Staying Sober in Cyprus

This member of AA shares what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now staying sober during a global pandemic. 

I first started drinking alcohol when I was about 14, although not on a regular basis. At 18 I began working in a large drinking culture where there was duty free alcohol, and off-duty drinking was the social norm. I had long periods of vacation, and due to the fact I was off, I was drinking constantly during these periods and never seeing anything wrong with my behaviour. This scenario continued for many years, though the work environment social drinking stopped in the 90’s. However, whenever I was off on vacation periods, I now see that I was drinking alcoholically.

I am now sure I was a full-blown alcoholic from the time I took my first drink, and quite possibly my illness was passed to me from the word go, so I never stood a chance. I had an alcoholic father and suffered all the angst that situation caused. Once I escaped the home environment I vowed to never do the same.

Having grown up as a shy and lonely child, I drank to overcome feeling uncomfortable in social situations. Once I  was told that I was an emotionally immature adult, which I took insult at, but was probably a true diagnosis.

Ten years ago I was admitted into rehab for 28 days after getting myself into a big mess. As part of the recovery programme I was introduced to AA and the 12 Steps. I left rehab and stayed sober for five and a half months. I attended meetings but did not follow the suggested programme of recovery, but still I thought I was doing OK. I ended up at a Christmas party and went with the intention of not drinking, and before I knew it, there was a gin and tonic in my hand and then down my throat. Needless to say that set me off on a very slippery slope.

I drank again for five years, although not continuously. I would have periods of sobriety of three months before starting again, although when I did start again the drinking would become heavier. Things eventually got to a point where I lost my job, and I didn’t care anymore. I began drinking into oblivion during binge sessions, then sober up and stay sober for three months again as I threw myself into fitness, only for it all to fall apart again. It never crossed my mind to return to AA, as I had never enjoyed being at meetings.

My last binge started after I had been sober again for three months. It was, in my mind, unintentional as I had no need to pick up. I was happy and on reflection I think that is why I picked up again. I wanted to enjoy wine with my dinner. Well that wine turned into three bottles in one go, and then I was off again on a binge. I tried a few times to stop, however by this time alcohol had me firmly in it’s grip. I started suffering withdrawal effects an hour after the last drink. Research has lead me to believe this was due to the “kindling effect”. I drank constantly for six weeks, trying to fight off withdrawal and feel normal. I knew deep down I was in a very bad and dangerous place in my head. That said, the alcoholic brain was always telling me another drink will make me feel better, and I do not need help. This resulted in me screaming at the walls in anger, frustration and self- loathing.

I came round on the floor in the morning of October 3, 2016 and saw half a glass of booze on the table and half a bottle. The first temptation was to throw it all down my throat, feel a bit better and stagger to the nearest market to buy more. In my more lucid moments during this last binge I had started reading the many articles I had on alcoholism and AA. A seed had been planted and I was desperate to stop and sort myself out, as I was disgusted and horrified at how low I had become.

I don’t know if it was willpower (though I seriously doubt it), self-preservation or a Higher Power looking after me, but I threw the alcohol down the sink and any other I could find and locked myself in for five days. Needless to say I went through hell those days and I don’t remember much about them as I went through withdrawal and drying out. I knew there was only one solution and that this was to attend AA meetings as there was no way of going into a rehab facility.

As soon as I felt capable of getting to a meeting I went back to my old group. I was certainly not in good shape that particular day, and after I returned home I spent two days pacing around trying to convince myself not to go again. My alcoholism was telling me I could do it on my own, but I knew I would fail and be back at square one. I attended the next meeting, and the next and the next, and as I gradually began to feel physically and mentally better, I began to believe I had made the right choice by attending AA. Fortunately, I very quickly got myself a sponsor who pushed me (which is what I needed) in the right direction.

The steps have helped me considerably to find myself, resolve my inner turmoils, understand who I am, and love myself before I can love others. More importantly, they have are my tools for dealing with the challenges that life gives me.

Since then I have not looked back. I have worked the steps over these past four years, I attend meetings regularly, perform secretary service for my group, and am now involved in Intergroup. I have reinvented myself by turning my hobby of diving into a profession, working seasonally here in Cyprus (I’m an expat) and it gives me great pleasure meeting different people and teaching. I get a real sense of satisfaction knowing people can explore the beautiful underwater world.

This year is exceptionally challenging due to COVID and visa / travel restrictions, and my partner and I have now been separated for 9 months, with no end in sight of being together again. The tools of the 12 Steps have and are helping me cope with the mental, emotional, and physical separation I am experiencing, and I now have the emotional strength to constantly support her during this time, and I like to think keep us both sane.

I hope a small part of my story can be of help to the still suffering alcoholic. The biggest message I have is that there is still hope to recover and lead a full meaningful life, without the need to use alcohol.

Do I miss it? Yes and no. I drank seriously from being 18 until I was 64, so the greater part of my life involved drinking. I cannot honestly say I do not miss drinking, however I am fully aware that I am unable to because I am an alcoholic, albeit in recovery one day at a time. As long as I continue to practice my programme, I can lead a long, happy, and fruitful life and use my experience to help others, as they have and are helping me in the Fellowship.

If I were still drinking I know I would not be able to cope. I would probably have drunk myself to death by now and just become another statistic of alcohol. If it were not for the AA programme of recovery and the Fellowship I would not be writing these words today, and for this I am eternally grateful.

Chris S., Cyprus