I faced my biggest demon in December 2015 and admitted to myself, and a select few, that I was an alcoholic and needed help. Reactions varied depending on who I was talking to, and at this early stage I was incredibly selective on who I shared this with, concerned with the stigma that came from admitting I was an alcoholic.
My working years have been spent in a corporate world where a lunchtime pint, or glass of wine, wasn’t frowned upon. I somehow always managed to gravitate to these folks and saw myself as outgoing or sociable. My reality, however, was that I was so incredibly insecure about who I was and what people thought that I was desperate to be liked – having a couple of drinks gave me a confidence to be more outgoing and therefore more popular, or so I thought.
But nights out, events and parties were becoming my nemesis. I became concerned of how I would get and would try various tactics, none of which were to talk to anyone about my fears. I would eat before I went out, I would start out on soft drinks, I would leave my car at the train station – but none of this stopped me. At sometime in the evening I would break my resolve and end up blind drunk.
Near the end of my drinking, some colleagues were gently trying to tell me that they were more and more aware of how drunk I was and that maybe I should calm my drinking down. I even had a customer say that they would rather I didn’t come to a supplier dinner as I tended to get too drunk, now that one has sat with me for a long time and is maybe one of the first seeds to plant in my mind that I needed to get proper help.
Dry January was then going to be the answer – it is a great message and if anything I love a challenge. One of the managers at the time even offered me additional sponsor money if I could stay off alcohol for six weeks. Of course I did it as I was trying to prove to him, and myself that I wasn’t an alcoholic. As soon as the six weeks was up I started drinking again and this time maybe a little more often.
I had so many reasons to put down the alcohol. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes but this didn’t stop me. My son was hardly in communication with me but this didn’t stop me. I had no idea of the damage I was doing to the people around me or myself and blamed everyone else for my problem, especially the work culture, I took no responsibility for my actions and my addiction.
Alcohol addiction is not a choice, it is not something you can simply put down and decide to stop. It does not discriminate – anyone can be affected. In my recovery I have met so many amazing and inspiring people who, if you were to meet them, you couldn’t imagine how they used to live.
I now know that I process alcohol in a way that leaves me craving more and I have an inability to stop when I start. I have heard people say that one drink is too many and a thousand is not enough. For me, as soon as I have that first alcohol drink it sets off a chain reaction in my brain that triggers my addiction. I am incapable of stopping until I physically cannot consume any more.
I believe alcohol should be viewed in a similar way to smoking. Plenty of people who smoke are not concerned with how many they have, I know some people who can take it or leave it and only smoke on social occasions. There are others who are obsessed and find it really hard to stop, all of these people are applauded for stopping. Alcohol has the exact same demographic and therefore we should be supporting the non-drinker, not making them feel ashamed or like they have to keep it a secret – or even worse make them feel boring.