How 12-step recovery helped me live my life again

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By Beth Collard, Trustee and Manager

I was 24 and at my first 12-step meeting. I had been with a member of the fellowship in the daytime and they had got me to that meeting in the evening with the promise of hope and something that would finally change my life.

I didn’t believe that was possible. I was drunk and had been drunk all day. I only heard two things – that I had to believe in God and that total abstinence was the only way. I left, and I told myself and everyone else that 12-step wasn’t for me.

I couldn’t comprehend what these meetings could do for me and I was terrified of the talking and the sitting in circles and, of course, the not drinking.

Two years passed since that first meeting and my life deteriorated quickly and mercilessly. I became homeless and was in and out of hospitals and police stations. Nobody in my family expected me to survive. I tried everything to stop the pain and everyone else tried everything to stop my addictions.

I know that I was full of fear and the thought of sitting with people in a meeting who could see that was excruciating. I couldn’t imagine ever being comfortable in that place. Something had changed in me though. I tried it again and it felt different to the many, many things that I had tried in the past to stop my addiction. I felt hope when I saw women laughing and talking and sharing their stories. I knew I was desperate to have what they had but I didn’t know how to get there.

Within a year I would spend six months in a rehab, learn a little about the 12 steps and addiction, relapse and get sober again. That year changed my life. I felt hope and love in a way I had never felt before and I began to be able to laugh and feel joy. I was still terrified but so were other people and somehow that helped me. I started to get to know people in meetings and they would talk about their fears and how they were trying to be honest, open-minded and willing. They were all trying to stay away from their addictions one day at a time. All I had to do was get to the meetings and I could do that too.

I could learn about the concept of my higher power later and that was ok with me once I started listening. It didn’t feel as scary as that first meeting. I went to meetings twice a day for a long time and surrounded myself with people who were just like me. I got a sponsor who introduced me to the twelve-step work and I found friends in recovery communities who really helped me to get well and stay well.

I have now been attending 12 step meetings in Newcastle for over 11 years. I have continued to attend because I cannot imagine my life without them and I know that I don’t have to. I don’t want to drink anymore but I do have to deal with life and emotions and relationships and the twelve step meetings give me the space to do that. I’ve shared all of my ups and downs in meetings or one to one with a sponsor or close recovery friends. I share my feelings, and someone always identifies. I hear others talk and I identify with them. I am no longer alone in my fear and panic over whatever I’m dealing with.

People question how it works in meetings. I don’t know. I do know that I don’t need to know. I just need to do what I’ve done for the past 11 years and I get to be in this world where I can manage my life, enjoy myself and feel genuine love for myself and others. I didn’t experience any of that in the years before I attended meetings regularly. As I sit writing this in my house listening to my children giggling at each other while they play in the garden outside I feel peace and contentment and full of love. I am very grateful to have found twelve step recovery.

Beth Collard, Trustee