I thought I’d add some background here a bit like a written chair so you can get to know a bit more about me and why I come to be where I am now.
Simply I drank because I was an alcoholic. I didn’t realise I was one until at 41 I went to rehab and the explanations there resonated with me so much I was happy to call myself one from then on.
For me looking back with the beautiful clarity of sober 20:20 hindsight I never drank normally. I remember the odd sherry and lemonade at my Nan’s on high days and holidays and a shandy or two that my Dad might have given me but somewhere in my teens about 15 or 16 I started going to the pub. I looked older than I was, to my brothers annoyance! He was a couple of years older than me but even when he turned 18 his boyish looks and blonde hair meant he couldn’t be served but I could. Even then, I was often the one trying to sneak another in before we left, always the one encouraging others to come drinking with me, often the one being sick on the way home etc. At 17 I remember going off to one of my locals (they already were locals by then) one lunchtime and drinking on my own. I remember the thought in my head “This isn’t right. Drinking on your own isn’t a good sign”. But I sadly never listened to that side of my head.
Looking even further back I had a nature that had some issues. I wasn’t keen on making friendships. I pushed people away – a young boy called Simon who lived just up the street used to knock for me to play football, go sneaking around the orchards at the end of the road etc. But often I’d get my Mum to tell him I wasn’t in or whatever. In the end he got fed up and stopped knocking. I used to just kick a football against our side gate for hours rather than kick about with others over the park. At 11 I did the same with a lonely lad at school with me called Kevin. Why? Because if I became your friend I was petrified of allowing you an opportunity to see my vulnerability and for me to get hurt. And simply by then already emotions were not good for me. I didn’t do them well. Good or bad it didn’t matter I didn’t like feeling anything – I preferred a state of numbness.
So drinking as a teenager surely many did it? Yes but I went off to college and the drinking increased, esp lunchtime drinking. This was to be one of my patterns. Lunchtime and early evening drinking. Pretty much exclusively in pubs, pretty much exclusively beer. In someway I think all that was an inbuilt denial mechanism already. Off to work after college and a similar pattern was adopted. Somewhere in all this btw I met the poor woman who became my wife and we’d got married. We both ended up working in the City of London which in the 1980’s was a bit of a drinking culture – well it was easy to find at least – and find it I did. By then I drank pretty much ever day at lunchtime and again in the evening when waiting to meet my wife to go home on the train.
Then the first time I really really thought I had a problem arrived. 1990 – my son was born and obviously my wife stopped working, becoming a stay at home Mum. Suddenly I was the sole bread winner, we had a house, mortgage, a kid… a kid?! I just couldn’t cope with the emotions and responsibility. Also now I didn’t have to meet my wife to catch the train home, that was down to me. I regularly failed and often arrived home drunk, more than a few times the train journey required me to vomit out a window or wet myself because the time I got home the station toilets were locked.
So the issue was clearly the environment I was working in. I could give you some great career reasons why I moved jobs in 1991 but in reality it was because of my drinking. I went to work in a different industry, had to drive a long journey to work, where I worked was on a large industrial/office campus out of town, no pub 100 yrds from the office door etc. But… in a few months I was drinking on my own at lunchtimes and early evening again just now I drove drunk frequently (daily) and I simply learnt to live with it and hide it from many people for longer.
