Ross Fitzgerald, Di Young & Tim Olsen talk about My Last Drink at The Sydney Institute
Ross Fitzgerald, Di Young & Tim Olsen speak about My Last Drink at The Sydney Institute
Professor Ross Fitzgerald is proud to say that he has been sober for over fifty years. Thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous and the support he found among its members. As a prolific author, Ross Fitzgerald has again taken up the subject of recovered alcoholism in a new book My Last Drink, co-edited with Neal Price, an artist and writer who now lives in Hobart, Tasmania. The book brings together the stories of 32 recovering alcoholics and offers a window on a world of diverse backgrounds, experience and occasions of drink. To gain an insight into the contributions in the book, trauma-informed therapist, Systemic and Family Constellation practitioner Di Young and Art entrepreneur Tim Olsen joined Ross Fitzgerald on Monday 31 October 2022 to tell something of their stories.
MY LAST DRINK
Thank you, Gerard. It’s very good to be here. Indeed, as my Uncle George used to say, at my age it’s very good to be anywhere.
On his deathbed I said to Uncle George, “You know you were my favourite relative.” To which he responded, “There wasn’t much competition!”
And thanks Gerard for your sage advice concerning this book, My Last Drink: 32 stories of recovering alcoholics.
It was you Gerard who convinced my Tasmanian-based co-editor, Neal Price, and me to title our anthology My Last Drink, instead of Last Drinks as we were planning.
It is obvious to us now that My Last Drink has a much more personalised and intimate tone and timbre.
But friends, much to my chagrin, I recently discovered that there is another remarkable book also titled My Last Drink. Written by Joseph H. Francis, and first published in 1915, it is modestly subtitled “The greatest human story ever written”.
This My Last Drink is the autobiography of a Chicago alderperson who plummeted from power and wealth to poverty and prison. He then became a leading light of the American temperance movement. Believe it or not, Alderman Francis’s memoir is still in print.
And that presents a problem. How do we humble Australian authors and editors compete with the greatest human story ever written? Well, Neal Price and I have certainly tried our best!
Many in this audience may recall, when, decades ago, hotels in Australia closed at 6pm, and the public bar was only open to men, creating the notorious six o’clock swill, the pub manager or owner would always call: “Time Gentlemen please. Last Drinks. Hurry along now.”
The notion of Last Drinks has entered deeply into the Australian lexicon, but there is another kind of Last Drink, the last one that an alcoholic takes before she or he gets sober.
My Last Drink: 32 stories of recovering alcoholics released this month by Connor Court and also available from Amazon & Booktopia, is a collection of inspiring and hitherto unpublished stories, original for this book, that canvass and explain how thirty-two recovering alcoholics managed to stop drinking, and to stay stopped.
It was Neal Price who conceived the idea for an anthology of sober alcoholics recounting how they achieved and maintain sobriety.
Contributors to My Last Drink are alcoholics of all ages, of different sexualities and genders, and of Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds. This collection of revealing stories includes long and short-term sober alcoholics from many professions across Australia. All contributors – fourteen women and eighteen men – tell a deeply personal tale of the last 24 hours of their alcoholic drinking.
In our book, the word “sober” means free of alcohol and other drugs. In my case, these days, as a long-time sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have nothing in my blood but blood.
Since its inception in America in 1935 (the first AA meetings occurred in Australia in 1945), members used only first names to identify themselves.
As Neal Price points out, this was a protective strategy. Given the social stigma of being an alcoholic or addict at the time, anonymity was seen as a necessary way to protect a person’s privacy. The use of nicknames developed to identify long-term members based on character traits and has helped to form a unique fellowship. In Australia, the names Antique Harry, Circus Lil, Adequate from Arncliffe, Bow-tie Frank, Breathless Beryl, Broken Hill Jack and his brother Raucous Dick, who had no sense of volume, were and are well-known members of the AA fellowship.
In My Last Drink some contributors are identified by their full names, including Norma Christian, Dick Love, Di Young and Tim Olsen. A number of authors are identified by their first name, plus the initial of their surname e.g.,our friend Kaz K, and Shane F and Val C from the North Sydney AA group who are with us here tonight. Others simply adopt their first name or nickname e.g., Kym, Davo and Ukrainian George.
Contributors to this unique collection include builders, novelists, journalists, artists, lawyers, musicians, therapists, nurses, bus drivers, accountants, police officers, web designers, and army personnel.
