New Beginnings

I am currently in Commitment stage (4th month) at New Beginnings, something that, when I walked in these doors did not think was possible, I truly believed that I was beyond help. 6 Months ago I hated the sound of laughter, hated the sunshine, was scared to leave the house, wanted to end my life and my only solace being a bottle of vodka and a dark room. Today I wake up looking forward to the day ahead, full of hope and with a smile on my face. Today I want to live a full life full of possibilities and dreams.

I am 31 years of age. I am the eldest of 3 children and I have a younger brother and sister. My parents were happily married for 32 years before my mother sadly passed away last year from Motor Neuron Disease at the age of 54. I had a beautiful upbringing, full of laughter, love and adventures. We travelled around a lot as young children because both of my parents were in the Navy my mother was a doctor and my father was a dentist on the ships. My earliest memory of my Dad is him teaching me to ski and of my mother teaching us to play tennis and body surf. We were an incredibly close family and did these kinds of things, as well as extensive travel in and out of Australia on a regular basis. I had a very good education and went to a private school then onto University where I completed a degree in Business in Management Consulting and Marketing. For a number of years I had a growing career in Marketing and Recruitment, I worked in Europe enjoying travelling to different countries, I had a beautiful wedding, amazing and special friends and believed that my life was going exactly the way that it was meant to….

I had my first drink at the age of 14, I was in Paris at a dinner-show and I clearly remember it being a glass of Moet champagne. I had one and then had my hand out for the second glass very soon after. There was no sipping and enjoying it, I remember just wanting more. The feeling that came over me was of complete freedom, excitement and I thought that I was invincible; I spent the next 15 years chasing that same feeling. From the moment I had that first drink I was hooked and drank alcoholically. During high school I couldn’t wait until the weekends and would binge drink passion pop in the park with my friends, being the loudest, funniest and do the most outrageous things, I loved being the centre of attention. My uni days were a blur of wild parties, shots at the uni bar and last minute studying. I got a job in a pharmaceutical company and very quickly was successful; my career was revolved around wining and dining clients and after work drinks. I would drink each day after work, preferably alone so that I could drink the way that I wanted to, after having my professional face on each day I was able to drink to blackout freely and without criticism and to numb the constant state

of feeling not good enough. For me to drink a bottle of wine each night was my reward for a hard day’s work. When out with my friends I would always be the one to order the drinks and that’s where my secret drinking started, buy a round for everyone but a couple of extra for me on the side. The consequences of my drinking started to become apparent and people started to tell me to slow down as they thought that I may have a problem. I didn’t believe this for a moment and so just hid it more. By this stage it wasn’t uncommon for me to be popping out for a quick “coffee” at 10am in the morning at Liquorland or carrying a bottle of wine around in my handbag, something that in the not too distant future would become a necessity. Everything that I did revolved around drinking and where I was going to get my next drink.

In 2009 my mother was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease and I gave up my career to be her carer. Initially this gave me a new focus and sense of purpose and my drinking slowed down to what I thought was completely manageable. Before long the reality of caring for my dying mother, the responsibility that I now had, the fact that I was no longer free to do what I wanted when I wanted, missed my friends, was trying to start a new relationship and seeing the impact that it was having on my family was too much. It was at this time that I started having vodka in my orange juice for breakfast and it gave me the relief that I needed and gave me a new surge of energy and an attitude of “ok I can do this, things are not as bad as I thought”. From here my drinking took me to a place that I never thought possible. The obsession and compulsion to drink was so powerful, I couldn’t stop no matter how much I tried. The next few years were filled with dishonesty, stealing, geographical changes, loss of jobs, embarrassment at my mother’s funeral, drink driving charges, parole officers, 5 x 28 day rehabilitation programs, psychologists, psychiatrists, emergency departments, suicide attempt, divorce, violence, daily withdrawals, isolation, loneliness, self hatred, no self care or dignity, shame, guilt, fear and anxiety so powerful that I would will my heart to stop beating and when it wouldn’t the only thing I knew how to do was drink more. The last drink that I have had was mentholated spirits straight from the bottle at 11pm outside Gorman house detox after my sister had dropped me off with my 2 bags of clothing and said “we can’t do this anymore, we love you but you’re on your own”. For the first time in my life I didn’t have any family or friends to rescue me, I was completely on my own. I have never been so scared in my life as I was at that moment and in the days that were to follow.

