I grew up in an alcoholic home, as many of us did, so when I began to drink as a teen, it was no big deal - especially in the '60s in rural 'Redneck, Alberta, Canada'. I swore I would never be like my father, though, (he was a falling-down drunk, violent, and one of the 'reasons' I drank, because he made my life as a teen so unbearable), so when the drugs came along, that suited my image of myself much better. Besides, I hated the taste of booze <vbg>.

I left the Prairies at 17 and moved to Vancouver Island, and I can still remember the first time I put my toes into the Pacific Ocean - I felt a rush, like I'd 'come home,' through my whole body. I spent hundreds of hours on the rocks overlooking the beach, writing, writing, writing - poetry, journalling, whatever. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I 'grew up,' but I had no idea how that would happen.  I walked for miles along the shoreline - searching for serenity. That ocean came to be, for me, the symbol for the freedom I was so desperately seeking. But at the time, I was just a messed-up 18 year old with a whole lot of ACOA issues I didn't even know about!

Into my twenties, 'married with child', things were still 'under control' - until I left my first husband, in 1976, with a 3-year-old and pregnant with #2. A well-meaning friend started taking me to the bar to 'cheer me up' and help me to meet people. I was 25, single, an occasional singer/songwriter, and that bar hosted a Talent Night, so it was the perfect place for this newly-awakened party girl!  Well, by the time my daughter was born in July of 1977, she was what's now called Fetal Alcohol Affected - a 'mild case' of FAS, born addicted to alcohol.

That was scary, and I was overcome with guilt (they didn't think she would live at first, and I had to take her for all kinds of tests), so I stayed home with her until she was 3 months old - being a perfect little mommy so no one could say it was my fault. Oh, the addict's mind is an amazing thing! At 3 months old, my doctor pronounced her a miracle, and I did what any non-self-respecting drunk would do - got a babysitter and went to the bar to celebrate.

I pretty much stayed there for the next nearly 3 months - 'celebrated' my 25th birthday in November of that year, Christmas and New Year's, with my 'friends' -- lots of stealing, lying, cheating, and one-night-stands, morals going down the tube, friends and family falling away rapidly... you know the deal. The Public Health Department had begun to ask my neighbours questions about how I was (not) taking care of my children...

Then, in January of 1978, when my son was 4 and my baby nearly 6 months old, I picked up a man named Michael one night. He was a daily black-out drinker, violent and unpredictable - and I fell madly in love! (Can anyone relate? hahaha) We drank together for about 6 months, until life got a little too crazy for me, and I found out I was pregnant again - aaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh. I knew I was crazy, but I was crazy about that guy, too, and I could see his 'potential'. So I confronted him about HIS drinking. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous that day, November 9th, 1978 - he's 25 years sober now.

I, on the other hand, didn't have a problem, of course! So I became a wonderful little self-righteous partner, compassionately supporting my newly-recovering partner, and attending Alanon meetings. I didn't have any booze in the house for weeks. When he was a couple of months sober, I decided that it should be okay for me to drink again - and drink, I DID, big-time!

Our youngest daughter was born in June of that year (1979), and on August 9th we got around to getting married <vbg>. It was a 'program' wedding, under the willow tree in our back yard. The (non-denominational) woman who married us was the director of the local alcoholism treatment centre at the time, and we held hands and said the serenity prayer with our guests after the ceremony. A week later, on August 17th, after our first 'married' fight, I got drunk 'at” my husband.

The next morning, when I woke up, I knew I'd finally hit bottom. He'd gone to his sponsor's house the night before to escape me (!) and I'd had a major black-out - my son, then 5, was really angry with me; I was scared to drink, and scared not to. I called Alcoholics Anonymous that morning - August 18th, 1979 - and I've never looked back. I celebrated 24 years of living sober this summer.

But I hated AA. I stayed sober, but had a constant struggle with 'the program,' the people in it, and with that GOD thing!! I had to practise one of our slogans constantly - 'principles before personalities.' It was a long, hard struggle. And I hated what I called 'testimonials' - people bragging about how wonderful their life was in recovery. I had so much anger and bitterness, I don't know to this day how I stayed sober... oh, yes, I do. <vbg>  Little by little, this program called AA, the wonderful people around me, and something I can now (usually) call a higher power, have worked it's magic on me. Today, I can say things like that I'm a grateful alcoholic! What a miracle!

