In some ways I suppose my story’s quite unremarkable but also slightly different than a lot of people’s I’ve met.
I wasn’t trapped in the madness for a long period of time, but over the years I dipped in and out and did spend months at a time in a terrible place. And though knowing what I know now about addiction I realise I have displayed addictive behaviours since I was a child, in later life I didn’t really drink to run away from anything or to seek oblivion (even though some childhood traumas have affected my life in lots of ways); I did however drink to increase my confidence and reduce my shyness.
I also drank more depending on the company I kept, depending on the people or places.
I had my first drink when I was fourteen I think when my mum (who was herself at that time a chronic alcoholic) sent me to the shop to buy a couple of cans of lager so, in her opinion I could learn to drink under proper supervision. The first time I got drunk I was probably also fourteen and on a trip to Blackpool with my friends and drank two litres of cider on the train. By the time I got to Blackpool I was absolutely gassed (to this day I can’t really remember much about Blackpool but my friends assured me I was a bit of a nightmare) and then after that I only drank when my friends did and never really got overly drunk.
This continued into my twenties and I even abstained altogether for about eighteen months ‘cause I was on a health kick and didn’t want to poison my body. However as I started getting a bit older and a bit more confident I started to go out a lot more and met a lot more people, many of whom ‘liked a drink’ as they say. I then started to binge drink and though I only went out a couple of times a week I drank until I blacked out and could never remember owt in the morning, but that was considered the sign of a good night so I never thought anything of it.
Although over the course of time I started drinking more often and more to excess, my drinking didn’t become problematic or life-affecting as such until my second year of university. I was thirty-three at the time and during the summer break after my first year a very good, close friend of mine was brutally murdered by her fiancé (another friend of mine) and this event led me to a very dark place.
A few weeks or so after this had happened I had to move back up to Scotland to start my second year at Uni and not only was I still fully in the grief and madness of my friends death but I was also leaving my support network behind and this resulted in me failing my second year within the first five weeks of the semester (this was due to non-attendance to prescribed classes as I was usually either too drunk, too hung-over or too anxious/paranoid to go).
I continued to live in Scotland even though I wasn’t attending uni, but I couldn’t get a job and wasn’t eligible for benefits and I was relying entirely on my friends to survive. This is when I first entered into the cycle of insanity. Finally I left university and came home and my drinking calmed down and returned to the ‘normal’ once or twice a week.
I was fine then for a couple of years drinking only occasionally (although when I did drink I drank alcoholically) until two major life-altering things happened.
Firstly I met a woman (yes Madeline a woman) and secondly my mum was diagnosed with lung cancer. During this period I was trying to balance caring for my mum who was already disabled with neuropathy through her alcoholism and cultivating a relationship with my girlfriend who was also an alcoholic (I am sure). My girlfriend had a lot of issues herself and I had decided to ‘help’ her with them, one of them (a major one as it turned out) being that she ‘liked a drink’, as did I.
We met in the pub, played out the first couple of months of our courting in the pub and had most of our fall-outs (at first) in the pub, so booze played a big role in our relationship from the start. I didn’t really realise at the time that once we got together we pretty much started seeing each other and drinking more-or-less every day; as this went on the relationship became more and more dis-functional and co-dependant. Add to this the stress of caring for my mum through her chemotherapy and I was well on my way on my journey into bedlam.
Eventually my mum was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given only weeks to live and at the same time my girlfriend left me and started seeing a friend of mine, and it was at that time when I hit my first rock bottom and realised I had to do something about my drinking.
Unfortunately the “something” I did was to stop drinking ‘cold turkey’ as I was completely unaware about physical-dependence and withdrawal at that time and was sure I would be fine. I was not fine.
On my third day of abstinence (this was only nine or ten months after I’d started drinking every day) I started, what can only be described as, hallucinating my freaking norcks off. And after an entire day of being tortured by the cast of Hollyoakes dressed as police officers on an open-top bus being driven around King Cross and acting out the hallucinations naked in my flat subsequently smashing it up and flooding it; an ambulance was called and I spent two weeks (at Christmas) in detox on the mental health villas. My mother’s brain cancer had progressed by then to the point that she wasn’t really aware of me or what was going on and my brother and his wife had dis-owned me and isolated me from my mother’s general care. So all in all, not the best Christmas I’d ever had.
I came out of detox feeling okay (even though my mum had died by then), I was no longer dependant but still (I realise now) addicted and I started drinking again; not every day but binging as I had before and slowly life started to get back to normal. Then out of the blue I received a substantial cheque from my mother’s insurance company and immediately decided to fly off and do a tour of Europe, completely unplanned or thought through.
My best friend (or so I thought) at the time lived and ran his own business in Portugal so that seemed the obvious place to start. However when I got there my ‘friend’s’ business, which was in property had gone round the u-bend, he had no money, masses of debt and was in an absolute mess, he is also (I am convinced) a hard-core addict, so I spent my time in Portugal drinking, fighting and paying off all his debts. I left the country acrimoniously and when I got home fell into another three-month booze bender.
I managed to pull myself out of that though and got myself more stable and back to only drinking once or twice a fortnight (but when I did drink I did get jolly well mashed-up). This went on for eighteen months or so and things seemed to be fine. But then, two-and-a-half years after my mother’s death my brother finally sold her house and I received another substantial cheque. After doing all the sensible grown-up things like paying off debts, buying contents insurance, setting up an ISA; I decided that as reward for all of my grown-upedness I really deserved a pint and lo, the cycle began again.
This time I was in the madness for about six months before I finally realised I needed help and went to the doctors. She referred me to Dashline who in turn sent me to CAT and they eventually organised for me to go to conn3ct and from there to TRBP and I haven’t looked back since.
At the time of writing this I attend a lot of mutual aid groups; I am in the AA fellowship, I’m on the TBRP abstinence programme, I attend Compass, SMART and Here & Now groups and even join in at Basement Jive. I am approaching one hundred days sober and my life is just getting better and better.
Article featured in RecoveryTimes issue 6