An Inside Look at Alcoholics Anonymous

Last week, we talked about What Al-Anon is really like and had a look on the inside by someone who has dealt with loving people with substance abuse issues. Chris Stachura shared her story with us. Thank you, Chris!

This week, I want to give you an inside look at how substance abuse can cause a multitude of problems for people. Thankfully there are programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that can help. I’ve been told many times that it literally saved someone’s life.

Darlene Steelman has generously offered to share her story with us today in the hopes that anyone reading this that needs help will seek it. Like Chris, I met Darlene online. Darlene and I had each signed up for an online class. At the end of that class, some of the members decided to form a group to support each others’ writing efforts. There are many wonderful people in that group that I greatly admire, but none more so than Darlene.

At her blog, Sober Living – Life At Full Throttle, Darlene talks about a variety of topics, but there is a general theme to her posts and that is to live life to the fullest. She doesn’t shy away from her former problems. In fact, she uses her blog to show how great life can be while sober. She’s also talked about AA and how she has benefited from it.

So without further interruption from me, I’m going to let Darlene tell you her story.

Hi, my name is Darlene and I am an alcoholic.

I am here at Rhonda’s blog today to share my experience, strength and hope.  Rhonda asked me to share my story regarding my alcoholism/addiction and I am always eager to spread the message to other still suffering alcoholics and/or addicts.

A painfully shy, geeky kid, I was thirteen the first time I drank.  I realized that it made me feel different and I felt free, loose and relaxed. Of course, my mother (who put the fear of MOM into me) caught me and I did not pick up again until I was fourteen.

I could go into my trysts, adventures and dilemmas over the span of my active addiction, but the ultimate result was never positive, never pretty and usually ended up with me waking up naked somewhere with some person I did not remember.

Yeah, not cool.

In 2006, I hit my bottom.  I lost my house, my job and eventually my kids.  For three weeks after Child Services came to visit me and take my children, I went on a major, self-absorbed pity party tear.  If there was booze, cocaine or pills around, I was there.   If there was a man giving me the once over?  Even better.  I never admitted it, but I wanted to die. Looking back, I see that I put myself in dangerous situations purposefully.

I guess God had a bigger plan for me.

One night came and I had my cocaine, my booze, and my pills. My purse was in the other room on the bed and I had to get my cigarettes.  I walked by the full-length mirror that whispered empty promises to me just three weeks earlier.  Now, it screamed the truth into my sunken face.

I looked like hell.

I looked like a crack whore, although I never smoked crack. I had dropped down to 115 pounds.  That never sits well on a 5 foot 10 inch frame.  I looked around the two-room apartment in which I had been staying.  There were dirty dishes everywhere, empty cigarette packs and crushed up Oxycontin residue all over my desk.

I dropped to my knees as tears streamed my face, and I begged God for help.

He must have heard me.  Someone did.  I know the strength I mustered in the three months I lived in that basement (a married couple still using lived upstairs) getting clean and sober was not of my own doing.

I called the agency that took my children.  I was ready to get help.  I was ready to get clean. They directed me to an outpatient program in Bensalem, PA.   They had groups where I could share my story with other people who turned out to have stories similar to mine.

That is the thing about groups, meetings and outpatient therapy.  We all think we are so different, but we realize we are not after we meet other alcoholics/addicts.  Sure, our stories vary, but we are the same.

My sober date is May 26, 2006: two days before my oldest daughter’s sixteenth birthday.  I am happy to say I continue to live clean and sober today.

The road has smoothed some, but in the beginning, it was rocky. It was a hard deal realizing I played a part in my own addiction/alcoholism.  I blamed everyone else for my problems.  I was a victim subjected to unwanted dilemmas and drama.

It was not my fault.  But then again, it was. As soon as I accepted that and said, “Okay, I screwed up.  Now I need to make it right.  How do I make that happen?”  And always tried to do the next right thing, good things started to happen.

