From the August 2011 magazine.

Women in AA in the 1950s

Remembering what it was like to get sober as a woman in the early days of AA in the Twin Cities

"One day in 1956 a new woman, Kathy B., came to my Robbinsdale group."

My name is Betty H., and I'm an alcoholic. In 1953 I got sober. I'm not sure what led me to sobriety—a three-day binge, my husband's threats to haul me to the state hospital, or suddenly being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Perhaps it was all of the above. I was in my mid-twenties but had already had a long history with alcoholism.

When I was a tot, my family, who were no strangers to drinking, thought it amusing to let me drink from their glasses to the point that I would get a buzz on. My mother found me in the pantry at about age two, drinking from my father's 'dead soldiers,' a neat row of bottles on the pantry shelf. I started living my life to accommodate drinking by the time I was thirteen. Back in the day I was a pretty good-looking chick. I knew if I sat on a stool at any bar on Hennepin Ave., I would need only to pay for one or two drinks. Soon there would be someone buying them for me. I'd get dolled up to go find that bar stool and that drunk. I always liked to think I was in control and would make trips to the restroom to force myself to throw up, so I could continue to drink. How's that for sick?

-- Betty H. (as told to Deborah H.)

Mesa, Arizona

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