his is a qualitative research methods report and not a quantitative.
No internet sites references.
Some demographic details have been changed, and names are anonymous.
Judy L’s Story (White American Female, Aged (40)
I grew up in a home where alcoholism was the dominate factor in all our affairs. How I resent it robbing me of ever realizing the depth of my mother’s relationship with our higher power, whom we called God, the joy of my father’s sense of humor, and the intensity of my parents love for my siblings and myself.
Their rage, insanity and addiction consumed every aspect of their attention and behavior – depriving them of the energy, courage or understanding of modeling or showering us with the love and affection they felt so strongly. Only after my father’s death was I told that he grieved when he found I was born with glaucoma, which would leave me blinded in one eye for life and then again when he was told by the doctor that a medical procedure had not yet been developed which would allow him to donate his own eye to me. What a selfless, loving, compassionate man. Yet, I never knew.
Later, my mother passed on. In sorting through her important papers, we found the letter she wrote God during labor for my sister. This birth was very unique, you see, as she was home with no transportation, no adults to assist and her older four children asleep. Any loud noise on her part would have added the burden of child-care to her already over-whelming situation. Rather than panic, she wrote her feelings, love for my sister, and love for her HP between contractions. Yet these loving, spiritual and profound statements of who my parents were and what they desired where as unknown to us as the family secrets were to the friends and neighbors. And I have, in turn, deprived my own children and myself of the affection, love and praise they so much deserve due to fear of rejection or confrontation, as I had once received from my parents.
Alethea’s Story (Black American Female, Aged 36)
My name is Alethea and I am an alcoholic.
My journey is long and most of it was painful. As far back as I can remember there was verbal, physical, neglect and sexual abuse. When I was four months old there is a picture of me in a police station with a police officer feeding me with a bottle because my parents left me in the doorway of a department store, while they went shopping, I guessed they shopped longer than they expected.
My father was a parent full of fear so he thought physical punishment was the answer, sometimes very severe. Mom was too afraid to go against him. At 8 years I found alcohol, and very shortly, sniffing glue. What a great way to mask my fear and become an unreachable child.
By 10 or 11 I was locked up in a children’s shelter for glue and a runaway. Nothing changes if nothing changes so after being sent home for some months I ended up is a school for girls run by the Salvation Army. My will was broken there, but not my spirit.
I met my first Husband in a bar at 16, married at 18 , bought a home and had a baby, so the beatings were well worth it. I had it all, the husband, baby, house and the beatings that went along with it. Within two years the marriage ended, I lost the house and my son because I could not support him. My son was the first time I experienced unconditional love, but it was only there for a few years, then I was sent back to my parents. Nothing had changed in the home, I tried, but was no longer accepted by my peers, and in less than a year I started drinking daily.An underlining eating disorder started erupting and I found diet pills. With that the drinking increased vastly.
When I finally left my parents, the next 10 years were hitching around the country, living in a car, with time in jail, living in a tent, another abusive marriage, my son living with me some of the time, and being a weekend mother some of the time, all dependent on how long I kept a job.
But there was never a day without drinking. When my second husband died in 1975, my son came to live with me full time because I started to receive benefit payments, and could manage to pay rent. That left money for me to drink without the money I made via landscaping or tending bar.
Only in my late 20’s, I was sick and tired of no discipline in my life, no consistency and always in emotional pain. My mother found her voice and told me my attitudes stunk and I better go find God. I thought it was the last thing I needed. I left her in a rage, remembering how I just needed to die. When I returned home I found myself in bed screaming up at the ceiling daring a God to make himself known to me right there and then or just take this life and shove it.
I ended up in tears feeling all hope was lost, only to awaken the next day feeling that all hope was not lost, so I continued to talk to this ceiling until so many “thinking things” started to happen.
I obtained my GED, bought a house, and realized that I wasn’t drinking as much as I had been, and for the first time I looked at the price alcohol played in my life. Shortly after moving into my new home I heard of AA and within a few months I made my first meeting.
I joined a group, got a sponser, got a commitment, and got involved. Went through my steps and tried to keep them in my life on a daily basis. Today I know how much God really loves us. He allowed me to get a colledge degree, keep my children and my home, and when I fully understood that things don’t get better, we do, and that I will never stay sober alone.
God Bless, and Love Always, Thea
Ginna’s Story (Italian American Female, Aged 42)
I think it all started when I was 11 years old…we were at a family party and my dad, who I now recognize as an alcoholic, slipped a little bourbon into my coke… and it tasted good… and better yet… it felt good.
This went on for a few years and by the time I was 15 it wasn’t enough; and the Alateen meetings my best friend’s mom had been sneaking me to weren’t enough…and my therapist wasn’t enough. I started smoking, drinking, eating, inhaling anything that made the pain of my parent’s divorce and the pain from the relationships I had with both of my parents disappear.
At the time, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t working. I would come down and sober up and the pain would still be there — generally it would hurt even more. Over the next nine years I tried various programs.