As Neal and I write in the Introduction to My Last Drink, which I have used in this talk tonight:
… it is important to understand that there are no rules in Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact, the only requirement for membership is ‘a desire to stop drinking’, no matter how slim is that desire. Even AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions are in no way mandatory; they are only suggestions. This includes the tradition of anonymity. In Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism is treated as a health problem, not a moral problem. Hence alcoholics are not regarded as bad people who need to get good, but sick people who can recover, if we don’t pick up that first drink of alcohol, one day at a time.
“Alcoholism”, we argue, “is a disease of denial and resistance.” A psychiatrist once asked me to visit an alcoholic patient at the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane. When drunk, he’d tried to kill himself with a shotgun. He had blown one arm off and part of his abdomen. In the hope that he might identify, I told him part of my drinking story. Within minutes the patient put up his remaining hand and said, “If ever I get as bad as you Ross, I’ll give it up.”
When I was in north Queensland, filming a TV documentary for the ABC about ex- Queensland Labor premier and federal treasurer, “Red Ted” Theodore, the film crew and I arrived at a local pub in a small country town. The licensee’s wife told me that she had locked the publican in the toilet to prevent him from drinking. In his delirium he had attempted to eat the astro-turf in the toilet. But when I suggested that he go to an AA meeting, his wife said “Oh, he’s not that bad!”
In Alcoholics Anonymous there is room for everyone, no matter how far down the scale of life they have gone. Members include firm and tepid believers in a higher power, as well as agnostics and atheists, of whom in the fellowship there are many, including myself and Neal Price.
As we explain in the Introduction, “The AA program is in the broadest sense a spiritual program, but not a religious one. In our experience, over the long-term most alcoholics cannot stop drinking and stay stopped through an exercise of the individual will. That is why a number of sober alcoholics regard the meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous which we attend as being something greater than their isolated self.
As the Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung wrote to the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, the most helpful motto for an alcoholic is spiritus contra spiritum i.e. spirit against spirit, power against power. Jung thought that, to get and stay sober, an alcoholic needs to find something more powerful than alcohol. For many of us, that power is to be found in AA itself.
There are no dues or fees for membership in Alcoholics Anonymous. Moreover, no-one can be expelled from AA, which has no bosses. Indeed, in our opinion, Alcoholics Anonymous is a prime example of (peaceful) anarchism in action.
The contributing editors of My Last Drink are both sober alcoholics. I have been sober for 52 years; Neal Price for 39. We both still regularly attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. The truth is that AA helps tens of thousands of alcoholics recover from a seemingly hopeless condition. This is demonstrated by Professor George E. Vaillant’s path-breaking book, The Natural History of Alcoholism Revisited, published by Harvard University Press.
A leading American psychiatrist, Professor Vaillant’s large-scale, longitudinal study demonstrates that, even though it is difficult for alcoholics to stop drinking and stay stopped, AA is by far the most effective agency in helping alcoholics to recover. So as Neal Price and I often say to newcomers, and to their families, “Why not avail yourself of the best?”
As thousands of Australians are either sober alcoholics themselves or are relatives and friends of alcoholics who are sober or trying to get sober, Neal and I hope that avid readers, and especially those interested in alcoholism and addiction, will find My Last Drink to be intellectually helpful and practically useful.
At the very least, we hope that this illuminating anthology might encourage people, whose drinking is getting out of control, to attend some meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, most of which are open to everyone, and available throughout Australia.
Our advice to a prospective newcomer is two-fold. Ask yourself a simple question: “Is alcohol costing you more than money?” and if the answer is yes, go to one or two AA meetings and try to listen for the similarities, not the differences. There is unambiguous proof that AA works. For anyone with a problem with the booze, joining this remarkable fellowship could be a life-changing decision.
As Neal Price and I have been sober buddies for almost 40 years, it has been an enjoyable and exhilarating experience working together on this fascinating project.
As it happens, my last drink of alcohol was at the same place as where, when I was barely fourteen, I had my first one. In fact, I’ve only been properly sober since I’ve been free of alcohol and all other drugs as well. That occurred here in Sydney on Australia Day, 26 January 1970.
But that’s another story… which, along with 31 other revealing tales, is in the book, My Last Drink: 32 stories of recovering alcoholics.
Finally, friends, here’s a trick. As AA can teach us, if you don’t pick up the first drink, you can’t get drunk.
How about that? If you don’t pick up the first drink, you can’t get drunk!
