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A Safe and Nurturing Place

Monica, Slovakia

Hello, my name is Monica and I’m an alcoholic.

I’m in AA since 1st September 2007, and I took my last drink on the 28th December 2006, so I had a few months dry before coming to AA. In fact I had been trying to stop drinking and gain some peace of mind since I first realised -- I mean REALLY realised -- that I had a problem.

That was in August 2004. I had woken up after a ‘night out the night before.’ I was staying with relatives as there was an annual festival locally, in Ireland, on at the time. I had woken up, realised I had urinated myself and the bed (normal stuff), and then proceeded to lock myself in the toilet, did my usual empty wreeching routine for a while in the toilet before lying on the tiled floor.

I didn’t want to get up and face the consequences; I knew I’d hear all about how inappropriate my behaviour was the night before. After a while I rose up and in the process, saw myself in the mirror. Or should I say, saw an empty sad hollow version of myself.

I was shocked at the ‘nothingness’ or ‘blackness’ in my eyes. I knew in my heart and soul that the person looking back at me, wasn’t the person I truly was, or whom I was born to be . . . so I vowed from that day onwards to stop drinking.

My sister laughed as I told her this -- because I had vowed this countless times before. A friend suggested that I read The Easy Way to Stop Drinking, a book by Allen Carr. A great book -- not one for an alcoholic though!

At the time I had moved to another city to do my Masters (I was a functioning alcoholic). I started to be more health conscious, did more exercise, ate better, started to iron my clothes and put more effort into my appearance.

However all the while -- there was something missing -- and I continued to slip and drink every couple of months. I still felt the unease, discontent and irritability inside of me at times and I never understood it -- that was the desperately lonely part. The confusion and awful loneliness. At least when I drank, alcohol was my solution, and when I came to AA, I had found a solution that worked for me -- but in the years between 2004 and 2007, I experienced the kind of loneliness that, in my experience, only alcoholics and addicts feel.

More motivation to stop drinking was also because a colleague in a restaurant where I worked had approached me and said he and another colleague were worried about me. I was drinking every day and was coming to work sick and hung-over. It was a very nice enabling working environment for an alcoholic – as we all drank at work and before it! – but even my co-workers saw there was something dark and different happening to me.

Another reason was because my self-harming was getting out of control. Since the passing of my Grandfather in 2000 I had started to cut myself (as a way of coping with overwhelming feelings) and was doing it more and more whilst drunk -- to the extent that I’d wake up with awful cuts on my arms and without any recollection of doing it. Also, alcoholism is on both sides of my family; this was yet another motivation for me to quit drinking.

I knew something needed to change -- I was definitely scared at how powerless I was once I took that first drink . . . .

So skip ahead to August 2007. I was at the end of my strength at not drinking. A personal relationship had ended, I had barely avoided drinking at a family function in June of that year, I was finding life very difficult to cope with and I knew, in my heart and soul, I would end up drinking if I didn’t do something.

In June of that year I had been to an open AA meeting, and I related and it certainly struck a chord with me – however I wasn’t desperate enough, I wasn’t at my rock bottom. But after a couple of months, I needed help if I was to stay sober. I needed AA.

I came to my first closed AA meeting and I have never looked back. It was and remains to be, the best thing I have ever done. It has allowed me to be myself, and look at myself in a safe and nurturing place.

I have become closer to the God of my understanding. I met a wonderful sponsor who brought me through the 12 Steps and who continues to be my sponsor today. We continue to work from the big book (Alcoholics Anonymous). I frequently thank my Higher Power (whom I choose to call God) for us both crossing paths.

I’ve grown and continue to grow in living life on life’s terms and applying the Steps to the best of my ability on any given day, in any given situation. I need to inventory regularly, and do a full step 4 and 5 annually or biannually, to keep myself free from the bondage of fear, resentment, anger, self pity . . . .

I get down on my knees every morning and every night before going to bed, to ask for help, and give thanks, respectively. I didn’t get down on my knees from the first day of my time in AA -- that came after a while.

I’ve tried all the suggested things and I’ve found that there is great wisdom within the rooms of AA and in the Big Book. The 9 slogans were a great help, especially at the beginning when I found it hard to concentrate . . . ”One day at a time,” “Live and let live,” “Easy does it”. . . .

I have been involved in service from very early on in AA, as secretary, as GSR, as coffee maker and dishwasher. All service positions were and continue to be vital to my recovery. It is only in giving that I receive.

Many positive things have happened in my life and I know that they wouldn’t have happened if I had continued to drink – or continued to live ‘dry’ (away from alcohol and other substances, but still full of the disease).

I have a healthy relationship with each member of my family. I had grown up with co-dependency around me but today that has changed: for example if my sister tells me something, then what she tells me goes no further. This concept was foreign to us as we had no boundaries and no problem in sharing with one another what the other was doing etc.

I attend Al-Anon meetings when I can and reflect and read from Al-Anon literature with members. I have 6 close friends and I am ABLE to have healthy relationship with these ladies -- they trust me today. I am godmother to one of these friend’s children -- what an honour -- and I was bridesmaid to another friend’s wedding last year -- another huge honour and one I would not have experienced if still drinking, of that I am sure!

I graduated with my PhD a few years ago and continue on the road of academic achievement. Last year I celebrated my 30th birthday and we had a big party in my family’s home in Ireland -- bouncing castle and all! It was a wonderful day.

In the time that I’ve been in AA, one close family member and one close family relative have come into recovery. It’s a uniquely special thing to have family in recovery. I feel very blessed to be around them today and to see them continually grow.

In March 2010 I moved from Ireland to Slovakia. It was a decision that I didn’t make lightly, I spoke it over in great length with my sponsor and I prayed a lot, continuously asking God for guidance as to the next right step. Not what the end result would be -- but what would I do next. I came for a 6 month job placement and thanks to my Higher Power, was successful in gaining more secure employment here and now I have a 5 year contract in a job that I really love.

Another big change was that I am now in an intimate relationship and now living with my partner. Being in a relationship is like “putting Miracle Grow on character defects!” I love that analogy -- as I identify with it so much! I am growing and learning and experiencing so much love and peace in this relationship -- what amazing blessings my Higher Power has given to me. And all because I made the swap between a lonely alcoholic-ridden life to one full of peace and joy . . . one day at a time.

I was saved by a Power greater than myself, of that I have no doubt, and I live my life in the knowledge that I am being looked after. As long as I do a few suggested things -- come to my meetings, pray and stay in contact with God, stay in contact with my sponsor and other members, work the Steps in my life -- then I will continue on this Road of Happy Destiny.

There is no English-speaking AA here and I found the Slovak meetings wonderful, however my lack of knowledge of the local language made me feel very disconnected. The only time I’ve experienced some loneliness whilst here has been during those meetings, as I was so used to understanding everything at meetings and being able to share freely and openly, that another language meeting space did not feel right. This is just for me, for today. However I have contacts here and when English-speaking members make contact with the Slovak AA group, they often make contact with me.

My AA work is currently done online -- e-aa meetings, the Loners email group, and Skype. I read AA literature every day and regularly listen to speaker tapes. I attend as many face to face meetings when I’m home in Ireland too.

Recently I met a member who had been at my first AA meeting in 2007 and then we met again last year. He remembered me and came up to me after the meeting and said something that surprised me. He said, “I’m so happy to see you -- you look and sound completely different. But to be honest, seeing you at that meeting, years ago, I never thought you’d stay.”

So few of us get this -- we are so blessed. May I never take this beautiful life that I’m living today for granted. Bless you all.

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