That went on for another 10 years, and quiet seriously could have continued much longer I was truly trapped in an alcoholic groundhog day. Wake up soaked in sweat (that was how my body dealt with the excess alcohol in it) – hate the day instantly before my head came off the pillow. Today is the day I’ll be exposed as a fraud at work, my wife will announce she is leaving me, some other disaster will hit me… so I’d start to plan when I could drink that day to just have “one or two” to take the edge off the feelings of course, could I get out at lunchtime? How early? For how long? When could I leave work? How long before I get away with not coming home? I’d then start at some point in the day and the “one or two” would rapidly become “four or five” for lunch. Then several more before getting home to sit rambling in my chair whilst my loving wife just ignored me and ushered the kids to bed. One night I simply couldn’t read the basic reading book to my daughter who was 4 or 5 at the time. She closed the book and said “It is ok if you can’t read tonight Daddy”. Heartbreaking but still not enough to stop me drinking. My wife commented that her teacher had been unable to read my comments in her reading book – no wonder I couldn’t read them – or remember writing them. Then to bed with the room moving often feeling terrible knowing I’d have another headache in the morning – but also knowing in all probability despite myself I’d do it all again tomorrow. Once in a blue moon I got home on time totally sober, not a drop on that day. Once I was home I was safe we rarely had drink at home, my wife not being a big drinker at all. On those days I really wanted to have a party, run round the garden shouting “I’ve not had a drink today!” but of course to even remotely show that would let all the pretence of a problem I was trying to convince everyone (including myself) wasn’t really a problem at all out of the bag. Also normally at some point in the evening I’d realise there was no way I’d make the next day through without a drink and the cycle would start again.
Then some things happened – they ratcheted up my drinking – on reflection I’m grateful they happened to me, I might still be a very unwell functioning but slowly deteriorating alcoholic if they hadn’t. I was in New York on 9/11 – I was stuck there for some days after with flights restricted, I felt a lot of pressure as I was the senior person there from the UK. There was an investigation into my boss at work and he left and I feared I was going to be asked to leave or similar. There was a suicide of a young lad in our department. I found some good “drinking buddies” at work – they didn’t drink as much as me but they didn’t seem to mind. They did actually, in the end I found out they only really drank with me as they thought someone should as I looked like someone who was on a mission to drink themselves to death they were sort of a protection party, they meant well but just enabled greater levels of stupid behaviour.
I had an open chat with a very dear colleague, instead of this being with one of those people who wouldn’t criticise my drinking that much like the drinking buddies above who’d say “Just try to cut it out a bit, drink slower, change drinks, have a day off now and then” this guy looked me in the eyes, he forced me too by keeping silent as I rarely looked straight at anyone by then, and said “You need to stop drinking mate”.
I signed up to an Alcohol Concern web site and told him and my boss what I was doing. I cut down then stopped all in a few days (not what the site recommended btw). I shook a bit but luckily my withdrawals were ok – I wish I’d known about the dangers of alcohol withdrawal fits as there was some danger in what I did, but whatever I was ok. At that time we also went through a major change at work – my department went from 130 something people to about 40 in a few weeks. Brutal. I was making decisions on people’s futures. I had the grace to do it without alcohol on my breath or in my system. On the other side of that I thought I was going to be a casualty, but a the last minute was reprieved and given a new job. So I started drinking again.
I kept an online diary that was secret – only I read it. Alcohol Concern did some calculations to tell you how over the “safe” limits you were, the cost to you in your pocket and potential health etc. However it was all pointless. I lied! Of course I did. Six pints on my own in an hour and half lunchtime became “two pints whilst dining with friends”… What on earth?! If you are lying like that you have a problem, but of course I wasn’t going to admit that.
In the next year I stopped, started, tried to control, changed drinks, made up all sorts of rules etc. All to no avail. Sooner or later once I started again it was inevitable that I’d find myself totally out of control again – and I could never figure out why.
My wife and I go to Dublin for a long weekend to celebrate her 40th birthday, it doesn’t start well with our luggage going on a much better holiday to Kingston Jamaica. However we had a great evening on the second night. Loads of places with Irish music, my wife enjoying her time etc. It was a brilliant night. Next day, she’d done that, can we calm down now?, go on a tour?, have a quiet meal? No – I had my drinking head on and bullied her into more drink – I ruined that day and that holiday. I have to say we’ve pretty much never got back to how great that second night in Dublin was in our relationship.
