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Susan L, Belgium

My second husband John and myself, along with our dog Max moved to Bulgaria just over 3 years ago from the North of England. We came to the decision to retire out here when I came into an unexpected small inheritance following the death of my parents - they both died within 10 months of each other. We thought we would relax and enjoy life a bit. It was a difficult decision because it meant leaving my 3 grown children, my sister and her family, and two stepsons and my husband's large family. My granddaughter has been born since coming here and I miss them terribly.They are in my thoughts and prayers daily. However, due to the recession which we had not anticipated my husband had to return to work for a few months and is looking to do the same at the moment so I will stay home alone with my dog Max, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I found the move here and the change in culture very difficult and the language barrier made everything worse. This caused my drinking to worsen. I am 54 years of age, my husband John is 61, and we have been married for 5 years. My drinking has spanned over 36 years, and I am determined that the remainder of my time will be sober!! I did some awful things and became a person that I didn't recognize or like, and was close to drinking myself to death. So in January of last year I returned to England to attend a rehab clinic for a month which drained our finances considerably. Since then, I have "slipped" four times but am back on track now. My new date of sobriety being 01/01/11. VERY shortened version. It took me about 18 months to accept that now Bulgaria was my home. My husband who is very well traveled had no such problems and fitted in straight away.


To move on, there are no f2f meetings here at all. The nearest ones are in Sofia, a three hours drive away, in the evenings  and in Bulgarian. We live in a very small rural village, and as I don't drive, it sometimes feels very isolated and makes me extremely dependent on my husband. Here sometimes I can go days without seeing another person apart from my husband. When he is away at work, it's just me and my dog. So yes, sometimes I get very lonely and feel cut-off  which is where this group comes in. I am trying to make friends on- line, people who I can talk to  on a regular basis and get to know. I was never any good at making friends from childhood. A bit of a loner really, and that continued into adulthood and only got worse with the drinking. Making friends is moving outside my comfort zone, if you know what I mean, but I am finding it so rewarding and it has made me realize how vital human contact is. There is one more English couple in the village but we do not talk - LONG story - and another English lady in another village not far who is a good friend. We have another English friend in another village, but she is very protective of her privacy. We also have a handful of very good Bulgarian friends. The language is a problem but we get by.

My only access to AA was through on-line groups of which I belong to three and they are all different. I am so grateful to them but miss the human contact. I found my sponsor, Bonnie,on- line. She has been a god-send and has stuck with me which required a great deal of patience. I regularly read the big book and try to live my life around the  Steps. I try to get on-line as much as possible and participate as this is the only area where I can be of service to another alcoholic but I try to do as much service work as possible in the village and with my neighbors, but sometimes I have to admit to feeling very lonely. However, I have so much to be grateful for. I don't do on-line meetings as such,. I think of the groups as my meetings. Truth to tell I am not very technically minded where computers are concerned!!

As for adventures in Bulgaria, well I'm afraid I'm pretty dull. I am the gardener of the relationship, so we grow most of our own vegetables and we have a small orchard, so I make my own jams. It is when I am in the garden that I feel closest to my HP. We have several out buildings that all require work, and I have discovered that I have a talent for plastering and, sad to say, I really enjoy it. Work in the house is always ongoing so I am always busy. I like that, as I find it hard to sit still, but am looking at trying to relax - and enjoy it! - more. My husband built a log cabin in the garden as a place I could go to when I needed peace and quiet and I love it.I have also taken up knitting (badly!!), as you know and doing jigsaws. This helps me with patience, I read, and there are always e-mails.

My husband drinks, but I have come to accept that that is his choice. For myself I choose not to drink. He is very supportive but doesn't really understand and that doesn't matter either. With my sponsor's help I have identified where and how I need to establish boundaries and that is working well for me. Our relationship and the balance within is changing now as I change and grow so we are learning how to work at this so we can stay strong. My husband has never known me when I was not drinking so he is getting lumbered with a whole different person!! A better one, I think. My middle son is an alcoholic but doesn't want to change. It breaks my heart but he knows when he is ready I am there for him so I just have to bide my time and be there when he is ready.

Well, I think that I've wittered on long enough. So much for keeping it short and sweet!! Thank you for letting me share and for helping me to stay sober. I am grateful to be here.


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