AA celebrates 50 years in Lismore

The Lismore-based Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend but the event wont be toasted with anything stronger than a cup of tea.

For local woman Jane (whose name has been changed to protect her privacy) AA has all but saved her life, and shes now been alcohol-free for 20 years.

I could never have done it without AA, she said. Its an awful disease, and when I first got sober I was going to meetings almost nightly to get the support I needed to stay off the drink. We dont put a life sentence on ourselves that well never drink again, we just take it one day at a time. And theres always someone to call on for help when you feel desperate.

Alcoholics cop a lot of social stigma as people often dont see it as a legitimate disease, despite it being recognised as such by the World Health Organisation.

Before she turned to AA and worked through their 12-step program, Jane had an avalanche of troubles.

I was a problem to myself and to my family, she said. I was on Valium and Serapax, I was unreliable, and I had two children I hadnt seen for a long time. At one stage I even tried to commit suicide.

Jane had been drinking heavily for 10 years before she decided to kick the habit.

The further down you go, the more you think what youre doing is normal, she said. It took me a long while to admit to myself that I was an alcoholic. I tried to deal with it by myself, and I blamed other people. I used to think if only I had more money, if only fate had been kinder.

Jane visited AA meetings a few times over those dark years, but didnt take it seriously.

Then in the last week of my drinking I just knew in my own gut it was alcohol, she said. The blinkers came off and I went back to AA. Finally I was willing to look at myself.

Jane says giving up alcohol set her free to live a rewarding life.

I used to have a terrible sense of impending doom and gloom, and I drank to get rid of it, she said. But once I was sober, the bad feelings were gone. And it was wonderful that I had the opportunity to make up for the hurt I had caused people in my life.

Although she has been sober for more than two decades, Jane still goes to AA regularly to keep herself from slipping back.

And these days its more about helping others, the way people helped me in the beginning, she said. Now my life is full I have a job, a husband and family, a farm, and I get involved in lots of community activities.

Jane says its important to remember alcoholism can affect anybody from any walk of life, and encourages anyone who thinks they might have a problem to attend a meeting.

They are held in Lismore at the Red Dove Centre every weekday from 12.15pm; at Riverlands every Monday at 6.30pm, Wednesday at 7.30pm and Thursday at 7pm; and at the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre every Friday at 7pm. Meetings are also held in most other towns around the Northern Rivers.

For more information phone Barbara on 6622 1670 or visit www.aa.org.au.

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