Back home after that I signed up again to the diary thing. I give up trying to give up. I can’t give up I’ve tried and then I start and then it gets worse. I found myself back drinking totally out of control one day literally only a day or two after vowing to really try this controlled drinking lark as suggested in the diary. I’d had at least 10 pints in a pub I used a lot near work over lunchtime/afternoon I’d just not got back to the office. The Landlady threw me out with the words “Fuck off and sort yourself out!”. I went to a cliff and willed myself to throw myself off, I couldn’t. I drove to my local pub near home and started again. I sat at the table and thought “Right finish that and go”. I drained the glass, I had to finish it you understand don’t you?, then took the glass to the bar (cos I’m a good lad like that) and said the barmaid “Another pint please”. My head is now screaming “NO NO NO!!! You were leaving. Just pay for this. Leave it in the tap and GO HOME”. Of course I paid for it. I picked it up. I walked back to the loneliest table in the world at that moment, sat down, looked at it and started to drink it. I had to.
14th May 2004
My last day I took a drink. My wife sent me a text at lunchtime, I’d just got my second pint of the day in my hand so about 12:30 then I remember. It was about something we’d been waiting for and the text ended. “… tonight we can celebrate”. My head went “I have nothing to celebrate. My life is shit”. And I went on a mad bender arriving home about 7pm after being insulted in my local by a guy who’d done some plumbing work for us. I should have been there at least 2 hours earlier to take my daughter swimming. My wife was out with her. My son who was 13, nearly 14 by then looked at me swaying in the doorway and said “Mum is so angry with you. By the way the TV is broken.” Great my opportunity to jump on my white stallion and retrieve this situation. I phoned the insurance company about the TV and arranged for someone to come look at it early the next week.
My wife was unimpressed when she returned. Instead of ignoring me we ended up in an almighty row (we don’t row, it isn’t how our marriage functions). After an age of this shouting, slamming doors etc. I lay down in our spare room, curled into a ball and cried and cried. I just wanted it all to stop. I was totally beaten. I resolved there and then in that mess to do anything to find a fix to this all. About 9 o’clock my wife sat with me and said “We can’t go on like this. I can’t go on like this. You need to do something about this”.
I saw a nurse at work who I trusted on the Monday – after a few days of sorting things out I rolled up at rehab. Luckily and through the help of the rehab, AA, friend, family, fellow bloggers etc. I’ve so far not picked up a drink from that day to this. Actually as I write this that is almost exactly 9 1/2 years. (Update Aug 2015 over 11 years now!) If you want to follow more read my other page “my recovery story“.
If you’ve got here and are thinking you relate to parts of my story and you are looking for a solution I implore you to reach out. I use AA – it really really helped me look at the UK AA web site for some information, phone the helpline you’ll speak to someone like me a recovering alcoholic who has achieved sobriety. Go to your GP and seek help. But please reach out, if I can do it and others like me so can you I am sure that anyone who truly wants to be rid of the shackles of active alcoholism can achieve a better life if they want it and are prepared to work for it.
Oh btw I’m not a great believer in omnipotent powers interfering in the universe and our lives – some people do believe it. I’ll just leave this though – that TV was broken that day, turn it on picture was only on half the screen and all greeny coloured. My daughter innocently switched it on the next morning and – full brilliant picture. The guy did come and look it over and say nothing wrong with it at all. Some people believe that was some kind of divine intervention since it led directly to the row with my wife and that final capitulation on my part. I don’t know. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I was sad a couple of years ago when that TV finally gave up the ghost and we had to take it to the tip though
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To use an English term…this was simply…brilliant.
Thanks for writing this all down.
Hi from Canada Graham!
I got here from stumbling across your “Sober Story” on the Living Sober site. So many similarities to what I’m going through now it had me in tears… I’m at the start of my journey but yours has motivated me. I have been attending AA here in my hometown but still in the stop, start, insanity stage. Unmanageable. I am going to do everything in my and my HP’s power to make tomorrow April 10th my sobriety date.
Good luck Doug. Never give up giving up one day it will stick you don’t want to miss that miracle
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An amazing story I can relate so much to, one of the lines “Having to finish that last drink in the pub especially!”
Thank you so much for sharing, incredibly brave of you, Emma
Brilliantly written, well done 👍
Well done. Open, vulnerable and honest.