To the Family Member

If you or someone you love has a drinking or drug problem, I suggest getting them some information on Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.  These two programs help people who want help.  The hardest step after that is walking away.  Because, ultimately, a person cannot be helped unless they want to help themselves. All of our making excuses, calling them out of work and giving them food and gas money is called enabling and it hurts them while it quells our own guilt.

To the Alcoholic/Addict

It works if you work it. You get out of it what you put into it. The one thing you always must do – ALWAYS – is be honest with yourself.  If you are not honest with yourself, it will not work.  Sure, you can do it for your kids, for your mother, your dog, your boss, your boyfriend or your job.  That will last a little while, but you have to do it for you.

Living in Chaos (Sorry — I couldn’t get this video to embed.)

What is a meeting really like?

A typical meeting is really filled with people that are there for support and to support. They are not dark and gloomy as depicted on television or filled with disheveled people who look down on their luck.  Meeting types vary.  There are:

open (anyone can attend)
closed (only people with a desire to stop drinking can attend)
big book (read and discuss the big book)
speaker (an alcoholic speaks for the first part of the meeting)
topic (a member chairs the meeting and picks a topic to discuss)
step (one of the twelve steps is read and discussed)
men’s (men only)
women’s (women only)
beginners (focused on those new to sobriety)

At meetings, members do not discuss alcohol, or their last drunk.  The common goal is a desire to stop drinking and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.  Talking about drinking does not effectively reach a goal. Instead, members focus on carrying the message of sobriety.

Certainly, a newcomer does not want to hear about alcohol or the trysts of a member (no one does really) so the message of sobriety is the focus.

Thanks for letting me share.

Thank you for being my guest today, Darlene. I admire how you have turned your life around. Congratulations on 6 years in May! You are an inspiration to others. 🙂

If you have a drinking or other substance abuse problem, I hope you will give AA a chance. And if the first meeting you go to doesn’t feel right for you — try another. I’ve been told that each meeting has its own dynamics. So you should be able to find a place that you feel comfortable.

No one is going to tell you that getting clean and sober will be easy. But it will be easier with a support system like AA. And no matter how hard it is, just remember one thing. You are worth it.

Click here to find a meeting near you.

You can follow Darlene at her Blog and on Twitter

Do you have experience with NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and want to share your story as part of this series? If so, please send an email to:

I sincerely hope these posts and comments from those who have been there and turned their lives around will inspire others to get the help they need. What about you? Has AA ever helped you or someone you love? If you’re comfortable, please share your story and the benefits you received from attending AA meetings in the comments. Or if this hasn’t been an issue for you, feel free to make any comments you like. Thank you all for reading!

Follow Rhonda Hopkins:

The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

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24 Responses

  1. Catie Rhodes

    Darlene–how brave of you to post your story. You are an inspiration. Congratulations on your upcoming sober birthday. I related to so much of what you said, though I don’t want to go into it publicly. You are far braver than I, girl!

    I’ll reiterate what I said in the comments of the Al-Anon post. To anybody who thinks they need help or just wants the support of other people living with an addict, don’t be afraid to try NA or AA or Alanon. It is probably the most available of places to go for help, and it is free. As Rhonda mentioned–probably quoting me–every meeting has a different vibe so it is likely there is a group out there that will appeal to just about anybody who wants help and support.

    Thanks for posting these, Rhonda. It’s a true public service.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thank you, Catie! I knew I heard that recently, just couldn’t remember where. I’ve heard that many times through the years by several different people, so if you need help, please take Catie’s advice. Darlene is very brave and a great inspiration, isn’t she? Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Catie!

  2. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    Congratulations, Darlene, on your continuing sobriety. You’re obviously a very strong and determined woman, which will do you well for the rest of your life. You’ve proved to yourself that you can live life without the alcohol and drugs and have a better life without those things.
    You go!

  3. Rhonda Hopkins

    One thing I forgot to mention in the main post: Sometimes those who suffer from drug addiction choose to use AA rather than NA. I’m not really sure why that is, but I’ve been told they like the meetings better. I’m sure this isn’t true of everyone, but regardless of your substance of choice, AA will welcome you.