MY LAST DRINK
I was brought up to witness that “The only recluse for an artist is intoxication.” – Oscar Wilde.
Well, if it was good enough for an artist, then obviously it was good enough for me. For a long time, I believed that I was born a natural escape artist and probably had a propensity for drinking. I saw alcoholism as a disease I had carried from birth, a silent addict’s gene. Many people think that it’s something you develop gradually or adopt desperately during a hard time, a character defect or lack of willpower. By my early forties, I knew differently; I was in the claws of addiction, my drinking was an unmanageable crisis.
I cannot blame my addiction on my profession (as a gallerist and art dealer) but it certainly did not help. The art world eases you into a life where everything is bought, sold, resolved and discussed over a shared bottle. My life was cushioned inside an illness that became more obvious as the drinks surfaced earlier each day. I was gradually becoming more and more detached from work and family, like a man living on a park bench within his own home.
Thank God I had wonderful staff at the gallery, because I was running the gallery from a distance. My business, in those great art-boom years, was expanding — and so was I. Drinking and eating far too much, I was literally fermenting and looked 30 years older. In summer, overweight and with a suntan, my mother would describe me as “a map of self-indulgence”. I was treating my body like an amusement park.
Few can see their most negative manifestations gradually engulfing them, but I would look in the mirror and could not recognise myself. Alcoholism (and obesity) was a mask that I could not remove. For those who have an innate fear of clowns, the face of Luna Park was perhaps less frightening than mine. It is terrifying when one becomes one’s worst horror.
Every day was a quiet rampage. For most of the time, I was very good at getting through the day, but it was after everyone went to bed that I would reach into the back of a cupboard or look to the back of the fridge or freezer, and the bottle would open. I would sit, isolated, and I would drink myself into a morbid state of self-pity or oblivion.
My rock bottom was long overdue. I had been living in a state of delusion that I could get control over this thinking, that I was capable of being a controlled drinker. But ultimately, as life unfolded, it seemed evident that I was completely powerless over alcohol – anytime I started, I could not stop. I was living in a state of subconscious endlessness when it came to alcohol. The droll of daily anxiety, waiting for the early opener, or getting to a restaurant for lunch quickly.
In rehab, they talk about “crossing the thin red line” from controlled drinking to problem drinking. I believe that trauma, (chronic business and personal stress, a car accident which left me in a coma as a child, my early childhood sexual abuse – and yes, my drinking habits and obesity) was my line.
One Christmas morning, after drinking all night, I found myself under the Christmas tree surrounded by empty bottles and yet-to-be-unwrapped gifts. My son, James, was three, and he was sobbing, pleading, “Daddy, Daddy, can you please help me open my presents?” Santa might have come and gone, but Dad was a mess on the floor. My head was feeling like it had been in a vice all night and my mouth was like the bottom of a cockie’s cage. The alcoholic self totally pickled by the grog of the night before. Now my son was witnessing and becoming affected by my addiction. This was my precipice; “Enough was enough.”
After somehow gathering myself together to attend the family Christmas lunch at my sister’s, later that night I booked myself into the Betty Ford Centre in Palm Springs and, on Boxing Day, was on the first flight to Los Angeles. I have seen alcoholism played out in both my grandfathers as emotional abuse and dependency. Remembering all of this, and the deep sense of shame and guilt, my greatest reason to stop was for James, to cease this cycle within the family chronology permanently.
One of the most alarming things that happened to me while I was completing my admission in Nevada desert, was being led into an office for my initial assessment to ascertain my state of addiction. There was a man, sitting behind a desk, who resembled Keith Richards. He had obviously been to hell and back and now he had assumed that calm mien of a wise sage of recovery. He asked me, “What is the worst thing that could happen to you if you left here and continued to drink?” Almost mechanically, I replied, “I’m going to die.” It must have been what he had heard every time a new patient arrived, because he immediately replied, “No, that might not be the worst thing. Because, according to your family, you are a pain in the arse. They would be sad, of course, if you were to die but, ultimately, they would be better off without you.” I reeled with shock at the harshness of his words, but they turned out to be exactly the reality I needed to hear. Although originally only intending to stay at Betty Ford for a month, this extended to three. After 30 days I may have been sober but far from sane.
