Addiction Recovery Stories – Graham
When did you start drinking?
I started drinking when I was about 16 or 17. My friends drank, so I drank. It just seemed a normal thing to do; a social thing, chasing the girls, fitting in, enjoyment etc.
Why did you?
That’s a good question; I guess there was a lot of social pressure. You see, back in school, I was very good at sports. I would win at many sporting events and was captain of the football and other teams. Coming second was never good enough for me, I had to come first.
There was a point at school where I was picked on for about 6 months by the school bully until one day, I actually hit him. From then on I had a reputation to keep, not only in sports but also amongst my mates. This carried on through to drinking. I had to be the one who drank the fastest, drank the most and always the last one to leave the pub.
When did it become a problem?
It became a problem about 10-12 years ago, though I couldn’t see it at the time. I put it down to pressure at work. I worked for an engineering company, had been there 23 years. I felt myself becoming nervous about going to work, I was having anxiety attacks, and my nerves were really bad so I visited the doctor who put me on anti-depressants.
Over time there were a number of redundancies at work and I ended picking up responsibility for those that had gone. I soon found myself doing my usual day job as well as that of four other people. I was attending meetings to find out why things were not being done on time, while at the same time, the person who was supposed to be doing those things was in the meeting discussing why they were not being done i.e. me!
My reputation for being a drinker had followed me from school into the work place, though I didn’t think I drank more than anyone else. It had never affected my work, I was never late and always did a good job. But it got to the point where there was more and more work to do and as the saying goes, the buck stopped at me.
One morning, getting ready for work, coffee in hand, a wine bottle ‘followed me around the room’. I thought what the hell and drank a glass before setting off. For the first time at work I felt relaxed, calm and for the first time in a long time, no panic attacks, no anxiety. But, I soon got to the point where I couldn’t function without a drink; I couldn’t go out and felt I couldn’t face the world at all.
Work warned me about my drinking, not so much about the quality of work but more from a health and safety point of view. I had to operate machinery so there was a risk towards myself and others. I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. I needed to drink to function. My body needed it, not just mentally but physically. The pressure of work would still be there if I did or didn’t. So, of course the only result was getting sacked for gross misconduct. I could I have got this bad?
What made you get help?
Well, I carried on drinking, to the point where it caused arguments with my wife. I kept telling her I would find another job but I knew deep down I couldn’t. I knew I had a serious problem. A visit to the doctors resulted in some tablets so I could do a home detox. I took the tabs and managed to stop drinking for two weeks. Physically I felt a little bit better but still had a lot of anxiety about going out and doing new things. So two weeks without drinking and a chance to go out on a Saturday night with my wife, I thought I would be able to control it. That was a quick downward spiral. I remember taking myself to A&E while very drunk, complaining because my legs were not working properly. I know it sounds a funny thing for someone very drunk to do, but I knew there was a problem. They did various tests which showed my liver was swollen. They told me if I didn’t stop drinking I could be dead within three months.
Why The Basement Project?
I was given leaflets for CSMS and managed to get some counselling. I managed another couple of weeks before I thought I could manage controlled drinking. Well I was given a drinks diary to keep and tried to cut down but I couldn’t. CSMS suggested I contacted The Basement Project. After an initial meeting, they seemed to understand me when I said I couldn’t stop drinking. They said there was hope and they were there to help and put me on the pre-detox part of the Recovery Programme. I even tried to make an excuse to delay the start but somehow they saw straight through me – they knew I was scared to consider never drinking again, they could see the fear.
I attended the four week programme and was ready to go to detox when I collapsed at home with liver failure. I fell into a coma for four weeks. I wasn’t expected to pull through but miraculously I did. I kept in touch with the Basement Project from hospital and soon as I was well enough I attended the abstinence part of the Recovery Programme. I had done the pre-recovery part, and I wanted the rest!
Where would you be now?
Well, I think by reading this you can work out for yourself that I wouldn’t be here. I’d be dead.
How are you now?
Mentally I feel fantastic, never better. I don’t have any anxiety attacks or fear of not drinking again. Physically I’m not 100%, but who is? All I know is it’s much better than 0% and I was so close to that. My relationship with my wife has been restored, I am lucky she supported me through all of this. I have a lot of people to thank for getting me where I am today.
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“There are no victims, only volunteers – you always have a choice.”