There comes a point in your life when you reach a turning point

There comes a point in your life when you reach a turning point, where you have to either give in to addiction or survive. At first I drank to fit in, for courage, to be social. But rapidly that changed. It was slow at first, but it was insidious. You start doing things you’d never have done before – getting involved with bad people, bad company. You think: one wee drink will help. Every drink I had I’d feel guilty but then I would think “bugger it”. Once I started I couldn’t stop.

No matter how good your life is, or how bad your life is, how rich or poor you are, alcoholism and addiction affects everyone. There’s no real indicator or characteristic for it, it affects more than 20% of people.

I could not have a social drink. I thought my friends were weird for only having 1 or 2 drinks, when I was coming out to have a good time. I didn’t understand how you could have a good time without drinking. But getting that drunk I became a nuisance, I was annoying people, and eventually I got barred from everywhere I want. After that I started drinking alone and that takes you to a place you never want to go. Sometimes I thought about moving away and starting again, but once you move the problems are still there. Getting involved again with bad company and people who had the same problem with alcohol as I did.

I didn’t think I would ever get out of that cycle. They call it the hamster wheel, you’re just going round in circles with nothing changing. By that point you are looking for ways to get out – any way at all: self harm, bad relationships, all sorts. Eventually I got to the turning point. You have to go one way or the other – make a change and survive, or continue on the wheel.

I tried lots of things to change. I tried psychiatric help, alcohol counsellors, but no matter what I did I couldn’t stay sober. Eventually I tried Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and there I met people who had survived for a long time while staying sober. Once I found AA, at the first meeting I realised it didn’t restrict your freedom, I could still make all my choices for myself and they would support me. I met people who felt similar to me and could understand me. I had felt like a victim all my life but I realised I am a survivor.

One person explained to me that it’s like an oak tree in a field – that tree has survived lightning, storms, natural disasters and it has stood through all that. But if an insect works its way into the tree and introduces bacteria and fungus starts to grow, the tree dies as it is destroyed from the inside. It could withstand the big things in life but can’t withstand all the wee nicks of daily life that eat it apart slowly.

It has been a difficult journey, and surviving isn’t one incident where you are cured – you have to accept that you have a problem. It doesn’t matter how many people say that you need help, you have to want it for yourself. If you do have a problem, you have to do something about it. Addiction is a killer. I have lost so many friends who said they would get help and didn’t.

There isn’t just one way of getting help, take advantage of what’s available and find what works best for you. Take recovery one day at a time, or if need be 1 hour at a time. Eventually that one hour blends into a day and the days blend into weeks and in the end you realise that you’ve got your life back.

One day goes into the next, years go by, and life gets better. Some people go on to get married, have kids, move around the world. Some people don’t move at all but life is still better. There is a way out but don’t do it for other people, do it for yourself and to change your life for the better.

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Huge thanks to Neil for sharing your journey with us.