Betty Ford took an approach like no other rehab I had visited. Like a tattered tall ship, I had to have every sail ripped of grandiosity, denial and delusion torn down and dismantled so I could be rebuilt as a stronger vessel. I had to forget everything I thought I knew. I had to admit, and accept, that I was completely powerless over alcohol, to surrender and understand that I could not do this on my own, and to believe in the prospect of a miracle in discovering a spiritual humility, to hand over my addiction to something that seemed invisible and intangible.
In rehab, I was a nobody, just another addict. The Olsen name was not going to shield me or be advantageous, the buffer I had used as an excuse to be a bon vivant. Being isolated and anonymous on the other side of the world helped me focus on the delusion and ego I had been living in. A very big part of sobering up is realising that you are not special, that you are no better than anyone else. When you develop some kind of humility and go to meetings, with every kind of person, you realise that you are all reduced to being simply “garden-variety” alcoholics, as they say. Alcoholism is very egalitarian. No one is immune. Often the privileged are its greatest victims.
I continued to attend AA meetings but I was not following the program and did not have a sponsor. My “last drink” became my next relapse. A successful path to a truly happy life in sobriety requires a huge deflation in ego. To become brutally honest with oneself. It is a constant challenge when people keep praising your success when there is always a part inside you that feels like you do not deserve it. Another great quote from Oscar Wilde is, “It is often worse to be destroyed by praise, than ruined by criticism.”
The difference in coming back into the program was the realisation of the depth of my problem, the necessity for a sponsor and the dedication the program requires. I met Ross Fitzgerald at St. Mark’s at Edgecliff, where my son went to kindergarten. The last time I had been in that room, my James, was playing Goldilocks – a blinding contrast. Now I go every morning to attend meetings at the Bondi Pavilion. In the 1930s, the Pavilion had a ballroom and a cabaret room where my grandparents attended parties and Harry, my grandfather, would drink to excess. The irony is not lost on me.
My commitment to battling alcoholism coincided with the spiky precipice that is turning 50 and the vulnerability to all that a midlife crisis implies. I then realised the pinnacle of sober living, “You cannot think your way into a new way of living, you can only live your way into a new way of thinking.” I could not think myself sober, only live myself into sobriety. It was not until I started putting days of avoiding alcohol together that abstinence became my lifestyle.
In the first weeks of going straight, I would use memory to trigger aversion. Memories of how squalid life had been with booze, waking up in the morning to reach into the freezer to take a swig of vodka, hanging out for the first pub to open, I had been an urbanised derelict.
When I eventually got completely sober, the clarity was both enlightening and frightening. Facing the truth of my past mistakes and behaviour was highly confronting. The only way to dissipate the shame was to accept it as a learning experience, apologise and make amends where I could. Finally, I was able to make sense of things and realise how interesting and great my life had actually been.
I have now been sober for nearly eleven years. As I sit in my home, overlooking Sydney Harbour I know how lucky I am and that I would never have achieved any of this, and the success of my gallery (30 years this year) if I had still been drinking. The gifts are apparent every day. AA is an invitation to live, to get a life!! As one may put it.
Getting sober was the best way for me to stop being a self-saboteur, an obstacle to my own happiness, and the happiness of those around me. Especially those that love me. For me, it was simple: I can have alcohol, or I can have everything. Thank God, I chose everything.
MY LAST DRINK
Thanks for the opportunity to be here. It’s a privilege. Thank you Gerard and Anne and Ross and Neil for putting together the anthology. When Ross asked me to say a few words, he said, “Just tell them a bit of your story”. I thought, “I don’t think I can really do that, it’s a bit extreme.” But he’s been insistent. So, I’m going to tell you a little bit about myself.
It’s in the book – an edited version. I suppose what I want to say to you is that I’m probably slightly unusual in that now I’m sober a long time, but I became sober at a very young age. I came from a family that were alcoholics; my mother was an alcoholic, my father was a chronic gambler. I had no limits in my life. So I was out playing up at quite an early age. I didn’t particularly think there was anything wrong with that.
I loved alcohol because of what it gave me. For those of you that drink with control, and you’re not alcoholic – it gave me those same things. I would drink, I would feel better about myself, I thought I looked better, I was sexier, I looked like I could hold a conversation a lot easier, I was more intelligent. Of course, I was prepared to pay the price for quite a while because I got so much out of it. I’m a product of the era in which I grew up, and I used drugs the same way that I used alcohol. I know that’s not what we’re talking about tonight, but it is a big part of my story.
