What it was like for us
For nearly two and a half years I have been living a sober life, a life free from alcohol, its grip and associated problems. On a summer’s Sunday in July 2006 in the middle of a hangover I accepted that I had had enough of alcohol and its effect on me and that I was completely unable to control my consumption once I had taken the first drink. Nevertheless, I went to the corner shop and bought 4 cans of strong lager in order to ease the physical and unbearable psychological aftermath of my latest weekend binge. That was the last alcohol that passed my lips and I thank God on a daily basis for helping me to stay away from drink since then.
I have always, from my earliest memory of it, had a love hate relationship with alcohol. On the one hand it was the golden elixir. I loved the taste, the golden colour of the cold beer, the sound of bottles been opened and glasses being filled. Mostly, however, I loved its initial effect. It transformed me, it took me on a journey, it made me into what I wanted to be, or at least it temporary took away what I didn’t like. It allowed me to be confident, to be funny, to be risky and risqué, to be friendly, to impress and to talk to girls. It was my passport to the “me” I wanted to be. No longer was I an unattractive, shy, awkward person, I was a witty, carefree carouser! Yet I knew from the start that this magic potion had a bite. Its magic was a temporary and unstable kind which all too quickly gave way to problems. I knew I would always drink too much. Although in the early days I rarely got ill or passed out, I behaved in ways that I always regretted in the morning. Not a single night out, not a single party, holiday, celebration or any other alcohol related event is free from a strong sense of guilt, shame, remorse or embarrassment. With whom did I argue? What did I say to him/her? Did I make a fool of myself and of course who did I attempt to, or actually spend the night with? Hangovers were the emotional barrages of guilt and anguish with interspersed with painful apologies and that dreadful pain of guilty knowledge that could not be shared. Over the years I became depressed, resentful, angry, jealous, bitter and sad. The world was all wrong and facing it without drink was not an appealing prospect.
Although I never drank every day, and could often go a while without drink, once I opened the bottle or the can, I consumed it veraciously. The magic beer turned my frown into a grin, turned pessimism into optimism and turned a bad day into a good one. Not surprisingly, therefore, I sought these effects more often and more regularly and binges became a frequent occurrence. Half the week I was sober and worked; the other half- or the weekend which by the end of my drinking days started on Thursday and finished on Monday morning, was for drink. I managed to do other things but only through the pain of a hangover or on the promise of the pub or drink later. When the structure of the working week was taken away, consumption increased. Holidays were a particular problem. I would drink in the airport regardless of time to calm my pre flight nerves; I would drink at lunchtime and continue slowly throughout the day, and would drink every day regardless of whether the holiday was 2 days or 2 months. I had no control.
I was able to manage and control my life, succeeding in education and in a career. Relationships came and went as I drove people away, but thanks only to God my health and reputation and my relationship with my family were not beyond repair. Not being a daily or morning drinker with a hidden stash of alcohol secreted about the house and office, neither my friends nor my family were persuaded of my addiction. They had no access to the internal pain and turmoil; they could not see the darkness of my soul, the hopelessness and the unbearable loneliness that I felt. I didn’t want to die, but living was not much fun either. Drinking to manage the pain was no longer working so I sought help. I am not much interested in causal explanations of my addiction nor of my recovery, they are for others to consider. The facts are simple, I used to drink and I used to be miserable. I don’t drink now and I experience joy and happiness. Of course giving up drinking and finding the joy was a journey, a journey to find the real me, a spiritual journey to discover the little boy inside who I had broken and neglected, who I had punished and abused and who I had let down so badly. With god’s help, I am growing and getting well. All I had to do was to accept the reality and embrace the solution that was on offer to me. I had a drink problem, it made me miserable. I drank too much because I couldn’t stop. I can never control alcohol; it will kill me if I go near it again so god willing, I never will. But every day is a challenge to do what I need to do to stay on the right track, to maintain my spiritual health and to keep things simple. I am striving now to be a good and humble friend, colleague, brother, son, uncle and employee. Although my addiction tries to tell me that I can never be any of these things, I have hope and faith that on a daily basis I make progress on all fronts.