A brief life history of an alcoholic and how there is hope
I enjoyed alcohol from my early days
I remember the first time that alcohol had, what I thought, a positive effect on me. I used to play drums in a school band and one day someone turned up with some cans of Stella Artois. First alcohol I had drunk, and I thought it completely improved my drumming skills. It was from that very moment that I came to see alcohol as giving me confidence and that something extra that was lacking in my life. However, I found out it wasn’t the first alcohol I had drunk, as there used to be an over the counter solution for babies called Gripe water, it was to help with trapped wind and it actually had alcohol in it. Unbelievable, but true and my mother said that when I was a baby I used to cry to have more of it. It can still be purchased but it doesn’t have alcohol in it now!!!!!
You can become addicted to alcohol even if you have a good upbringing
I was very fortunate, I had a happy childhood and school life. When I left school, I left home and I started work, as planned, in London. It was from that time that I realised that my drinking was slowly escalating. I fell in with a work crowd that would drink at lunchtime and then meet up at a pub a 5.30 after work every night. I am not blaming them, it completely suited me and I could drink as much as I wanted without it being commented on. However, I used to go home most weekends and this I was starting to find difficult as I could not drink as much in the home environment and I would notice that I started to experience the first signs of alcohol withdrawal. I used to kid myself that coming home was equivalent to having an alcohol detox for a few days and would do me good. Over time I started to go home less and less and in the end stayed in London drinking every weekend. It used to upset my parents but the alcohol removed all feelings of guilt, sadness, shame and remorse on my part
Alcoholism is a progressive illness
For the first time, I was seriously realising that alcohol was having a bad effect on me in many ways, I was underachieving at work, I was having days off sick, and I my lunchtime drink was getting earlier. Even the amount I was drinking was being commented on by people who were drinking a lot. By now, several of my friends had got married and I thought that getting married would be just the answer for me. I could settle down with a stabilising influence and have a happy family and everything would change. Strangely, it never crossed my mind that all I needed to do was just to cut back or even, better still, stop drinking. I was dating someone whom I liked a lot and popped the question, amazingly she said “yes”. However, nothing at this time was straightforward in my life and I was also seeing someone that I had known for years. I also asked her in case the first one changed her mind. So now I was engaged to 2 women. I married no 2 within 4 weeks and I had to get my sister to tell no 1 what had happened while I was on my honeymoon. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. Needless to say the marriage was doomed from the start. The night before we got married, I got so drunk at the hotel with most of the wedding guests and decided before I went to bed to put my head under the cold tap in the bath. I passed out. I had turned on the hot tap and it ran all night and no one had any hot water in the morning. Fortunately, I had passed out in the floor and not in the bath and I hadn’t put the plug in, or I would have flooded the hotel.
Alcohol addiction damages relationships
My first marriage stumbled on for a few years but it was sadly destined to fail. I take the full blame for its demise. After a while the old habits started creeping back in and I was out drinking and not going home and even when I was at home I was drinking to excess. This led to immense friction and rows. It was at this time I bumped in to the first girl I asked to “marry me.” I then started cheating on my first wife with her and before long I had left the marital home and moved in with her. In my drunken stupor I was actually convincing myself that I had made the wrong choice in the first place and married the wrong one and everything would now be fine. Following a disastrous divorce I married again and it was to the first person I had asked!!!!!. Alcohol addiction was still strongly in the relationship equation and by now I was not only blaming others for my drinking but was also finding excuses as to why I was drinking so much. I actually knew I had a serious problem but couldn’t see a way out. I tried to stop drinking but the alcohol withdrawal symptoms were just too bad. At this stage I was not in any denial of the problem.
In the end, after a further few turbulent years , my second wife and I decided that we had to part ways and that I would be better off living my own and not emotionally hurting anyone else. My drinking then went to another level, I was not working and living off investments and handouts from my parents. I had a big problem with alcohol addiction but also a problem getting it. One morning, I had gone into the local supermarket to get some alcohol and in those days you paid for items by cheque and the signature on bank card acted as a guarantee for the cheque. This morning, I was shaking quite badly from alcohol withdrawal and had a problem writing and signing the cheque. The cashier refused to accept it and no amount of pleading would she accept it was my signature on the cheque. After that, I would sign the cheque the night before and pretend to sign it the next day. I would now also stock up and bulk buy alcohol as I was scared of running out again. I convinced myself of the benefits of bulk buying and the amount was meant to then last for at least a week, but in reality I just drank more and it went in a few days.
