Chook was born in Tasmania and left school in 1973.  I quickly became ‘committed’ to my alcoholism and by 1977 I was in South Australia charged with armed robbery.

Intro by Rowan Johnstone, Relationship Manager – Southern Queensland, The Salvation Army Australia Territory

Chook has been in continuous recovery for 17 years and for the last decade as a resident of Southport he has been volunteering with The Salvation Army’s Gold Coast Recovery Services based in Southport, caring for others who have shared a similar life journey, and determined to make a difference. Chook shares his story with warmth, a deep sense of humour and a raw honesty developed over many years of sharing in in the 12-steps programs and addiction recovery as a participant and a facilitator.  

Alan “Chook” Rossiter (left) with Broadwater Southport Rotary Club Meeting Chair Laurie Hamilton

My Story

I was born in Tasmania and left school in 1973.  I quickly became ‘committed’ to my alcoholism and by 1977 I was in South Australia charged with armed robbery.
I don’t use my childhood as an excuse but looking back I do see that an unhealthy self-image contributed to my addiction.
Yeah, there was a broken home and the old man had an anger problem and us kids lived in fear all the time, but that’s not what makes me an alcoholic.
It is what happens in my mind prior to me taking a drink and in my body after I take that drink.
I start and I can’t stop. What I now understand is that the first time I had a drink, was the first time I felt ‘normal’. 
I think the fundamental thing that contributed to my alcoholism was that I believed there was something wrong with me.
This was untrue, but I believed it and that alcohol could fix it. 
Staying awake all night wasn’t always possible. I was in the grip of unrelenting alcoholism and more often than not, I’d collapse.  
Often, I would wake up in the police cells or in hospital. 
Addiction saw me spiral downwards into poverty and homelessness. I was a loner and once I started drinking, I wouldn’t eat. I could go a week or two with no tucker.
In the often near-zero winters of Tasmania, I lived under a bridge for some time, but I had to move from under the bridge, because I kept falling in the river.
"That’s not much fun in Tassie I tell ya. Especially when you only own one set of clothes!” I spent 10 years living rough.
You try and find a sheltered spot, but then when you stop moving, you get cold pretty quick.
Unless you have some bedding, or cardboard or plastic or some covering, you are better off moving all night and then maybe you can go to sleep in a patch of morning sun.” 

Talk about how you did your best not to be seen by police (and why you now were bright shirts)

In 1996, I found some stability and moved to Queensland for a job. I managed to control my drinking, but only for a time. Feeling without any sense of hope, one day, I took two full two bottles of prescription medication.
I basically laid down to die.
But I woke up the next morning!
It was then I thought maybe I’ve been wrong about life. 
It was after that I became fully committed to recovery.
I knew the true nature of my alcoholism and I finally understood that I must do what I need to do, whether everyone else does it, or no-one else does it, I must.
I found my way to a detox unit and from there, was offered a place in The Salvation Army’s residential recovery program.

Talk about the day you went to the Salvos admission and assessment place

It took me 10 and a half months to complete a 6 month program. At my graduation they said you can do another 6 months if you want, which I didn’t take as an insult. I now see it as a ‘God job’. I moved into the service’s transitional housing and was then supported to put my name on a community housing list. I finally secured long-term accommodation and remain there today.  
Looking back, I believe I was offered the hand of God, guiding me through to stability and recovery and providing me with a home.
I’ve got a very childlike faith. I basically accept there is a God and I’m not Him .. but .. I must remain in the ‘freshness’ of my faith. My reliance on God has to begin all over again each day as if nothing has yet been done.
Every day as I walk in my front door, I feel a real sense of security and peace. My home is my retreat and a place of safety, security, and warmth. It is even sweeter because for fifteen years, I had no-where to call home.