The toughest battle of all - supported by the AA

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Hundreds of people are members of a confidential, but not secret, society which meets in Cumbernauld seven days a week.

For decades Alcoholics Anonymous has been providing support for people in the area.

A recent survey showed that at least 250 local people, from all walks of life, are members, visiting one of 16 weekly meetings. The snapshot findings show 1963 years of sobriety between them; one member has stayed sober for over 40 years.

Full report at bottom of this article.

This week four members share their stories, and what the AA has done for them. Names have been changed to protect their 
anonymity.

Bill’s Story

He enjoyed fighting but lost his battle with drugs and drink

Bill came from a good home in Cumbernauld but started drinking at 12 and was soon into using drugs.

By 16 he was regularly involved in gang fights at the forefront and feeling invincible when charged with drink.

If he thought himself invincible, he certainly was not invisible because he was arrested regularly, got used to being locked up, and accumulated convictions for assault, breach, affray and offensive weapons charges.

In his late teens, Bill soured of the violence in his life and started to recognise some of the effects of his problem drinking. He realised that shakes, blackouts and panic attacks were increasing and he knew he had lost jobs through absence and attitude. Depression set in and he contemplated suicide.

Bill came to AA in 2002, aged 22. He admitted being alcoholic but thought he could control occasional use of drugs. He was to learn that drugs lead back to alcohol and he was 25 before he became sober and clean.

Now eight years sober and drug free, Bill is engaged with his wedding day set, he will shortly graduate with a BA (hons) degree and his conduct and life have changed completely through the A A 12 step Recovery Programme.

JACK’S STORY

His family was all important but drink became his priority.

Jack’s upbringing in Springburn and Provanmill was blighted by the violence visited upon him, his brother and his mother by an alcoholic father. These experiences may have influenced his own behaviour because in his teens he got himself involved in fights in pubs and his aggressive approach, particularly when he took alcohol, led to several encounters with military police during his national service years.

Depression became a constant companion as his behaviour started to mirror that of his father but, aged 27, Jack married the love of his life and promised he would become the best possible husband and father,

Now living in Cumbernauld, Jack never raised his hand to his wife or three children, but his drinking, aggressiveness and continuing depression created a very unhappy home and hangovers increasingly caused absences from work. Depression turned to despair and Jack twice tried AA meetings in 1979 before finally quitting drink in early 1980. Now more than 33 years sober Jack still attends AA regularly and loves helping newcomers to enter the AA programme. His depression lifted when he stopped drinking and he is hugely grateful that AA enabled him to become a loving husband, father and grandfather.

Laura’s Story

She believed her mental health, even her life, was in jeopardy.

Growing up in Cumbernauld, Laura was drinking at 13 and by 16 was a regular in local pubs and clubs. She loved the effects of alcohol but by her early 20s was experiencing shakes and ever increasing alcoholic blackouts (unable to remember actions, company, and whereabouts during drinking sprees) were bringing fear into her life. She reduced the frequency of her drinking, settled into a relationship and had two children, obtained academic qualifications and held down a good job.

Unfortunately when she drank she binged and then suffered the physical and mental consequences. Her long term relationship ended. She then entered a new relationship and tried even harder to control her drinking, but to no avail. Events occurred which made her believe that her mental health, even her life, was in jeopardy. Her drinking caused panic attacks and hallucinations and she required hospital treatment. Carryouts at her bedside and concern in her childrens’ eyes became commonplace.

Laura came to AA in August 2012 and is now nine months sober. She attends meetings regularly and this early in her AA journey can hardly believe the feeling of wellbeing in her life and the improvement in her relationship with her partner and children.

Lorraine’s Story

She attended her first AA meeting with vodka in her handbag.

Lorraine, a mother of five, was a greedy drinker from age 16 but can’t recall when liking drink became needing drink.

Early in her marriage she hid drink to avoid her husband seeing the extent of her drinking. When her planks were discovered she started leaving carryouts in the garden and retrieving them late at night. Alcohol was a major factor in the ensuing divorce but she continued drinking before and after she married again six years later. She constantly topped herself up and lived her life in an alcoholic haze. She attended to household chores but often could not recall her actions for days at a time. These memory losses (blackouts) included domestic arguments and making abusive late night calls to relatives. After the death of her second husband she drank constantly and regularly experienced DTs, shakes and seizures. Blackouts increased as she tried to drown feelings of guilt, remorse, fear and hopelessness.

Lorraine attended her first AA meeting, aged 54, with drink in her system and vodka in her handbag but the meeting gave her hope and in the 12 years since that night she has lived life sober a day at a time through the AA Programme.

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Cumbernauld & District Intergroup

Public Information (PI) & Cooperation with the Professional Community (CPC)

Survey of attendance at AA meetings within Cumbernauld

during the period 1st December to 7th December 2012

___________________________________________________

Facts about the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous

AA came in to being in America on 10th June 1935. The first meeting in the UK took place in London on 31st March 1947. The Fellowship came to Glasgow in March 1948 and the first meeting in Cumbernauld was held in November 1966.

AA is now estimated to have 2.2 million members across 134 countries.

There are 97,000 groups worldwide, including 3,300 UK groups.

