Northern Ireland

‘The drink was helping me through my days, but it was also killing me’ - Belfast woman on how Alcoholics Anonymous gave her a second chance at life

The organisation is holding a public information event in Belfast this Saturday, open to everyone from those struggling with alcohol, family members and medical professionals

Alcoholics Anonymous Ireland has around 15,000 members and 700 groups meeting every week.
Alcoholics Anonymous Ireland has around 15,000 members and 700 groups meeting every week.

A Belfast woman who lost her job and family after becoming “a 24/7 drinker” has spoken of how Alcoholics Anonymous gave her another chance at life.

From social drinking spiralling into becoming a “highly functioning” heavy drinker to losing control of her addiction, she attended her first ever AA meeting in Belfast around four years ago at the age of 40.

“The worst point for me was when my family had to let me go, I lost my job and everything around me basically,” she told the Irish News.

“The drink was helping me through my days, but it was also killing me at the same time.

“Ultimately, I ended up going to a treatment facility for three months because I physically couldn’t stop putting alcohol into my system.

“This isn’t everyone’s experience, but the first thing I did after leaving that facility was going to AA.”

After getting a sponsor and working through the programme of action and recovery, she is now completely free from alcohol.

“I don’t even want to drink these days, AA has given me a solution that has totally recreated my life.”

It comes ahead of a public information meeting by AA being hosted in the MAC in Belfast this Saturday, with speakers including recovering alcoholics, medical professionals as well as a member of Al-Anon, the fellowship for those affected by the alcoholism of others.

The latest data for Northern Ireland records 356 alcohol-specific deaths in 2022, up 45.9% in a decade since the total of 244 in 2012.

Nearly two-thirds (65.2%) of the deaths in 2022 were male, and most prevalent among the 45-54 and 55-64 age groups (55.1%).

Harder to define is the number of people quietly recovering by attending weekly meetings with organisations like Alcoholics Anonymous Ireland.

Established over 75 years ago, there is around 15,000 members across the island of Ireland - with 700 groups holding weekly meetings in every town and city.

Since the pandemic, the Belfast woman added that being able to access meetings online has meant more women, young people and single parents are coming forward.

Looking back on her experience, she said it was difficult to pick out the moment when she lost control.

“I can’t answer that riddle, I don’t know when that happened. It’s difficult for people to understand,” she said.

“That isn’t the thing you can put your finger on, it’s what makes me different from people who are not alcoholic.

“I couldn’t even tell you what I was drinking in the end. From the perspective of AA, it’s not about the amount you take or what you drink.

“You might have be a binge drinker on the weekends and there was me that drank 24/7, but we’re both still alcoholics.”

She credits her sister for eventually getting her through the door of her first meeting.

“She knew I had a problem with alcohol but I couldn’t let the idea in that I was a full-blown alcoholic,” she said.

“It was only by going into the rooms of AA that I realised the illness that I had, which was a physical allergy to alcohol and this mental obsession.

“I didn’t think I’d become a daily drinker and I did, I didn’t think I’d become an hourly drinker and I did. In the end I was drinking 24/7 basically.

“Every single walk of life was in the meeting. Our programme says we are people that normally would not mix.

“What brings us together is this common peril that we have together. What keeps us together is the common solution.

“As soon as I sat in that chair I knew I was in the right place, something happened where I could 100% identify with what the people in the room were talking about.”

Alcoholics Anonymous will hold a public information event in Belfast this Saturday.
Alcoholics Anonymous will hold a public information event in Belfast this Saturday. (Dominic Lipinski/Press Association Images/Press Association Images)

She said her relationship with her family and her employment is now back “in totality”.

“I’m able to achieve things I’ve never been able to do before because alcohol has been removed from my life,” she said.

Still attending regular meetings, she said AA will be part of her routine for life.

“That’s a wonderful thing because I can help other people with this illness and I actively sponsor other women.”

Encouraging anyone affected by alcoholism to attend the Belfast event this Saturday, she said: “It’s not just for people who may think they’re alcoholics, it’s for professionals who may work with them. It’s for friends and family members who believe their brother or sister may be alcoholics.

“It’s a completely safe space to find out more with no obligation, and people will be available on the day to answer any questions they may have.”

The information event at the Mac is free of charge and takes place at 2.30pm on Saturday, May 18.

Tickets can be booked at and further information is available at