In 1999 I entered the University of Canterbury, aged 19. By the end of the year I had told everyone I’d decided to leave. No one could know I hadn’t studied. That I couldn’t be disciplined. That I couldn’t face sitting exams I knew I would fail. That I was secretly going on massive drinking binges. I would try to drink as much as I could without blacking out. But once I started I had to keep going. I had to have more. Over time the binges were getting closer together. At that time I could still hold myself back for a month or sometimes even two.

Shortly before I came to A.A. in 2005 I had to ‘borrow’ money (again) from mum to fly to Wellington for my sister’s graduation. By that time I had to drink at least once a week. I kept up appearances in front of the family but secretly I was stealing wine casks from youth hostels and sleeping at the railway station or in the hotel rooms of strangers. A nice lesbian couple I’d known at uni were astonished to find me drumming on an upturned bucket, busking on the pavement. I grinned and made up another story to explain it.

What was wrong with me? I’d always known I was different. I’d always “had to have more”. I felt cut off from everyone around me. It was unbearable.

It seemed to me I’d been born uniquely sensitive. That I needed more love than the other kids. My parents, it seemed to me, hadn’t been able to give me what I needed. I went through life with the terrible knowing that if anyone got close to me they’d find out that I was the most needy person in the world. I could not get enough. By the time I came to A.A. I’d spent masses of time and money trying to fix myself, to remove the emotional blocks I was sure had built up through my childhood conditioning.

I had to find some substance to get relief. Alcohol set me free. It was a miracle, every time. Something was terribly wrong. I was either out there trying to dominate the world or back in bed for increasing periods. I was incapable of caring about anyone else.

Today I know that that ‘having to have more’ is the root symptom of alcoholism. Alcohol was my solution to my alcoholism. Alcoholism to me means that there is something wrong with me that only alcohol could fix. But it is a progressive and fatal illness.

This year I’ve returned to the University of Canterbury to study English and German. After being able to hold a job for over two years, live on a budget and make my financial amends, I saved money for the fees with the help of my sponsor. Now I want to pinch myself in lectures. After scrubbing toilets and showering people with disabilities for over two years it feels like a dream to be ‘fulfilling the potential’ people always said I had. Yesterday it hit me that one day I may not have to do manual labour for a living. I like getting up early when it’s dark and quiet and starting the day with my prayer and meditation. Before recovery it was a good day if I got up and it was still morning!

God has removed the obsession to drink or take any mind-altering substance. All my life I had to ‘fix myself’. Today I have a quiet heart. All I want is to know how God wants to use me. How can I best use what gifts you’ve given me to help others? My sponsor helps me see the best way forward.

I will never be able to repay all that A.A. has given me. I pass on what I’ve been given to the still-suffering alcoholic students who reach out for help at the university’s A.A. meeting.