Going into alcohol rehab
Unbeknown to me my parents had been looking for help for me. We were lucky in that our GP had a good knowledge of alcohol addiction and had sourced information on alcohol rehabilitation and the 12 Step Programme of Alcoholics Anonymous. After a meeting with him they came to see me at my flat one day and told me that they had found a solution for me and I just burst in to tears. I had seriously had enough and I knew it was getting worse all the time. I was ready to accept any help.
I arrived at the Haynes Clinic really very drunk, having had what I had convinced myself as being the last drink, before I was admitted, I was ever going to take again. I was met by the Clinic Manager and then seen by the Clinic’s own doctor. Eventually, when my alcohol levels had reduced sufficiently, I was started on the alcohol detox medication that the doctor had prescribed for me. There were no side effects from the medication, and I had no withdrawal symptoms. I was asked to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. I was prescribed medication for 7 days, reducing the amount daily. This was all overseen and administered by a very caring clinical team. I was amazed at just how quickly I started to feel better, and I even started to eat again. I started therapy on day 2 and immediately I treated it like a course I had to complete, it was if I was expecting all my written work to be marked. I decided I was going to be that model student. Naturally, the therapists and Gordon, saw right through me. They challenged my alcoholic thinking, they were not challenging me as a person. I completed all the written assignments on time, this work was around the understanding of the AA 12 Steps programme. Being in treatment was like being on the first step of living a life without alcohol and for once in many years I had a choice not to drink. I had my own room and I was living the most normal daily life I had lived since I was a child with other people that had the same problem as me.
After 28 days in treatment, I left and returned to my flat. I continued attending local AA meetings, as I had done at the Haynes Clinic. I went to meetings at lunchtime and in the evenings. I was feeling so much better. I tried to get out as much as possible. I never went anywhere where there was alcohol and used to meet people for a coffee. I kept in touch with Haynes and even started some voluntary work at a charity shop. I did everything I was told and advised to do for nearly 5 months. Then, small things started to change. I started to become complacent, I began to reduce the number of AA meetings I was attending. I would pop into the pub for a coke. I stopped phoning my contacts in AA. One day I bumped into someone I knew in the pub, they asked me what I would like to drink. From that alcoholic drink it took me 3 weeks until I was drinking what I was drinking before I went into treatment, at Haynes Clinic, plus more.
It is possible to succeed if you really want to
It was a further three months spiral before I was collected by my sister and her husband and taken back to the Haynes Clinic. I just cried when I saw all the staff again. I had known I had a problem and readily admitted it. Now I fully accepted that problem and I wanted to do something about it. This time I listened to the therapists, I didn’t challenge them. I took on board their direction and guidance. I understood the “one day at a time” message. I understood that help and support was there and that I just needed to find the humility to ask for help.
I stayed in treatment for 14 days, and fully learnt from that Relapse that I could not safely drink again. I also learnt that anyone can get well and be free from alcohol, you just need to want to be. Someone said to me in treatment “I didn’t get sober to be miserable” and I know just what they mean, I was so miserable drinking and my Relapse took me to a level of despair and depression that I didn’t think I was able to come back from. I have so much gratitude towards the staff at the Haynes Clinic who managed to put me on “the road less travelled” and to show me how to have a life, without alcohol, that I didn’t think was possible and to be happy.
I now know that “alcoholism” is a medical condition. I believe that I was born with a predisposition for a dependency upon alcohol. Similar to someone with an allergy to peanuts, I have an allergy to alcohol. I know that without the help of the Haynes Clinic I would not be here today and for that I am extremely grateful. “One day at a time,” working the 12 Step AA Programme of Recovery, I have remained sober since my last admission, many years ago.