My dad was a drunk. We all know the family history. But I was convinced that because I had “control” over the bad seeds in my life that I wasn’t a drunk. Well, needless to say, I was wrong… dead wrong. By the time I was finally finished pointing my finger at everyone else in my life, I looked down and discovered the other three fingers were pointing right back at me.
I had been in and around ‘meetings’ for 10 years and it was finally time to start working on JUST me. This was not an easy thing to admit or an easy task to accomplish. By the time I realized this I was drowning in my addictions. I had been hiding my alcohol in my bedroom closet for three years at this point — drinking in the middle of the night when the drugs wore off or when I needed to get some sleep, etc. The excuses go on and on.
It was Mother’s Day 1995 and a historically bad day in my life. I had had a miscarriage years before. I couldn’t afford to go home to be with my mother, which was a HUGE deal because my grandmother (her mom) who was the backbone of our family had died on Mother’s Day in 1988. She was missed so much. I had always felt if she were around just a little longer then maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have ended up where I was (ha!).
So I was really on my pity pot and having a nervous breakdown. I had decided that I had to stop but was paralyzed by fear of so many forms. I had voices in my head and I was screaming at the top of my lungs in my room for help. .I went into my closet, eyes blurred, brain on fire, to smash every bit of paraphenalia that I had… bottles, bongs, etc.
I was screaming for someone to please just help me…and all of a sudden I took a huge inhale of air and smelled my grandmother’s perfume. I heard her voice as clear as a bell say to me, “Everything is going to be all right…” Then I felt her patting my back the way she did when I was very young and she would rock me to sleep.
I knew in the midst of my sheer insanity that I had just had a spiritual experience and that I would be okay, because I really did have a guardian angel. God revealed her to me when I needed her the most. That was May 15, 1995… but it’s only One Day At A Time.
Thanks for letting me share…
John’s Story (White American Male, Aged 52)
I started drinking when I was 12. I started with beer. I drank all through high school. I hated hangovers, almost enough to want to stop drinking because of them. I started drinking hard alcohol when I went to college.
I made a deadly discovery that changed my life. I realized that you could remove your next-morning hangover by drinking. It wasn’t long that I was drinking all day every day. Eventually I became dependent, mentally and physically.
I drank almost a handle (the BIG bottle) a day. I would keep a bottle in my car so that I could drink at whatever job I had at the time.
I used to try to quit, but my body would shake so bad that I couldn’t move. I even experienced hallucinations a few times. I went to the hospital several times after severe withdrawals and minor seizures.
The doctor told me I would die very soon. I didn’t listen. I ended up homeless; living in my car which was broken down on a street that I don’t know the name of to this day. I would wake up every morning and make my way to the store to steal a bottle of vodka. I did this every morning for three months, and never got caught.
My sister came and rescued me from San Diego. I stayed with her for a few months and eventually went back to drinking. I was able to make enough money with my job to have a roof and drink. I was fully dependent on alcohol.
I eventually lost that job (I lost 8 jobs because of drinking). One day after a serious night of drinking, I laid in my bed numb. I felt something reach out to me. I called my sister. I needed help.
My sister took me to the Bakersfield Rescue Mission. It was there that I accepted Christ. I studied the word of God every day for a year, and became a disciple of Christ. It was there that I realized that drinking was just a symptom of my problem. I was trying to medicate with a substance; filling a hole designed for God.
I realized I was not an accident. I have a purpose. I now understand what it means when people say that you need a higher power. I didn’t have a drinking problem..I had a “thinking” problem. I hope I have reached someone. Give it to Christ.
Danny’s Story (White American Male, Aged 38)
At first, in the summer of 1998, it was not easy for me to stay sober, just not drinking and going to meetings. But at least I wasn’t drinking, and was put into a place of fellowship where I could hear the message. The welcomed and wonderful ‘band-aids’ of a Twelve Step program with which I had covered my wounds were beginning to reach their full saturation point. And spiritual bleeding continued.
It was five days short of my second anniversary on a curiously warm night, and a drink was the furthest thing from my mind. I was driving home from my office and I was feeling rather at ease.
It had been a productive evening. Our production (sales) was excellent, I had hired some new very promising people, and I was in a fantastic frame of mind. I had just gotten off the phone with my sponsor, and we had shared some great recovery talk. Suddenly it occurred to me that on such a great day, “it is a damned shame that I cannot drink anymore.”
It would have been the ideal time to unwind — kick back, and REALLY enjoy my good fortune, my imminent sober anniversary and my apparent serenity.
Two days later I awoke in a motel room, five minutes from my office. I was in bed, naked, sweating and shivering cold, and coming off a blackout. I had relapsed. I have no memory of what happened to me from the time the insanity of the first drink entered my thoughts, to the time I came to.
I drove home. The pain in my soul was so extreme; I felt that death was the only possible way out. The sickness in my own soul had hit my absolute threshold. I knew it was not possible for me to take even one iota more. I had a shotgun in the house. I thought that if I put the barrel in my mouth and pull the trigger with my toes, I would be relieved.
But I knew the shells were old shotgun — if it misfired — it could be very painful and unfortunate if I lived. I wanted less pain – not more, yet death was the only way.
