can attend)
big book (read and discuss the big book)
speaker (an alcoholic speaks for the first part of the meeting)
topic (a member chairs the meeting and picks a topic to discuss)
step (one of the twelve steps is read and discussed)
men’s (men only)
women’s (women only)
beginners (focused on those new to sobriety)

At meetings, members do not discuss alcohol, or their last drunk.  The common goal is a desire to stop drinking and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.  Talking about drinking does not effectively reach a goal. Instead, members focus on carrying the message of sobriety.

Certainly, a newcomer does not want to hear about alcohol or the trysts of a member (no one does really) so the message of sobriety is the focus.

Thanks for letting me share.

Thank you for being my guest today, Darlene. I admire how you have turned your life around. You are an inspiration to others.

If you have a drinking or other substance abuse problem, I hope you will give AA a chance. And if the first meeting you go to doesn’t feel right for you — try another. I’ve been told that each meeting has its own dynamics. So you should be able to find a place that you feel comfortable.

No one is going to tell you that getting clean and sober will be easy. But it will be easier with a support system like AA. And no matter how hard it is, just remember one thing. You are worth it.

Click here to find a meeting near you.

You can follow Darlene at her Blog and on Twitter. (NOTE: the blog is no longer updated, but is still alive and full of great information.)

I sincerely hope these posts and comments from those who have been there and turned their lives around will inspire others to get the help they need.


Originally posted on rhondahopkins.com. Post may have been modified to fit the needs of this site.

Follow Rhonda Hopkins/Navigating Family Court: