Sam* wanted to stop, but couldn’t.
The 32-year-old, who has been sober for two and half years, says he sought out Alcoholics Anonymous after trying to control his drinking on his own but ending up drinking more.
“I guess some early signs of my drinking potentially being a problem were blackouts … and just really bad hangovers forming for a day or two, but all of which could still be excused within what others are doing and the Australian drinking culture,” Sam said.
“I was increasingly finding everyday life difficult. Things like getting and holding down a job, study. Relationships were starting to become frayed.
“Anxiety, which I had always suffered from to some extent, was exacerbated by my drinking and occasional drug use.”
Sam says he didn’t hit any particular rock bottom but he realised alcohol was the cause of a lot of problems in his life.
“What made it clear that I had a real problem with alcohol was when I made that connection and I made a conscious decision to stop drinking, I couldn’t,” Sam said.
“I was unable to, on my own, manage any prolonged period of abstinence.
“The worst … would be, I’ll have a couple of drinks on a Friday night after work and then the next thing I know is it’s Saturday afternoon and I haven’t slept, and that’s involved several nightclubs, probably getting kicked out of one, and then finding a party or someone’s house to go back to and drink.
“People who knew me probably didn’t suspect that I had a drinking problem because it wasn’t like I was drinking every single day or every single night – my problem is that once I start I can’t stop.”
Sam said after a roller coaster of abstaining for a while and then drinking uncontrollably, he was exhausted and desperate.
“One Sunday, I hadn’t had a drink for six or seven days since the previous weekend, which had been another low point, and something occurred to me … I think it was the realisation that nothing’s gonna change unless I seek help,” he said.
“I found the number for one of the Melbourne offices of AA on Google and that Sunday morning when I thought, I need some help here, called up.”
That night, he says despite feeling apprehensive, he attended his first meeting.
“I remember it being quite a profound experience because immediately you had people talking about what had been my experience up until that point,” Sam said.
“There was an immediate sense of relief, and hope as well, because they were talking about being sober now and not needing to drink anymore.”
Two and a half years sober, Sam is now a ‘sponsor’ – or mentor, for others.
“The most meaningful difference it has made is to my now wife – for her to have someone who is reliable, is consistent, doesn’t lie about where they’ve been or what they’ve done,” he said. “That’s made an immeasurable difference and probably saved our relationship.
“If you think you’ve got a problem with drinking, what have you got to lose to come to AA and give it a shot?”
Regular meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous are held at St Andrew’s Church Hall, Williamstown, on Wednesdays from 7pm and at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Newport, on Thursdays from 6.30pm and Saturdays from 8.30am. More meeting locations via 1300 222 222 or aatimes.org.au
*Not his real name