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Well, here I am on the verge of retirement, at 66 for a state pension in the UK, with nearly 17 years of glorious sobriety behind me, a day at a time.

I cannot believe that I’ve got to this point considering the calamitous preceding 30 years of drinking many of which alcoholically.

Like many of us, my life up to the point of surrender in 2004 and actually ‘joining’ AA, was full of fear, anxiety, stress, depression. Feelings of not being good enough, full of resentment and jealousy etc. – life just didn’t seem fair.

For many years the only solution to these feelings that seemed to work reliably, or so I thought, was alcohol up to the point where it stopped working.

My drinking can be split into 3 separate decades. Like many of us the first 10 years was fun. It was social, enjoyable and not really a problem. The 2nd 10 years alcohol figured large in all aspects of my life and negative consequences were starting to happen. During the last 10 disastrous years alcohol was my master and I it’s slave. I could simply NOT drink.

It finally robbed me of everything that should have been worthwhile in life. My wife, two children, career, house, cars & my health both physical and mental. It took me from a 4-bed house in the New Forest (Central Southern England) to treatment centres, homeless shelters and hospitals. It took me to loneliness only we can understand.

My recovery finally started in hospital in March 2004. I was there for 11 weeks with chronic liver failure and malnutrition. Even being told I was dying of alcoholism, (‘no sh*t sherlock’) I still had massive cravings and had to sneak out to procure some vodka when I could… just to ‘take the edge off’ – HA! – total insanity!!

Then, one evening another unfortunate who was in for a detox and with whom I used to drink with on the streets had gone out all day drinking as it was his birthday ‘and no one loved him nor had visited him’. He stumbled back to the ward at about 9:30pm and was promptly ejected by security back onto the streets. A heaven-sent thought then crossed my mind. That’s me: tomorrow, next week the week after but it WILL happen if I continue as I am and I can’t go back to that life. I lifted my eyes up and said the most important silent prayer I will ever utter: “God, if you exist, please help me, I’ve had enough”.

And that was it for me. My prayer was answered there and then. I had finally surrendered and since that day I haven’t had the desire or need to pick up a drink regardless of what life has thrown my way.

Once out of hospital I immersed myself in AA. Nine meetings a week (not because I wanted to break any records but because I loved attending and had nothing else to do anyway), I did service, got a Sponsor and worked with him through the 12 steps.

By staying in the middle of AA, putting one foot in front of the other, doing the next right thing and following a simple set of suggestions (some would say instructions), I’ve received incredible, wonderful gifts.

I met and married an AA member who is my absolute soul mate and with whom I inherited two fabulous step daughters who’s lives I haven’t wrecked. I got my career back on track. We’ve been blessed with being able to go on wonderful holidays and adventures where we’ve had the privilege of attending and sharing at overseas meetings.

We have a wealth of true friends in the fellowship that we know we can trust and depend on unreservedly.

So many gifts but most of all I have a happiness and serenity today that I did not know could exist.

I never thought I’d see this day but thank you, God, Bill and Bob, and all those who came after.

Roy G – Bournemouth/Poole

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