On a personal note, after years of having various assorted 'real jobs (many of them in the addictions field),' and being in business, alone or with my hubby, I started sending some of my writing away to publishers when I was about 12 years sober. I was finally a writer! I've been a relatively successful free-lancer ever since, writing, editing and publishing for newspapers, magazines, net-based ventures and other publications.

Michael and I have celebrated almost 26 years together - learning how to live (and love) one day at a time. Think about that - these two people who both grew up in violent, alcoholic homes and met in a bar … are still happy together, almost 26 years later! Now, that's Power! This once-violent man (we had four separations in our first five years together) is now a kind, generous and wonderful human being, thanks to AA and a power greater than ourselves. My husband is of Native Canadian ancestry, so he calls that power The Great Spirit. I'm only newly comfortable with the CONCEPT, so I don't know WHAT to call it - I only know that it's magical, and it works.

There hasn't even been a hint of violence in our home for years and years - and at one time during the early years of our marriage, there were charges laid and restraining orders to keep Michael away. He's my best friend today, and we're still growing and learning together.

Our children have all left home, reasonably sane (the _real_ miracle in our lives!), and our son, 29, has a son who is 9, so we are grandparents (young ones, though - we're barely fifty-something!). Our children have never missed an AA 'birthday meeting', and they actually LIKE us. We still spend Thanksgiving and Christmas together as a family, even though they live elsewhere and have relationships and careers of their own. So the "family program" has helped heal the 'family disease'. Our daughter who was born FAE is 26 now, and has _no_ side effects. She's just fine, and a wonderful young woman (except we've warned her that she probably has a genetic pre-disposition to alcoholism).

Oh, and the daughter born in 1979, when my hubby was newly sober, and I was hitting bottom? She's 24 now, and a young Mom herself (our second grandson is almost 5 years old) - and she'll celebrate 9 years clean and sober this December 28th! Again, genetically, the poor kid didn't have a chance - now she's a speaker in schools and juvenile detention centres, and an inspiration even to us!

Remember way back at the beginning of this story when I mentioned how important the ocean was to me? Well, that importance never diminished. When the kids were small, we bought a 16' boat, and started teasing them that they would have to learn how to use a VHF radio when they left home, because we'd be living on a boat somewhere. Several years later, we bought a 19-footer. Ten years ago, we 'graduated' to a 31' cabin cruiser, and began to think seriously about pursuing the dream of living aboard full-time once the kids actually left home. When only the youngest was left still at home, 8 years ago, we sold our home, got a manager for my hubby's business, and moved into a 700-sq ft float home - the beginning of 'cutting our ties' with land.

Six years ago, I bought a little local news-advertiser and turned it into a monthly magazine, with a regional circulation of about 3000 - after all those years, I was finally writing/editing/publishing for myself, instead of for others! This alone was a dream come true for me, and enabled my hubby, who was  barely 50, to retire.  Then along came the BOAT OF OUR DREAMS - five years ago July, we purchased and moved aboard a 38' 1965 classic wooden boat in a gorgeous little harbor on Vancouver Island.

I gave up the magazine a few years ago, and I've owned at least one specialty print publication since, but continue to freelance - and now we share the boat, and the lifestyle, by offering sober sightseeing charters in this beautiful corner of the world we get to call 'home.'

… So … from the gal who once loathed 'testimonials,' now I've given one. NOBODY is more surprised than me that I've been able to stay sober, grow, and have the kind of happiness, serenity and gratitude that I experience, DAILY, today.

Michael and I have both been blessed, BEYOND our wildest dreams - and we're pretty sure that 'the best is yet to come!'

Marilyn G.
"When I stand on a rolling hill and I look out to the sea
 I can feel the force of freedom finding fellowship with me
    I can hear a call to courage to be all that I can be
        Then I know that I have found .... destiny."
                 ~ Miriam Therese Winter ~

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