I initially came to New Beginnings because I didn’t have anywhere to go. I had lost my house and I was homeless because no-one would take me in.

I remember walking in feeling completely numb, my only thoughts were that I had a bed until I figured out how I could end it all. My first week I was an emotional wreck and couldn’t stop crying, baffled that a life that I felt was going so well not that long ago had led me to medium-term rehab. I could not comprehend that if I was going to get my life back together that I would have to do what they asked of me and spend the indefinite future here. As the days went on I just got up, put one foot in front of the other and did what was asked of me, even though I didn’t understand how the program worked, though all the processes, structure and rules were stupid and couldn’t see how they could help me. What I understand now is that all the simple things that we do on a daily basis were unconsciously teaching me how to live again, all the simple things I had lost the ability to do in my addiction. The groups that we have here and living in a Therapeutic Community with other alcoholic and addicts have allowed me to open up, not feel alone or that I’m the only one who has suffered addiction. I have been challenged more than I thought possible and been forced to look at the issues that for so long have led me to drink. It has been incredibly painful at times but necessary to start the healing. 8 weeks into my treatment here it became known that I was also suffering an eating disorder that had been part of my life for 10 years. I was supported to go to another facility and get specialised treatment for this and then come back to WHOS and continue my program. This was one of the biggest challenges and test to my sobriety that I have faced because I didn’t want to leave and was so angry that they couldn’t help me the way that I needed in a place that I felt safe and comfortable. By this point though I had started to see a glimmer of hope for myself so I was prepared to do whatever was suggested because doing it my way had clearly not worked. I spent 4 weeks in an eating disorder unit and during that time the staff here kept in weekly contact and ensured I had a bed here for me when I was ready to return. I felt loved and cared for and am so grateful that I had the support to look at another layer of my addiction that was keeping me extremely sick. I was welcomed back upon my return. I now understand that alcohol is but a symptom of my disease and it is all my negative core beliefs, low self esteem, self will and self obsession, people pleasing and need to feel validated that is why I drank, all these things leading my life to become so unmanageable, not people, places and things that I had blamed for so long. I have had the opportunity to look at all these things and share them with my peers through the weekly GESE (program) tasks. During my time here I have learnt about self responsibility and self accountability, become aware of my surroundings and how my behaviours impact on others, I have learnt so much about my disease and the importance of harm minimisation. I have learnt how to love and care for others and myself. I have peers that understand and care about me very much.

I had 6 months of sobriety earlier this week, the longest since I had that first drink of champagne and my life is so different to where it was 6 months ago. Today I am able to separate myself from my addiction, see that I am not a bad person that I am a sick person trying to get well. Today I continually make mistakes and learn from these, don’t

beat myself up and think I’m useless. Each day I face challenges and triggers, some days I don’t want to be sober and get fed up with it all but I am learning how to deal with them in a healthy manner. Today I can walk outside, enjoy the sunshine and not be focused on every pub and bottle shop in Sydney. Today I don’t have to steal from my family, report to parole or lie to my friends. Today my relationships with my family and friends are starting to slowly heal, some trust is returning. I am learning what I like and don’t like. I am building new friendships within the rooms of AA and I can share with them what I’m going through without fear of judgement, today I have a place where I can go and don’t feel like I have to try and make my family and friends who are not addicts understand my disease, I can just enjoy their company when I see them. Today I do the simple suggested things that I am told and do them. I am excited and apprehensive about the future because it is going to be so different to what I planned or what I felt was expected of me. I am letting this all unfold how it’s meant to be and for now that looks like me going to transition and exit through the WHOS program and enjoying the ups and downs of the ride.

Today I know it’s just about today and that I am in for the fight of my life. Today I know without reservation that I am a chronic alcoholic and for me to drink is a sure way to die. Today I know that I do not have to do this alone and that I don’t need to pick up a drink no matter what, I have tools to manage this all now… that’s what I have learnt here at New Beginnings and I am eternally grateful.