Hence, I stumbled into Alcoholics Anonymous at a very young age. I was 17 ½ years old. Now, I look at 17 ½ year olds and I think, my God, they’re young. I didn’t feel young at 17 ½; I felt old, I felt worn out. I met a man at a pub – of course, where else was I going to meet one – and he took me to my first AA meeting. I was very unwell one night, and he decided to tell me his story.
One of the things that happens in Alcoholics Anonymous is there’s a lot of sharing of your story, what happened to you. And that’s how we get the identification. I, now, for my sins, work at South Pacific Private Hospital, which is a private psychiatric hospital on the Northern Beaches. They treat people with alcoholism, drugs, PTSD and mood disorders. The clients will often, when they’re talking to psychiatrists be very happy to talk about all sorts of things. But it’s not until they sit with someone who’s just like them, that they get the identification they need. And the same thing happens in AA. People will walk into a room, not dissimilar to this, with a cross section of the community, not dissimilar to you, and somebody will say “How are you going?” And they’ll talk a little bit about themselves. Without judgement, without criticism, there’ll be some sort of, “Yes, I know, that’s what happened to me.” Or, “Yes I’ve been there.”
Now, I don’t know about your lives, but there are not many places you can go in your life today and actually tell the truth about yourself to someone you’ve never met before and not be judged. It’s a big statement. That’s the kind of identification that people get from Alcoholics Anonymous. I went into AA, I mucked around with it for a while, I was very young. I decided that I would go out and try again, do a bit more experimenting.
I came back into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous for two reasons. One, I had nowhere else to go and the second was that I had been around the rooms for 8 months and I had seen it work in the lives of people like Ross, Neil and other people here tonight. You can tell me all you like, you can tell me what I should do, you can demand that I behave a certain way. But if you show me what you do and how you recover, that has a much bigger impact on me. And that’s exactly what happened.
So, I came back into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. For years and years, I guarded my anonymity. In my Federation Press Publishing days, I guarded my anonymity very carefully. I don’t much mind about it now. My daughter’s older; she’s a 32-year old woman with children herself. I don’t feel like I have to worry about any of that stuff anymore. So, I came into the rooms
The people that cared about me just before I got sober were the police. There was nobody else that was much interested, apart from them. They seemed to be very interested in my wellbeing. They finally did catch me; I was moving a bit slow one day and they caught up with me. I eventually came back into Alcoholics Anonymous and started to get well. I was homeless, jobless and friendless. So, I had a lot to do to put my life together – and I also needed to find a job to pay for the barrister’s fees, to try and stay out of jail. It wasn’t a prospect I was particularly keen about.
I said to Ross, “What do you want me to tell them?” He said, “Tell the Mr Perkins story.” So, I’m going to tell you the Mr Perkins story. I went for a job as a shorthand typist – there will be people in the room, just looking at the audience, that will remember what shorthand looked like. And you can remember the typewriters that you used to do this with. If you made a mistake, you had to rub out on three different layers. I had forgotten how to do shorthand; it was a bit of a disaster.
I’d been there for a couple of weeks, and I’d go into his office, and he’d dictate shorthand. I’d have my pad under my desk, trying to write very fast what he was saying. One night he stayed back. I thought he was going to sack me; I’d told a few fibs to get the job. He was standing over me, and I was sitting down at my desk, and he said, “How are we going, Diane?” I said, “We’re not doing very well, are we?” He said, “No. What seems to be the problem?” I said, “Look, I’ve been unwell, I’ve been drinking too much and taking too many drugs and I’m trying to put my life together.” I said a few other things. He said, “How are you doing it?” and I said, “I’m going to AA”. He went “Really? You’re going to Alcoholics Anonymous?” and I said, “Yes.” He asked, “How often do you go?” I said, “I go every day.” That was true. He said, “Well, will you go to night school and learn to do the things I’m paying you to do?” I said, “Yes, I’ll do that, I’ll go to night school. Then he said, “Wait a minute. You said you go to meetings every night. What happens if you don’t go to meetings?” I said, “Well I suppose I’ll drink.” Now, I didn’t mean that I would drink if I went to night school, but that’s how he took it. He said, “Forget about the night school.” Then he taught me shorthand. He’d take it very slowly, “Dear… Mr… Smith. Have you got that?” This was the first person outside of the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous who’d had any faith in me. My family had given me away because I’d behaved so badly. We continued on.
