Free at Last
I am Egyptian by blood, born in the Arabian Gulf. I was the youngest child I have one brother and two sisters. I was not like other children. I was a naughty child, stubborn & violent. When I wanted something, I had to have it. It did not matter by what means I used to get it. When I went to the toy store with my father, I would always end up with three toys, instead of one, because I would cry and scream and throw myself on the floor, until he gave in. Getting my way made me feel good. I felt as if I had won. I felt powerful.
Even though I was a trouble maker, I was good at school learning and always ranked top of the class. I participated in school activities like choral, and enjoyed the attention. All of my friends were of different nationalities. Arabic was the native language of my family, but I did not speak the Egyptian accent very well.
When I was young, my parents hit me. It was a common form of discipline and I thought everyone was raised that way. They even burned me on my tongue because I could not speak Arabic properly.
I felt that my parents hated me because my brothers and sisters were good and always did what they were told, so they did not get hit. I was always making problems and fighting with my friends. Their families would always complain to my family about my behaviour. I could not get along with the people in the street and in the neighbourhood.
My father was an engineer my mother worked in the Embassy and both had high paying jobs, which allowed us to visit Egypt once a year for vacation.
I never liked going to Egypt for vacation because I could not mix with anyone there. I did not have any friends. I did not fit in. I was like a tourist in my homeland.
When I was eleven my dad decided to go back to Egypt and start a business with our family savings. In the beginning we had a nice flat in a nice neighbourhood.
Dad’s project failed. Even my mom selling all her jewellery to support the family did not help. Dad went bankrupt.
Although I was young and did not totally understand what was going on, I felt it was the end of the world for me. When I asked my family for money or anything they said no. They could not afford it as before. We were broke and poor In my childhood I always wanted regular things like a bike or daily payment so I could buy some sweets. I felt less than other kids. Other kids looked on me with pity, like I was poor. It hurt me to feel poor.
I started lying about my family, saying that we have a lot of money and that I had a lot of toys in my room. I was lying about everything. A lot of kids used to mock me because of my accent. Having been born in a different country, I sounded weird. I tried to mix. I did not know how to fit in, except by lying and doing wrong things. I thought that people would recognise me, when I did those wrong things but all I got was punishment from my parents and complaints by the parents of my friends.
I lied about going out with many girls. In order to make my friends believe me I used to tell: “I am going to meet my girlfriend.”, then I would go and sit alone in a neighbourhood far away.
I was punished hard by my family for lying. I felt like I had no one in my life to guide me properly. Instead of providing guidance, my parent just gave orders. And I refused to follow the orders.
After a while I met some guys who listened to Rock and Roll, went to discotheques, and knew a lot of girls. It was my dream to be like them. If they smoked, I smoked. If they danced, I danced. When they asked anything from me, I would do it very quickly, to impress them.
Two of them used to steal money from their parents and take us all to movies. I did that also. But my parents were too poor to steal from. So I used to save up the money till the weekend and then tell them that I stole the money.
One day a guy offered me a beer. It was a strange feeling but I liked it, I started drinking at events every 6 months, then every 3 months, then every week, then every day. I discovered all kinds of alcohol and drugs in a very short period.
In order to pay for my alcohol and drugs, I stole from my parents. When my parents caught me, I stole from my friends. When I didn’t have any friends, I started dealing in alcohol and drugs. Since alcohol was illegal in my country, you got it just illegally like drugs.
I was famous in the neighbourhood. Lots of people used to get alcohol and drugs from me. I used to buy stuff for myself that I felt I deprived myself from. Sometimes I would take customer’s’ money and never show up again. That caused problems and lots of people wanted to hurt me. One day “a friend” went to my house and told my parents about my dealing. My parents were shocked. They started treating me differently, hiding their money, stashing their valuables. I started to steal anything that I get my hands on, stealing from shops and markets. Stealing my friends’ mobiles. I got into fights. I behaved like an animal in the streets.
It became common for the police to pick me up and take me to the station, so my parents would know I was still alive. The police would release me on the second day after my parents visit. I wanted a girlfriend, but when I got one, I had to be drunk to go out with her. I stole her mobile. I “borrowed” money from her. I kept on drinking. I kept on using her. Then she left me.
One day I woke up and found I could not move my arm. I could not remember exactly what happened the night before. I vaguely recalled being drunk and fighting. My mom asked me to go to the doctor so I went with the last friend I had. The doctor said that I was paralysed from my shoulder to my hand. I had to do physical therapy for a year. But I used the treatment money my Mom gave me on alcohol and drugs, so my arm got worse instead of better. Eventually I had to get a stiffener in order to be able to straighten my arm.
I wanted to work a lot, but I could never stay in any one job more than a month. Once I drank it was hard to show up for the job. I always wondered about people who never drank. I thought they did not know how to live life. When someone told me that I was addicted to alcohol and drugs, I used to say: “No way. I am ok. I can stop when I want to.” Yet deep inside me I knew I could not stop. Many times during my twelve years of addiction, I would quit, and the withdrawal pain plus depression would paralyse me, and I would turn to my additions again.
