I am a recovering alcoholic and a grateful member of Alcoholics Anonymous, 18 years sober. As part of my service, I agreed to write this when asked. I will try to share my experience, strength and hope as found in Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s different from speaking at a meeting because I’ve been asked specifically how Alcoholics Anonymous helped me as a victim of abuse.
My drinking started when the abuse started, and it lasted a lot of years after the abuse stopped. It was my way of burying how bad being abused made me feel. Instead of getting help facing abuse, I drank. My drinking got bad enough that I lost a lot of people who could have helped me. I drank to get over losing them. Then I was ashamed of how I disappointed even more people. I drank to get over that. The drinking made everything worse, even the shame. I was convinced I needed to drink to manage pain. The drinking made life worse, life got more painful. I drank more. And so forth.
When I walked into my first AA meeting I didn’t talk and was mad. I was mad at how life had turned out. I was mad at the losers in that room. I was convinced it wasn’t my fault I was there. I was different from those other guys. I started to blame the abuse in my mind for everything. My pain got mixed up with my self-pity and that made it harder to get beyond both. Being abused was just another reason to drink. I even used that as reason to drink. I didn’t go back for a second meeting. Life didn’t get any better either because I could not stop drinking.
A while after that a friend who was in AA convinced me to try again. My life was a lot worse. The next meeting was different. I still didn’t talk, but I heard people better. Somehow it got through my thick head that my drinking was causing my problems, not helping them. It was like they knew me personally. One guy stood out. He admitted he had buried shame from abuse in his drinking. I couldn’t believe he could say that out loud and later asked him to be my sponsor.
The worst thing in AA was facing how much harm I caused others. I had to write my story and face all that. It took almost two years to get through my amends from that. But it helped me see I had harmed myself, too. I had been punishing myself for the abuse that happened to me. My sponsor helped me realize (a) I was hurting and (b) I could lean on God to help me face what I buried under the booze. So, through AA I got a name and professional help with a therapist who understood AA. It was an amends to myself to get help and to be sure it was someone who respected the program that supports my sobriety, meaning no medications. It was my first good choice in how to deal with the abuse.
My biggest accomplishment ever was getting sober. I am a grateful recovering alcoholic. By grace of God I turned my life over to Him. I rely on His forgiveness. I try to forgive my abuser. Looking back I am pretty sure he was a drunk too. Maybe he suffered something like me. I will never know.
In AA I learned how to respect others by respecting myself and relying on the God of my understanding. Life is better being sober with God not drunk with pain or numb. I don’t look back at the abuse. I never go back to the Church either. It shakes me up to be anywhere near a church. What matters is I made my peace. Every day I focus on conscious contact with God. I say yes when asked to offer service in gratitude for everything God has done for me. That is how I stay sober. That’s what counts.