Bob Holland

"I'm an alcoholic!" Whether a person is addicted to alcohol, gambling or anything else, it's a well-accepted fact that the first step towards overcoming any addiction is admitting you have a problem in the first place.

This story is about Alcoholics Anonymous here in Orange, and while my story talks much about the service they provide, what struck me most was that the organisation survives because many of the people who AA helps, are the same people who then give back to help others escape what they went through.

I met up with a chap, let's call him "Les" for the sake of this story. Les is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who is typical of so many who find themselves "addicted" to the point that their life is almost ruined. Note I said "almost"… Les's story show's there is a way back, no matter how bad things may seem at any one time.

I asked Les quite a lot of questions and here's some of what I discovered.

Who is AA run by?

It's run by the members who are, or were, alcoholics themselves. By alcoholics for alcoholics. By the way, alcohol addiction is a worse problem than drugs, because alcohol is legal.

What does AA offer?

A way of living. Freedom to choose. The fellowship of others who've recovered.

Who is eligible?

Anyone with a desire to stop drinking.

When are meetings held?

5 times a week, every week.

What happens at a meeting?

Up to around 20 people attend each meeting. We acknowledge we are dealing with a disease of untreated alcoholism’s. Meetings are geared to give people hope. Hearing and sharing other people's experiences, building friendships and trust and being "loved" back to life are the objectives. We treat it with 12 steps. No one is made feel inferior, meetings are not glum and we laugh a lot. We also refer to what we call "The AA Big Book of Stories" to draw inspiration and encouragement.

Is there a cost?

There is no cost. Voluntary donations are accepted towards tea and coffee but that's about it.

What's the success rate?

Essentially, if you have a genuine desire to get well, you will. History however shows that roughly 50% will get sober straight away, 25% will get sober after a few setbacks and 25% will show just some progress. AA has also proven itself to work where others, for one reason or another, don't.

What is a typical alcoholic's story?

In my case, I simply started drinking for fun. I had no problem drinking but the "fun" was killing me. From alcohol I progressed to hard drugs. For 40 years, my life saw me doing the rounds of police, hospitals, and the courts. During this time, I lost my family and hurt everyone who cared about me. Others who become alcoholics arrive there through relationship problems, mental illness issues, money problems, homelessness and more.

With AA's help that's all behind me now and I want to keep it that way. I, like so many others who have been there and are recovering, now spend a good part of my time helping others dig their way out of that pit.

If someone reading this is at the point where they feel AA could help them, what’s the first step?

Simply call Alcoholics Anonymous on 1300 AAAAAA or 1300 222222.