AA Meetings in Cumbernauld

Cumbernauld is well served by Alcoholics Anonymous with 16 scheduled meetings per week, 8 in the daylight hours and 8 evening meetings, at locations within easy reach of the Town Centre

Public Information (PI) & Cooperation with the Professional Community (CPC)

The tradition of anonymity is of paramount importance in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

People coming to AA meetings are known by their first names only and members are expected to maintain personal anonymity in dealings with the media.

AA is not, however, a secret society and the Fellowship has a responsibility to inform those who need or want to know where it meets, how it works etc. etc.

This information is provided in various ways, including through individual AA members or committees nominated to undertake PI work and to liaise and cooperate with the professional community, which includes doctors, social workers, clergy, HR officers, court officials, trades union reps and others who may have contact with problem drinkers.

(Speakers from Cumbernauld AA also regularly deliver talks to students in the town’s secondary schools and college.)

The purpose of the survey

This survey was organised by the Cumbernauld PI Committee with the full cooperation of the AA groups with the object of gathering statistical information about the strength of AA in Cumbernauld.

This data has been analysed and used to create this report which can now be presented to professional organisations operating within Cumbernauld, which may wish to use AA as a resource in their work.

The scope of the survey

Survey forms were available at all 16 meetings in the week commencing 1st December 2012. All attendees who considered themselves members of AA were asked to fill in a form at just one of the meetings they attended that week and return it to the meeting chairman before leaving the meeting. Each meeting chairman was asked to take a head count of his/her meeting and give the numbers of men and women.

The form asked for basic information about the person (gender, age), their AA experience (what age were they introduced to AA, did they belong to a group, how long is their current sobriety, how many meetings have they attended in the last week to date, how many meeting do they normally attend in a week) and an assessment of their satisfaction with their sobriety and an estimation of their gratitude to Alcoholics Anonymous.

The survey headlines

Survey forms were offered to all 178 people who attended AA meetings in Cumbernauld in the week commencing 1st December 2012

There were 177 participants in the survey (105 males; 72 females)

171 forms were fully completed

2 respondents chose not to provide age details

2 respondents chose not to provide an assessment of their satisfaction with and gratitude for their sobriety

These omissions have negligible impact on survey findings

2 respondents chose not to provide details of the length of continuous sobriety achieved (Both have been assumed to be less than 1 year sober in statistics provided later in this report and neither has been included in the count of total sobriety of respondents)

Total attendances at the 16 meetings held in the week commencing 1st December 2012 was 395 confirming that, on average, members attend a minimum of 2 meetings per week.

76% (135) of respondents regard themselves as being a member of specific group, which they make every effort to attend each week.

Of the 16 meetings surveyed, 5 meetings had between 10 and 19 attendees, 7 meetings had between 20 and 29 attendees, 3 meetings had between 30 and 39 attendees and one meeting had over 50 attendees.

Daytime meetings attracted an average attendance of 27 while evening meetings attracted an average of 22.

There were 12 respondents who had joined AA within the last year, one of whom was actually attending his/her first meeting in the week of the survey. (The survey is unable to quantify the many other newcomers who attended AA meetings in Cumbernauld in the last 12 months, or the many hundreds since 1966, and decided either to continue drinking or find other ways to achieve sobriety.)

83 respondents have maintained continuous sobriety either immediately or within 12 months of their introduction to AA.

The remaining 82 respondents have had one or more relapses since coming to AA but nearly two thirds of them are currently more than one year sober and a number have been sober for 10 years or more.

The total current continuous sobriety achieved by the 175 respondents is 1,963 years.

136 members are more than one year sober

25 of this number are more than 5 years sober

19 more than 10 years, 17 more than 15 years,

17 more than 20 years, 17 more than 25 years,

6 more than 30 years, 1 more than 35 years

and 1 member who is more than 40 years sober.

The men and women of AA

Of the 177 respondents to the survey 72 (41%) were women.

Going down the age scale to the under-40 age group we find that the male/female ratio moves to 50/50.

It is worthy of note that 10 of the 12 newcomers identified in the survey, are women.

The age groupings

Members were asked to disclose the age they were when they first came to AA and the age they are now.

Age came to AA: The age at which male respondents came to AA ranged from 18 to 73 years. For females, the range was 19 to 69 years. The average for the 176 respondents is 40 years.

Age at time of survey: The age of male respondents ranged from 26 to 82 years. Ages of female respondents ranged from 27 to 78 years. The average for the 175 respondents is 56 years.

Satisfaction and gratitude

The survey asked how satisfied members were with their sobriety and how grateful they were for the gift of sobriety. These are subjective questions and some guidance was offered to try to keep the responses consistent.

Satisfaction: We know from sharing experience that members are generally aspiring to improve the quality of their sobriety and their lives, mainly through practicing the spiritually based AA Twelve Step Recovery Programme. The survey showed that on the question of satisfaction with sobriety, 39% responded that they were 100% satisfied. 49% rated their contentment in the 50-90% band, whilst the remaining 12% rated themselves below 50%.

Gratitude: Just 4 respondents declared themselves to be less than 50% grateful. 75% of respondents declared themselves to be 100% grateful.

Some figures

Daytime meetings have an average attendance of 27 members

Evening meetings have an average attendance of 22 members