'Alcoholism had me stuck in hell': how a long-term addict finally got sober and found inner peace and purpose

2 September 2023, 00:36 | Updated: 2 September 2023, 01:06

'I really was stuck on the highest structure in hell'
'I really was stuck on the highest structure in hell'. Picture: Alamy

I’m an alcoholic and it is my hope that someone, somewhere, reading this piece will be able to take something positive from it and that they will then feel able to seek help and begin to recover from alcoholism.

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I have suffered from and battled with alcoholism for many years. In fact, I have suffered from and battled with alcoholism since I took my first drink at around the age of 14. You might have heard it said that alcoholism is a progressive illness and that is true in my experience, but it has also always been within me.

My battle raged throughout my teenage years and my twenties. What started as a few beers with friends or after work became a decade-long habit of several bottles of wine an evening and binge drinking chaos at occasions and events.

My experiences of drinking as an alcoholic led me to some very dangerous situations. For instance, my life was saved the first time by a teenage friend when I was around 17. A split-second judgement of his in grabbing my coat and pulling me back from stepping into a busy main road has bought me at least 13 more years.

I could list all of the dangerous situations that my drinking has put me in, with a plethora of anecdotes and backstories for each of them, but that would make for a very long read and would be nothing more than self-indulgence.

I started to use alcohol for the treatment of mental health conditions such as OCD, PTSD and depression, which were officially diagnosed years into my struggle. Alcohol worked for a short time, but it eventually took me to the most dangerous of all experiences that my drinking guided me to: a state of complete mental and physical dependency on alcohol.

Although to the outside world I was a functioning member of society, with a reasonably well paid and respected job within logistics and the purchase of a smart house in a nice neighbourhood, inside I was truly broken.

At the peak of this dependence, I would wake up in the morning feeling as if all the demons I battled each day had been running riot and doing further damage to my mind whilst I slept.

When I got out of bed, I would start to vomit through the withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing solely from not drinking alcohol while sleeping. The only way for me to clear these symptoms was to take another alcoholic drink, the smell and taste of which so early in the morning also made me vomit.

I really was stuck on the highest structure in hell and furthermore, I was ready to jump off. During this time, I tried to stop drinking on hundreds of occasions by myself and I was unable. Not only did I want to drink, but it was deep rooted to my core that I needed to and had to.

One evening, my doctor called me with the results of a liver test. He told me that I had started to damage my liver and that before long I would do irreparable damage and it would lead to death. I was 27 years old when I received that call. To demonstrate to readers how an alcoholic’s brain works, when I received the news, my first thought was: "But how long can I keep drinking until I really have to stop?".

I was lucky enough to find my way to a medically assisted detox and with the help of a loving family, I was able to get through it and relieve the physical dependence that I had. I stayed sober this time for 50 days; not an insignificant amount of time for a drinker like me. In fact it was by far the longest I had achieved since taking my first drink, all those years ago. However, I went back to drinking and instead of picking up from the beginning again, I found myself straight back at the jumping off point.

Now, I am 30 years old, and I will be three years sober next month. I have achieved this only by surrendering to the fact that I could not and will never be able to defeat my alcoholic addiction alone. I realised that the only way I could do this was with the assistance of a well-known 12-step programme, a fellowship of people that had experienced the same things as me, and a dedication to give service and help others to get and stay sober, to give out the same help that was given to me. This is how my life was saved for the second, third and countless more times. For this, I will always be grateful.

What else I have come to realise is that although alcohol is available almost anywhere, in a thousand forms, is deeply embedded in society and is even encouraged in many circles, that is not my problem. My problem is me, and my old way of thinking and I had to work on that to be able to get well.

My life now is unrecognisable to how it used to be. Instead of waking up in the morning and thinking of those demons or my next drink, I wake up in the morning and think of how I can be of assistance to others. I have a sense of peace, serenity and purpose in my life.

Of course I still have issues, but I am able to cope and deal with them in a way that doesn’t mean I am reaching for a drink and being destructive to myself and those around me.

Best of all, if you look in my ‘contacts’ you will find scores of people, close to 100, that I have met through the programme who would pick up the phone if I called them day or night, and I them. I can now go anywhere in the world and I will find more of these people, more fellows that have my back and will be there for me if I need them.

I would like to say that I am proud of the transformation I have been through and that I now have nearly three sober years. However, these things are for other people in my fellowship to be proud of and for me to be grateful for.

If you are reading this and you have a problem with alcohol, you can get help and you can gain peace and serenity in your life too. There is help available and it works, if you work it, I am proof that this is true.

Lastly, I cannot speak for any organisation or group of people and would not wish to, but I can speak of my experiences and the strength and hope that I found.

If you would like help treating alcohol or drug addiction, a list of support organisations can be found here.