My dad tried a at home cure. He would bring alcohol home for me, saying I should get drunk in the house and not go out and embarrass them and make problems for them in the streets. But when I got bored, I went out anyhow.
One time my dad tried to force me to quit, by locking me in the house. But I used sewage pipes to descend from the balcony of the sixth floor apartment where we were living, went out, got drunk, and came back home as if nothing had happened.
After two days I wanted to feed my addictions, but I had no money. I could not find anything to steal, so I went to my mom and asked for money. She refused. We had a quarrel. I told her I would kill her if she did not give me money. My mom said: “Go ahead. You already kill me every day with your behavior.” I ran to the kitchen and got a knife and cut myself. My brother caused the knife to fall to the floor. When I ran to get another knife, my brother grabbed me from behind and that drove me into the window. My head was cut and blood was all over everywhere. My mother and older sister were crying. My mom threw me her bag and told me to take all of her the money and go and never come back. I took the money and left. I never felt for them. I just wanted the money. I went and get drunk.
I came back home as if nothing happened. In my country, children live at home until they marry.
My younger sister used to give me money so I would not make problems for my parents.
Marriages are arranged in my country but my sister could not find a husband because the suitors would run away when they found out I was her brother. I was disgrace to my family. I poisoned everything I touched. I was an embarrassment to my parents. One day I woke up with the police in my house and they said I was a suspect in an attempted murder case. My family cried. I did not feel ashamed. On the contrary, I felt proud. Proud that people would know to fear me now. In the police report my name was given by several people. The investigator said that I was only needed for questioning. I told him I needed first to get a drink. He let me go to drink and then come back for my questioning. After a couple of days the police officer asked me to go back to the station for suspicion of a jewellery store theft, after it was normal that they ask me in the station every other day to ask me about any crime that might have happen in our area.
At this stage I used to get fits where I would fall on the round and start shaking. One day my only friend said: “You always say I want to quit my addictions but you never do. I know some guys who quit. We will go talk to them.”
There was something different about these guys who quit. I had known them for years. I knew they were like me, stealing and using. Now they were clean and could speak and dress well. One of them asked me if I wanted to stop drinking and drugging. I said yes but I can`t. He spoke about a program called AA. He spoke about a rehab place. He wanted to speak with my dad first. When we went to the house, at first my dad said he would not listen to me. Then he said he would meet them outside the house. I knew my dad did not want to have anything to do with me or anyone I knew. One day when I was drunk and miserable, I went to my recovery friends. They were the only ones that would speak to me. I asked them to go and meet my dad at our house.
As it happened, as soon as I entered my house, I had one of those fits. When my recovery friend asked me to go and pack, I could not find any cloths because I had sold all my clothes. In my bedroom I had a panic attack. I thought how could I stop drinking. If I can stop what will happen to me. I went to the living room and told my recovery friends to leave because I would not go with them. I felt like running away. I was afraid.
My dad stopped me. My friends calmed me down and said to my dad that they would take me. What I did not know at the time, was that they had agreed with my father, without my knowledge, to take me to rehab. They told me that they would take me to a place where I could drink and take to my other addictions and no one would make any problems for me. I was in a bad condition, so I went with them.
We went to a flat in one building. First I saw three tough big guys in this flat with only a desk. One big guy closed the door. Then he locked the door. One guy came to me and said I had to go and wash because there were guests coming to dinner. So I went inside to wash. I saw some really strange people inside, one screaming, one crying, one hitting himself. I felt too bad myself to care. I washed and went outside, but my friends were gone.
They told me I was in a place to go through the withdrawals. I did not understand. I was mad. I started screaming and started fighting. But three big tough guys won over me, guy with a paralysed arm. They carried on and tied me to a bed. Another guy tried to protect me. He sat on top of me and told them: “That is enough. You are going to kill him.” I was still screaming and shouting that I will kill them all. , Soon one of them came with a shot of something that he said would help me relax and sleep. I talked him into untying me. I fell asleep and had a lot of bloody dreams.
When I woke up I was still dizzy. I tried asking them to let leave or even escape using the pipes to get out. I saw that there were bars on the windows.
For the next 35 days, every time I woke up and started yelling, they gave me a shot. My recovery friends came every five to six days to visit. No one from my family came, which was good because I was very angry and was ready to kill anyone from my family if they showed up.
After a while I was moved to the rehab, there I was re-introduced to AA. I was taken to meetings. I was still very stubborn. I would not do any of the suggestions. I was rebellious, but now was sober one month.
One of the AA fellows told me that this was one month dry not sober. Now I needed to start working the program if I wanted to continue to stay sober. I asked him: “Will I be respectable like those recovery guys if I do so.” He said: “YES.”
