The disease is no respecter of age or gender survey shows.

We are all familiar with the stereotype of the alcoholic, an old man sitting on a park bench drinking from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag.

The truth is different a recent Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) member survey shows: Most alcoholics hold down good jobs, are in committed relationships and span a wide range of ages.

Conducted last year, the survey found 64 per cent of AA members are either married or living in long-term relationships, 73 per cent are in paid employment - with management roles being the most common occupation (11 per cent).

The survey comes as part of AA's national awareness week aimed at highlighting that the disease is no respecter of age, gender, socio-economic or relationship status.


Only six per cent of respondents reported receiving government benefits, while 21 per cent are retired. The age of respondents ranged from 21 to over 60; with 47 per cent women and 53 per cent men.

One AA member Sarah (not her real name) says she used to buy into the clich├ęs around alcoholism.

"I used to have a stereotype of what an alcoholic was like too: the old man sitting on a park bench drinking spirits out of a bottle in a brown paper bag," she says.

As a 28-year-old with a steady job, loving family, and supportive friends, she didn't fit into society's view of 'alcoholic'. With a string of failed relationships behind her, she thought "life's problems" were standing in the way of her happiness.

"I thought I was just depressed," she says. "I was finding life impossible to manage; I would have been happy to simply not wake up the next day and sometimes I even hoped for that when I went to bed each night, everything felt so difficult."

Worried, she went to her doctor hoping to be prescribed anti-depressants, but he recognised instead she may have had a dependency on alcohol.

"He put me in contact with a rehab clinic using the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as a recovery programme," says Sarah.

She went to AA meetings after rehab and was surprised by how much she had in common with other members.

"It wasn't until I entered AA and heard stories about how other people experienced and reacted to life in a similar fashion to me that I started to identify with them," she says.

She says AA helped her realise alcohol was the common thread in the issues she was facing in life.

"I discovered the way I had been dealing with my experiences were common characteristics and behaviour of alcoholics; I was surprised yet comforted to know that so many other people shared in my experience and I wasn't alone."

Sarah, who says stereotypes around alcoholism are really common and can stop people seeking the help they need, was initially surprised by the range of people attending AA meetings.

"I was surprised when I learnt alcoholism can affect people from all walks of life; all ages, any gender, any professional or cultural identity."

She says once people face the truth about their drinking AA can offer invaluable support and recommends anyone who thinks they may have an issue with drinking to attend a local meeting and listen to the stories of others.

"Anyone is always welcome to come and listen to others share their stories of what it was like drinking, how they got sober and what life is like now."

Sarah (she has been sober for 15 years) attributes her recovery to the support of AA.

"My life has dramatically changed for the positive. Today I love life."