Alcohol Addiction – A Personal Experience

Compulsive drinking can impact anyone

If you are reading this, the chances are that you are either concerned about your own drinking or about someone you know or love.

How does someone get addicted to alcohol? Alcohol dependency can affect anyone – it is not just the ‘old man on a park bench’. It can be members of the aristocracy, top business people, successful artists and entertainers – anyone. You may know several people who are addicted without you even realising it. Many people function and hide it for a long time. However it is likely that if this is so, then they are in considerable emotional pain. Here is my story.

I had a very good childhood. Idyllic in many ways. I was brought up in the countryside in a close knit and loving family. However, here is the first aspect of my life which I believe helped me on my way to drinking a lot in my adult life: I was a middle child and rightly or wrongly, I felt I was left out and was ‘less than’ the others.

I found I had a ‘talent’ – academically I was bright and I could surpass my siblings this way in order to get attention. So I did. I also made sure there were other achievements in my life that exceeded theirs – Duke of Edinburgh award, Queen’s Guide, grades achieved on piano etc. I can see now that I was just looking for recognition and attention.

Academic achievement and a good career is no protection from alcoholism

drink at lunch and after work

My drive for success continued. I was the first person in my family to go to university. I got my 2.1 and entered the world of work. This was where I took my second step towards alcoholism. I worked in the world of advertising and marketing in the early 1980s. We did not have a canteen in the workplace – we had a wine bar and lunch was often of the liquid variety. Then there was the pub next door to which many people went straight after work, myself included. Drinking at lunchtime and in the evening became a habit. This was in the days when pubs closed in the afternoon so on Friday lunchtimes (extended due to it being a Friday), we would get as many drinks in as we could before last orders were called. Alcohol became a big part of my life.

Alcohol dependency can creep up on you

I got married and started my family. Over the next 10 years I had children and I stopped drinking for the duration of the pregnancies – I could stop by using my willpower if I needed to, and I was not going to risk the health of my babies. However I did not enjoy being pregnant despite my robust good health and no sickness – and this was because being pregnant kept me from my beloved alcohol. Once I had the babies, I could drink again and I did, just about from the day they were born.

My career continued to progress successfully with all the drinking occasions that accompanied it. I was the life and soul of parties with new friends at home – friendships established through school events. Sometimes I felt embarrassed that I had let myself down with over exuberant partying but people did not seem to mind (only myself, as I was quite self-critical, and my husband, who was not over fond of my behaviour and comments when I was drunk). My life continued on the surface successfully. From the outside it looked like I had everything: a happy marriage, lovely big house, healthy children, successful career and friends. Inside was a more mixed picture but generally I was OK. I was a heavy drinker and probably even then I was alcohol dependent. But I was juggling all the balls and keeping things just about on track.

The downward spiral

Then I hit the buffers. My husband decided that he was not happy and decided to leave. Everything that looked good in my life was revealed for what it was – a façade. Also once he left, I did not have the same boundaries as before. When I woke up in the night feeling anxious and unable to go back to sleep, I could have another drink with no one watching me. When did night become morning? I could have one in the very early morning too, before the children woke and I had to start the day. I began to need this to function and to face the day. Each day now was a massive effort – to put on a brave face and pretend everything was fine, when it was far from it. I was pretending at work, with my family and with my friends. The only thing that was keeping me going was regular top ups of alcohol.

These regular top ups sometimes became more than that and on the odd occasion I would pass out into a deep sleep. This could be when I was supposed to be caring for my children. I was putting them at risk too – though I would have denied that fiercely if anyone challenged me. I was hiding bottles around the house, lying and generally I was in a mess – but still trying to pretend I wasn’t.

Recovery takes commitment

alcohol despair

Eventually I had to acknowledge I had a problem. I was ‘anxious and depressed’ when I went to my GP (forced to go by my estranged husband). I had to admit my drinking was out of control so went to AA but this was just to keep people off my back. It made some sense when I went there but I did not really engage. I would arrive at the start of the meeting, leave at the end and not talk to anyone. Often I bought a bottle on the way home to ‘congratulate’ myself on having attended.

I finally went into a private clinic to detox. I admitted I had a problem and after that I stayed sober for 10 weeks using will power. But nothing had changed and for the next 3 years I drank for several weeks, stopped for several weeks until the next time and so it went on.

The final straw was when my work noticed I had been drinking. I was sent home. The ultimate shame. My family chose that time to confront me and I went to a proper alcohol rehab clinic (not a spa style clinic). I did the work on myself that I needed to do and finally got sober. I have now been sober for well over 10 years and I am finally comfortable in my own skin and able to enjoy my life in all its aspects. I go out to social events and have a great time, while remembering every part of the occasion afterwards. I do not wake up in the morning with a sense of dread. Life is good!

Alcoholism has both blighted and blessed my life. It is part of me but a part that I am no longer ashamed of. It has made me into the strong and compassionate person that I am today and for that, I can have no regrets.