Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

Woman opens up about alcoholic past to help others with drinking problems

'I never pictured, being a trial attorney, that scenario where somebody would call me an alcoholic,' admits 'Sue' who has not had a drop of alcohol in 34 years.

ABU DHABI // As a successful lawyer, no one would have thought “Sue” was heavily addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Not only did she hide her addiction for years but during her 35-year stint as a lawyer in the United States she also represented her own drug dealers in court.

“I never understood that the first drink was the one that got me drunk,” said Sue, who now lives in Dubai. “But one drink is not enough and a thousand is not enough.”

Sue started drinking in her teens before dabbling in drugs in the 1960s.

She then turned to harder drink and drugs and, in a spell working in an mental health institution before studying law, she would steal patients’ medicine.

During her binges Sue experienced black-outs and was the driver in a hit-and-run incident.

She also had an abortion during this time because of her issues.

As she began her legal training, she continued to use alcohol and drugs, even while pregnant. Her son was born severely underweight.

It was while supporting a family member who was receiving treatment for his own alcohol addiction that counsellors advised Sue that she also had a problem.

“A sense of ease and comfort came over me,” said Sue. “I never pictured, being a trial attorney, that scenario where somebody would call me an alcoholic.

“I thought I was crazy, I thought I was unlucky, that I was a misfit, neurotic or psychotic and I certainly had no idea how to fix it.”

Sue stayed at the centre for seven weeks.

After returning home she went to 90 meetings in 90 days, as recommended by the Alcoholic Anonymous 12 steps programme.

Sue has not drunk alcohol or used drugs since 1980.

It begs the question: after 34 years does she still need to attend regular AA meetings?

Quite simply, yes. Without support and a sponsor in the UAE, Sue could not cope.

“I would go crazy,” she said.

AA is run by its members. For the UAE chapter, Sue handles media information and speaks at conferences, schools and public meetings about addiction, using a pseudonym.

Sharing her story in public can be difficult but she feels it is important to give back. The kindness of a stranger plays a large part.

After five years sober, Sue wanted to repair some of the harm she caused. This included a hit-and-run in 1975, when she smashed into another car after a drinking binge.

Sue hired a private investigator who found the car, its owner, and paid her hospital bill and the US$19,000 damage to the car.

She wrote to the victim, admitting to being an alcoholic, apologising for the crime and asking to pay any losses. It caused countless sleepless nights because of her fears about the reaction.

But days later, Sue received a phone call from the victim who, instead of seeking retribution, thanked her for the letter saying it had given her hope for her alcoholic grandson.

Sue cries when talking about the call, a period she marks every year by sending the woman a red rose.

Speaking out now and encouraging others to seek help is a small price to pay for that kindness she was shown, she said.

jbell@thenational.ae

Updated: April 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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