Just a short stroll from the bars and clubs of Oxford Street is a club of a very different kind. It’s a space set up for gay and lesbian people who say they’ve had their last drink.

The Rainbow Recovery Club is a place where a variety of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12 Step programs meet. Currently 60 to 70 people attend the various meetings that are held there every day of the week.

Stephen is the secretary of one of the AA groups that hold their meetings at the Rainbow Recovery Club. His life before joining AA reads like the diary of a stereotypical scene queen, drinking at London’s gay pubs every night, clubbing and using party drugs on weekends. It wasn’t all bad, he says, but he now realises how low his life had sunk.

I was unhappy and lonely and surrounded by all these friends, he says.

Stephen went to AA at a few different points in his life, but when his boyfriend dumped him four years ago, he finally got serious.

My partner dumped me with the words: -˜You’re an alcoholic and I’ve been out with one before. I’m not doing it again,’ he says. So he dumped me and I thought, maybe I should do something about this.

Stephen joined an AA group in London, where he was living at the time, and he says that the change in his life has been miraculous. He hasn’t had a drink or used drugs for over four years.

Being in the program helped me change my life, he says. I thought I used to go out drinking to be with my friends, but I would go out whether I was with my friends or not, because I always knew someone in the bars that I went to in the evening.

Stephen says that he drank to escape some of the homophobia he encountered in his life.

Where was a safe place to go? The bars and clubs. And what happens in the bars and clubs? People drink, he says. Now I’ve learnt that I don’t have to drink. I can go anywhere, I can do anything, and I’m not a slave any more to this obsession.

However, victory over his alcohol addiction did not start and finish four years ago. Stephen says that overcoming any addiction is a day-by-day battle.

The way we understand addiction is that it’s not something that you can just switch off, it’s not like I can give

you a pill and suddenly you’re no longer an addict, he says. I’m always an addict, I will always be an addict. Every day I don’t drink or don’t use, I’m in recovery, but I’m always an addict -“ an alcoholic in recovery.

Stephen still attends AA meetings after four years of living clean and sober, and he says it is one of the secrets to his success.

I will go to AA meetings for the rest of my life, because I can then give back to the program what I got out of it, he says. It saved my life, and it gave me a whole new one too.

The Rainbow Recovery Club provides a space for various Alcoholics Anonymous and 12 Step recovery programs. Members can retain as much anonymity as they wish.

If there is anybody out there who is a bit worried about the amount of alcohol they drink or drugs that they use, then come and see for yourself, Stephen says.

There are meetings happening at the Rainbow Recovery Club every day of the week. Visit www.rainbowrecovery.com.au for details, or phone the Alcoholics Anonymous Help Line on 9387 7788.

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