Bill from Paddington

Bill from Paddington got sober in Sydney in 1955 and was a member of the Paddington A.A. group, hence his A.A. nickname. This audio recording of Bill is a typical example of storytelling shares that I heard at Sydney A.A. meetings. Bill died sober in 2020 and had been sober for over 64 years.


00:01: Goodnight, everybody. Bill’s my name. I’m an alcoholic, from the Paddington group. Very pleased to be here tonight. It’s wonderful, so many faces that I know are here tonight, and I was thinking of Clary when he mentioned, we are shy people. I certainly am. And I’m a person that suffered terribly, crushingly, with stage fright. And as a patient in Hydebrae, if somebody had have told me I could do this, I’d have said, “Well, that’s a miracle.” Because I knew exactly the sort of person I was. And I thought, “Well, they’d have to cut off my head and another head be there, another type of thinking.” And again, what Clary said, what we talk about in pubs, I remember telling a joke once, in a pub one night, and I was pretty full, and everybody laughed. And the next day at work, I worked for a small company, and there were some clients there and I was sober. And one of the fellows were talking to the clients, and they said, “Bill, come and tell that joke you told us last night, in the pub.”

01:38: And I started to tell it, and I began to disintegrate. It was an ordinary joke. And I knew that they knew, they could see me, this going to pieces. And my chin start to twitch, me eye went, and I lost the joke, I lost the line, the punch line of the joke. [chuckle] And I stopped halfway through it. And the fellow that called me over had to finish the joke. And I secretly said to myself, “I will never tell a joke again, sober.” And I never did. [laughter] And I didn’t tell ’em too well, when I was full, either. But that’s just sort of enlarging on what Clary said, and a fear most alcoholics suffered with it, and I certainly did.

02:35: And I finished in the Haymarket, drinking in the Haymarket. I drank in toilets because I had the shakes and I thought I was unique. I didn’t know anybody that suffered with the shakes. And one morning down there, I found that I couldn’t breast the bar, no longer could I lift the glass. And I knew nobody that I could talk to. And so I did what so many alcoholics do, I needed a drink to get a drink. And so I drank in a toilet from a bottle, whiskey, simply to breast the bar. And then I used to play this extraordinary game of being a connoisseur of what I was drinking. And I would look at the color of it, and lift it and exhibit the calmness of hand. And I would drink in better bars uptown. And one of my little games was to attempt to balance a coin on its edge, and being convinced that everybody in the bar was on to me, and they’re all saying the same thing, “What a very calm fellow this is.” [chuckle] And in fact, an hour earlier, or an hour or two earlier, I was in a toilet, in the Haymarket.

03:55: And that’s the way I was. And I could see no way out, I got sicker, more dependent on booze, and I couldn’t see where, at that point, where I was beginning to drink or where I had stopped drinking to handle life, and started drinking to handle drinking. That’s the cunning part of alcoholism. There’s an old saying, an old Chinese sage said, it’s pretty well worn around AA, “A man takes a drink, drink takes a drink, then drink takes the man.” And that’s for alcoholics, that saying, that’s not for drunks. And it’s that middle part, “Drink takes a drink.” For me, that was the crossing over from controlled drinking to obsessive loss of control of drinking, when I could no longer say yes or no. I remember one night, my wife… We were going to a party… And I’ll sit down on this. She unexpectedly came out and flushed me out of her kitchen, drinking from the bottle. And she said to me, “Why do you drink so much now, when there’ll be so much to drink when you get there?” But I couldn’t tell her that I no longer could get there without a drink.

05:18: I was disqualified from very ordinary things, that I needed booze, but what I couldn’t see was the effect the booze was having, that I was really drinking to handle drinking. Hence, I finished in a hospital and that’s where I first came to meet you people, and it was a revelation to me. I got hope from the very first meeting. I recognized it as an illness, as a disease, and I realized that one could recover. And so I’ve been coming along some years, and I’m very grateful. Thanks.