  4. Veronica Valli

    Thanks so much for posting this Rhonda. Congratulations Darlene on 6 years, I am a May baby too (coming up to 12 years on May 2nd). Your enthusiasm and gratitude just leap of the screen. I know exactly how you feel, sobriety is just the best and available to anyone who wants it – for free through AA. Keep inspiring people, your job is to shine.
    PS. I’m also blogging about recovery and have an e-book coming out in the summer on sobriety. Best wishes.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Veronica! I found your blog earlier this week and I really like what you’re doing there. 🙂 Congratulations on your 12 years! And I hope you have much success with your book.

    • Darlene Steelman

      hey Veronica.. I am so stoked for you! Twelve years – so awesome. 🙂 Veronica, I’ll have my eyes peeled for your book!

  5. Jennette Marie Powell

    Wow, what a moving story – Darlene, thanks for sharing it.

    I think the hardest thing is for people to admit they have a problem, and unfortunately, it often takes hitting bottom like you did. I have a friend (yes, really a friend, not me) with a drinking problem, but until she admits it’s a problem, there’s nothing anyone can do for her. She has many enablers in her life too, so thanks for bringing up this point.

    And congrats on 6 years of being sober!

    • Darlene Steelman

      Jennette – it is so brave of you to admit to yourself about your friend. Enabling is so scary – we hate to see those we love in pain. Helping them makes the temporary comfort more for us.
      I hope your friend gets the help she needs… she’ll be in my prayers tonight.

  6. Darlene Steelman

    Rhonda – thank you so much for letting me guest post on your blog to share my story. You are a wonderful woman and am so grateful to know you!
    Most importantly, alcoholics/addicts and those that love them need to know they do not have to fight alone. There are resources out there to help them.
    Thanks again for the positive, kind words and the opportunity to guest here on your amazing blog.
    You are truly a pearl in my treasure chest of happiness.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thank you so much for being my guest today, Darlene and for the kind words. I’m so happy for your 6 years and grateful that you choose to help others by sharing your story. Like I said before, you are truly an inspiration and I’m very glad to know you. {{{hugs}}}

  7. Gregory Carrico

    That was a powerful post, Darlene. Addiction touches all of us, and none of us for the better. You touched on so many important things, but to me the point when we can accept responsibility for our own actions and situations is crucial, because only then are we empowered to take action to help ourselves. Thanks for sharing your story, and thanks to Rhonda for hosting you on her blog.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Greg! Glad you stopped by. Addiction does touch each of us in a variety of ways. I’m so thankful Darlene was willing to share her story with us.

    • Darlene Steelman

      Hey Gregory – thanks so much for your support. You are absolutely right. working with my sponsor taught me that I had a part in all of it. That really opened my eyes and helped me to stop the self-pity party.

  8. Karen McFarland

    Bravo Darlene! I am standing up and applauding! Wow, what a story. Thank you for sharing your story. How very brave of you! And thank you Rhonda! When I read things like this, it makes me appreciate what others go through. 🙂

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      She was brave, wasn’t she? Very inspiring story. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment, Karen. Hope you’re having a great weekend!

    • Darlene Steelman

      Hi Karen! Thanks so much for your encouragement… I always hope that I can help someone to know that they are not alone…

  9. Heidi

    I think Darlene was vulnerable, direct and accurate. I especially like the fact that she tells people the only way to help an addict is to provide the initial contact with AA or NA and then, bow out. She’s right! Work it or lose it, is how I put it. I’m an alcoholic and agree that honesty is the main ingredient that has to accompany willingness for any of us to actually recover. Good job. Love this. I’m subscribing. Thank you for being here with such good information. Bless you.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thank you, Heidi. I appreciate your willingness to share. It’s wonderful there are people like you and Darlene who are helping others with your stories. Bless you!