People often under-estimate the knock-on effects of alcoholism and by that I mean the psychological effects. People assume it’s all about getting that next drink or being permanently hungover, but it’s so much more. I was self-harming during this time. On one particular occasion I sliced my head open with a new Stanley blade. At the time I didn’t know why I did these things, but on reflection I remember how safe I felt every time I was admitted to hospital and how utterly terrified I was every time I had to go home. Hospital was my cry for help, home meant being back on the booze.
I wasted so many years of people’s precious time and it’s taken me a long time to forgive myself for that. The unacceptable had very much become acceptable in my eyes. By the age of 34 I had accepted that I was a fully functioning alcoholic, but instead of this being the starting point for help, I told myself that there was nothing I could do about my problem and decided that I’d quit drink when I was 40 – so naive. I would not have seen 40 had I carried on.
My last drink was in Tenerife, another holiday I had ruined. My wife on the last day of the holiday very calmly told me that she had had enough and that she was thinking of leaving me. I broke down and told her I too had had enough, I was sick of being sick and I meant it but she just said “aye, OK Graham” – it was something she’d heard many time before.
I had tried to stop around 5 years previous and after getting some initial help believed I now knew how to control my drinking. How wrong I was – all of the above and everything in my previous blog happened during that 5 year period.
When we got home from Tenerife I started looking online for help once again. I found a fellowship but convinced myself that I didn’t belong there and that people would laugh at me. It was now my pride that was killing me, not just the drink. A week later and I still hadn’t had a drink – I was going mad. All I wanted was to finally get some proper help but as I drove there I told myself that what was really going to happen was a series of put-downs and humiliation.
I eventually arrived, but within seconds I had decided to leave. That was when a stranger stopped me and asked if I was lost. I panicked and blurted out something about being in the wrong place and was just going to go home. The man saw right through me, he told me that my best chance of helping myself was to go in and listen and if it wasn’t for me then just go home. I stayed and I listened – my life was transformed that day.
Occasionally I thought I was fixed and would be able to drink normally, but past experience had proven otherwise. By the Saturday of that week I was fed up and had planned to drink. I told my wife I was heading to golf but in truth I was going to the shops for a bottle, then I’d go to golf and have a wee drink on my way around the course. The irony was I’d never had a ‘wee’ drink in my life but this time something was different – I stopped myself. Something inside me made me call the person I had spoken with days earlier. We spoke on the phone for over an hour and for the first time in my life I had the tiniest amount of hope that I might actually be alright – real hope this time, not just the empty promises I had so often made.
After that conversation I realised that for the first time I had told someone something only I knew about, and for the first time ever in all my years of drinking, I did not follow through with my plan. My life changed that day.
To my new found friend…you will never know just how grateful I am that you picked up the phone that day.