From the February 2007 magazine.

Land Of The Retired Party Girls

Where's the good time?

My entire social life revolved around drinking. "What do you people do for fun?" was the first question I asked my sponsor after I joined AA because it was my biggest worry. I could not imagine having fun without alcohol.

A member of my first home group dubbed AA "the land of the retired party girls." That described me, or so I thought. I would have lived in bars and clubs if I could have. I loved everything about the night life: the sparkling décor, the glittery shirts, and the shiny wine glasses. I convinced myself that it was all about dancing and being around people.

I denied my alcoholism by never drinking alone. (Well, hardly ever. And since it wasn't often, it didn't count, right?) I partied hard and ignored how I woke up in strange places with strange people, or kept bourbon stashed in my closet for "emergencies."

I learned about AA after attending a few Al-Anon meetings to cope with an alcoholic in my life. I felt guilty going with a hangover. Of course, I now know I was at the wrong meeting. But they work the same Steps in Al-Anon as we do in AA, and a seed was planted. I started to think I might have a drinking problem.

The thought of going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings terrified me, and I had excuses: I wasn't bad off enough to qualify; AA meetings consisted of older men who had lost everything and drank every day; I didn't drink every day; and so on.

For eight years, I tried to control my drinking. I stayed dry twice, once for a year and another time for three years. Both dry periods were miserable. It felt like hell on earth. I was moody and depressed. I had horrible panic attacks and wanted to hide from the world; sometimes I was afraid to leave the house. I had no relief for the void that alcohol had filled. Because I didn't know anyone who didn't drink, I had no social life.

When I became miserable enough, I went to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in 2002. I was twenty-seven, and it shocked me to see so many people my age. A girl my age led that first meeting; I could relate to her because of the way she looked. There was one difference between us, however. She looked happy and peaceful. I didn't feel happy but gained a smidgen of hope just by looking at her. When she spoke about herself, I was immediately hopeful.

The following week, I asked her to sponsor me. We met a few days later, and she told me her story. I was amazed at the things she said and how the words rolled off her tongue with such ease. She started me on the Steps.

That night, we went to a large meeting. Being introduced to so many people overwhelmed me. I remember thinking, Wow! Are these people really sober? People played board games, laughed, and acted silly.

I have learned to feel more at ease, and I look forward to AA social activities, which is one of the miracles I have received. Before, I never looked forward to anything but drinking.

Contrary to my initial thoughts, my social life has blossomed. I never realized how limited my leisure activities had been. Today, I remember what I did the night before.

I'm still amazed at the many ways Alcoholics Anonymous has affected me. My life today is enriched, full, and far beyond any of my dreams. As a sober member of AA, I not only show newcomers how to work the Steps, read the Big Book, ask for help, and pray, I also show them how to have fun without being drunk. Thank God someone showed me.

-- Maryanne M.

St. Louis, Missouri,