I did not know it, but THIS was a jumping-off place where I had never been before – the one I had heard of before from others.
I headed for the basement to bring the gun back upstairs to bed. On the way, I stopped. I stood on the balcony outside of the bedroom and looked down at my son’s room, where he lay asleep. “What about him?” I thought. “What of him growing up without a daddy like you did?”. And I got help.
Bill’s Story (Black American Male, Aged 44)
I came-to that Sunday morning 27 years ago, just like every other morning: hungover. Sunlight streamed through the window, nudging me awake.
“Ugh,” I grunted.
Too sick to move, my head ached like a thumb hit by a hammer.As I tried to piece together the night before, and the day or two before that, the thought haunted me that the blackouts, which for the last few months had progressed from occasional to inevitable, were a symptom of – not alcoholism, no, never that – insanity.
“That’s it,” I said to myself out loud, “I’m nuts.” How else could I explain it all? I never considered alcoholism. After all, I wasn’t a skid row bum.The power of the realization – that despite countless promises to myself I was utterly unable to control my drinking – overwhelmed me.
Soaked with sweat, I glanced from my bed through the window at the sky. It was an annoyingly beautiful spring day. Birds chirped loudly, several sat on my windowsill as if mocking me. Suddenly I mumbled out loud, “If there is a God, please help me.” I had absolutely no expectation that anything would come of that request. And I’m not sure where it came from — it just bubbled up from within me.
Without exaggeration, less than a minute later there was a loud knock on my door. I did what I usually do when confronted by something unpleasant: I ignored it. Too sick to move I assumed silence would send whoever was at my door a message: Bill’s not here.A louder, more insistent, knock soon followed.
I winced. In my condition I could hear my eyelids move. Moments later another, even louder, knock. A voice said, “I know you’re in there.” Then the voice started pounding on the door.
I struggled to my feet and shuffled toward the voice. By the time I reached the door I knew it belonged to my landlady, Norma. I inched open the door and could see that she was angry.
Although I couldn’t fathom why she’d be angry, Norma quickly explained that she had awakened to find her ceiling caving in – I lived directly above Norma’s apartment. A hazy memory came to mind as Norma described the water streaming down her walls. I recalled the night before I had opened a bottle of wine, lit a few candles, and run a bath. A relaxing evening -chilled wine, warm bath, scented candles.
But I promptly became distracted by something else, perhaps a TV program, or finishing off the second bottle of wine, and passed out. I vaguely recall coming-to later that night to find bath water soaking my hall carpet. This accounted for the overflow seeping down into Norma’s ceiling, which now hung ominously low like a threatening thundercloud. Consequently, Norma was now at my door.
“I’ve been watching you, boy,” Norma said in a thick West Texas drawl as she stepped closer, poking her finger in my chest. “You are an alky-holic” she said with a deepening frown. “I know, I been watching you.” She narrowed her gaze as if she were watching a bug crawl across my face. “My son’s an alky-holic; so are you.”
My coming and going – more accurately, my stumbling and slurred speech -had become routine. Once reserved for weekends and after-work carousing, since I’d lost my last job as a till-dipping bartender, my drinking had been constant.
“My boy don’t drink no more,” Norma said. “He goes to Alky-holics Anonymous.” I glanced down the hall to see if any neighbors could hear this conversation. “He goes to Alky-holics Anonymous, and he don’t drink,” Norma repeated as if I hadn’t heard her the first time. Then she looked at me as if I had told her water was wet and said, “You need to go to Alky-holics Anonymous, boy.”
I protested with a contrived excuse about family illness causing my excessive drinking. In any event, she’s deluded, I thought. There was simply no way that I was going to some Salvation Army soup kitchen.
“You’d better go to one of them meetings, today,” she said. “Or I’m evicting you first thing come morning.” She paused. “And I want proof you went. Bring me one of them Big Books.”
I wondered how big this book might be, and whether I’d need anyone to help me carry it.
After Norma had her say, she focused one of her most piecing stares at me, turned and walked away. I stood in my doorway relieved she had left, and shuddered. “Yeah, right.” I closed the door as Norma disappeared down the hall.
By this time of day Dallas convenience stores were selling beer and wine -no hard liquor on Sunday. But I knew if I had one beer there’d be an eviction for sure, because my next move would be more beer — as always.
I don’t remember much about my first sobriety meeting. I do recall being handed a book by a guy named Cecil, someone I couldn’t imagine would have anything in common with me. Me: a slick transplant from New York City and Cecil: a TV repairman from a rural Texas burg. But I couldn’t help staring at Cecil as he spoke. It was as if he’d been reading my mail. He described what happened to him when he drank, how he felt, the way he thought. It was me. Cecil told my story.
I’d like to tell you I’ve been sober since that first meeting years ago, but I wasn’t ready to stay sober. Yet Cecil made an impression that kept me coming back until I eventually got it. Or at least began to enjoy the freedom that millions of alcoholics have come to know.
I’ve heard it said that God works through people. And that there are no coincidences, only “God-incidences.” I think there may be something to that. In fact, I suspect God just might have a bit of a west Texas drawl.