So I got a sponsor and started working the steps. It was really strange when I started realizing that I really am powerless. I listened to sharing and listened to my sponsor. I did my best to follow the guidance of the steps. Change started gradually to happen.
I realised I cannot change myself by myself. I will always need the program After a couple of months, my dad sent me an invitation to go to one of the Arabian Gulf countries that he was working in. He did not want me to leave the rehab and stay home alone with my mom and brothers and sisters. I checked for the AA fellowship in this Gulf country and found meetings.
I made contact with the program before travelling and went to a meeting the first day I arrived. I was very scared to be out in the real world, but once the meeting started I felt better and did not feel alone anymore. I stayed there with my dad for two months, looking for job and attending meetings. But I had to return because my visa time expired without me finding a job. I was upset and felt like failure. But I learned that the positive side was that I started to know my dad and he felt better and reassured seeing me clean and sober.
When I returned back, fellows advised me that in order to get better opportunities I needed to take courses in English and computer. So I did.
I was on my step four and looking for a job at the same time. After five months of sobriety I got some job offers. I even requested my sponsor’s guidance in picking a job. I went for an interview to work as an accountant in a big firm. I was picked to work in the company even when better qualified candidates were available. I knew my Higher Power was working in my life. I was very grateful. I was happy that I was becoming a productive responsible member of the community.
When I shared this with my sponsor, he told me that I should show my gratitude in action. Service was the key. I became secretary of my home group.
In the work place, I used the same principles I learned in the fellowship. I became very open minded and eager to learn. I took additional courses.
During a company survey I was selected one of the best employees in punctuality and appearance. I had the same attitude in meetings as well because one of the old timers told me that the first step of recovery is discipline. Discipline to dress well and be on time.
After I finished my group secretary service, I spoke with my sponsor, and volunteered as a secretary of a program committee, which was not very active. After a time with the help of my God as I understand him and with the help of other members, we managed to start more meetings in Egypt. Some of these were in remote areas.
We also had workshops for new groups about service, the traditions, and how to deal with new comers in the rooms. Some of the new meetings survived and they were listed in the international meeting guide book. My sponsor was very proud of me and I was also proud of me. I started working my twelfth step to help other alcoholics.
My relationship with my family and friends improved. I started being a grownup and bought my own clothes. It was a huge change for me to be responsible for myself and responsible enough to help my family and others. My life was getting better with my job, my friends, and my program.
There were problems sometimes but I believed that there is always a solution in the fellowship. I believed that my God would always show me solutions in time. On every anniversary I look back on how I was and what I have become. I am always grateful. After two years in the fellowship I met a girl and we started to get to know each other. Then I understood why my sponsor had advised me when I first came into the program to not to get involved in relationship with the opposite sex before working steps six and seven
Having another person in my life was very hard because I am very selfish. I gradually learned how to be a loving compassionate person in a relationship. I proposed to the girl and could not believe that she said yes. I was actually having a relationship with someone, whereas before I was only a source of misery and harm to everyone around me, that was for most of my life. I will always thank my God for this gift of my relationship.
At the time I went through my step nine I owed large amounts of money to people. I thought many times that it is impossible to pay back all this money. However I was able to make amends to them all. I learned in the fellowship that there is nothing that is impossible.
I continued doing program service work for the summer convention and the winter convention. I was treasurer of a small group. I always picked small groups for service so I could be effective. My brother got a job in a big firm in a one of the Gulf countries, and then he sent for me. I was sad that I would be leaving my friends and my home group, which taught me all I know. My recovery got stronger during the move to another country. I started enjoying life in new ways when I learned fishing and jumping from heights. My English courses helped a lot at work because most of my colleagues at work were expatriates, people from foreign countries. My higher power supported me a lot. I learned to drive. I bought a new car. I enjoyed doing good things. I was keen to help and to give my time to new members of the fellowship.
This generous spirit helped keep me sober. Thanks to the fellowship and God as I understand Him, I was given the best employee of the year award and I even got a money reward for my good work. I continued making progress in relationships.
I went to Egypt when I was three and a half years sober to propose to her. Before proposing, I worked my steps again from one to nine.
On my four year anniversary, another miracle occurred. I married the love of my life. I would never imagine before that I could and for the right reasons in that I love her and I appreciate all her assets. She is loving and caring and can take responsibility. She is a new source of power and she is a gift from my God of my understanding.
After a while I went back to Egypt to buy my own flat with my own money. What a miracle. I am grateful to this program. It changed my life. It gave me hope. It has worked for others and now it has worked to me. I know that money is not the scale for success; but it is soothing.
However, acceptance and humility and faith are more soothing. I pray that God as I understand Him continues to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to all nationalities.
This translation is one of three new stories that the members of the fellowship in the Arabian Gulf region have been able to get inserted into the Arabic Language versions of the Big Book. It has taken us 6 years but we have finally made it