Many of us have an enormous fear of failure, especially if we’ve made a mess of our lives – I had, anyway. So, there was a part of me that wanted to do well. I worked very hard for this man, and I was very grateful for all the opportunities he gave me, and he gave me many. He was a practising Catholic with nine children, interestingly enough. After a couple of years of working for him, my trial came around. They take that long. I went into his office, and I said, “I need to be with you, with the door shut.” That meant it was serious. He said, “What’s happened?” I said, “I need to resign.” He asked why and I said I was going to jail. He was stunned so I filled him in and told him I had not wanted to worry him when he was helping me with work. He said, “Leave it with me.” He came back to me a few hours later and said, “I don’t want you to resign, I want you to take annual leave.” I said to him, “I don’t think you understand.” And he said, “No, no, no, just do what I’m asking you to do.” So, I took annual leave.
I worked in a large office – an insurance office – with 30 women. This is the time in Australia when Number 96 was the thing on television – at morning tea, we would talk about Number 96. Abigail featured quite largely on that – do you remember Abigail? I never saw it, because I was always in a meeting. So, I’d have to try and make up and pretend I knew what was going on but I had no idea what was going on. The trial came on. I was in Silverwater Women’s Prison for two weeks while the trial happened which was just awful. I can’t begin to tell you how horrible it is. If you think anybody’s having fun in those places, think again. There were a number of women from the streets there. I’d been two years sober, missing from their lives. But when I walked into the Remand section of the Silverwater Women’s Prison, they went, “Di, how are you? Where have you been?” It was like I had gone next door for a day or two. We were found guilty, of course. And the judge, God bless him, said “Alright, we’re going to put you back in jail for the weekend while I consider what the sentence is going to be.”
I subsequently worked with many of them in the legal publishing world, and they would have been horrified to know who they were working with. You know the beautiful building, the courthouse in Darlinghurst? It’s just gorgeous. Underneath that beautiful building is a labyrinth of small walkways and cells. When you’re in that court, they back the truck up, open the door, you get out and you go straight underground. I was in the paddy wagon on my own. They pick you up at 5am in the morning and you go underground when they finally get you there from Silverwater. There were these two very burly, big prison officers. Without thinking, I said out loud, “What’s that smell?” One of them, towering over me, said to me “It’s fear”. I thought I would never forget that day as long as I lived. I went through, there were men everywhere. A very junior constable saw me and put me in a tiny little cell on my own. He said, “You’ll be safe in here.” I have never forgotten the kindness of that man. Because he could have put me in any of the other ones.
Now, you come up through the bowels of the court to the dock. This particular day, a Monday morning, when they’re going to pass sentence, they were calling for character witnesses. I thought, “This is a disaster. Nobody has told me that I’m supposed to have a character witness speak for me.” The three men I was involved with in this court case had character witnesses; counsellors, mayors – I thought this was a disaster. They finally got to me, and the judge said to the barrister, “Is there anybody to speak for Diane Young?” The barrister said, “Yes, Mr Thompson.” Mr Thompson was Mr Perkins’ boss. He had come in, with Mr Perkins sitting next to him, to speak on my behalf. I’d worked for them for two years, I hadn’t had a sick day, I’d done everything they’d ask me to do and more, but I didn’t expect this. Mr Thompson got up – with a lot of credibility; he was the manager of a very large insurance company – and said all sorts of things about me. The judge told the barrister to stop talking, and he said to Mr Thompson, who was in the dock, “If I let her go, will she still have a job?” He said, “Absolutely, she will.” I’d also had a lot of narcotic addiction. And a deputy matron from Manly Hospital got up and spoke for me. I didn’t know she was going to be there.
The judge stopped the barrister again and said to her, “When she was detoxing, did she do it cold turkey or with methadone?” This was very unusual since few knew about this stuff back then. The barrister replied I had done it cold turkey. I ended up with a 5-year bond, and I reported every week for 5 years. The caveat was if you miss one, there’s a warrant put out for your arrest, and you can go straight in and do the whole lot. I didn’t miss one ever.
The only reason I tell you that story is that somewhere in the midst of all of our lives, when we’ve been on our knees, we often talk about the kindness of strangers in Alcoholics Anonymous. I talked earlier about if you walked into a room of strangers and you were on your knees about anything, and you told them something about yourself that you didn’t want to talk about with everybody. You would feel not judged and welcomed. It was the same with those two men. I owed them much, they owed me nothing. They were the ones that stood up for me. There’s been many other things since that time and I’m very grateful that I was given those opportunities to have those people in my life.