Tuesday 20 November 2018
This year Alcohol Awareness Week is from 19th – 25th November 2018. To help shine a light on the issue, one of our former clients shared their story of how alcohol impacted them, and how they changed their life for the better.
In July this year, I walked out of my London flat with just a cushion, some cards and a cardholder – nothing else. I was in a bad way and wasn’t really sure where I was going. I ended up in Margate with nowhere to stay except a relatives’ holiday cottage. I was at rock bottom and knew I needed help for my drinking, which was out of control.
It hadn’t always been like this. I’d had a great career working in media and new media for over 20 years. But alcohol had become a part of it, whether it was taking a client out for drinks or letting off steam after a hard day by socialising with friends. Without realising I ended up really reliant on alcohol – at first in social situations and then developing a physical dependency.
Things finally came to a head this year – I was going through a particularly tough time in my personal life and my drinking escalated. At my worst, I was drinking about a litre of vodka a day. I tried to stop on my own and had horrible withdrawal symptoms, resulting in me being admitted to A&E with hallucinations. The doctor told me I needed to drink, which I was shocked about - I didn’t understand at the time how dangerous it is to stop drinking suddenly when you are physically dependent on alcohol and that medical guidance is to reduce down slowly to stop your body from going into shock. So I went back to drinking (as instructed!) but without the proper guidance and support to cut down or stop safely I ended up drinking the same amount as before.
Fast forward to July and my journey to Margate. I’m still not quite sure how I managed to find the Hub – I didn’t know the area that well and I was quite out of it. But I’m so glad I did.
I was assessed that day by a member of the team and then assigned a key worker, who has been absolutely brilliant. They enrolled me in their new Alcohol Pathway initiative, which involved several stages. The first was an intensive, group-based ‘pre-detox’ week, where I and other people who had issues with alcohol (as opposed to other drugs) met on a daily basis to prepare ourselves for the realities – both physical and emotional – of stopping drinking. The group was great: there’s something special about that kind of environment that really encourages you to open up and be vulnerable. You get the feeling that whatever surface level differences you might have – be it age, gender, social status or whatever – deep down you are all in the same boat and understand what challenges the others are going through.
The next week I did a medically assisted detox lasting five days. I had to come to the Hub every morning, be breathalysed to make sure I wasn’t drinking and then collect my daily medication to help my body transition from alcohol. I also had some medical tests to check things like liver function.
I had to move back to London not long after I completed the detox, but I know that the Hub is running an abstinence group to support the people who still live locally. Importantly, they’ve given me the tools to stay strong in my recovery, particularly making sure I link into the fellowship (Alcoholics Anonymous) in London, which I now attend meetings of on a regular basis. They also taught me about the importance of having a strong support network around you; to be honest, even if it means admitting a slip-up; and being compassionate to others and myself.
I’ve been sober ever since. It’s not always plain sailing – sometimes you get a tidal wave of emotion that can hit at any time (sometimes on public transport, which isn’t ideal) – but I’m in such a better place. I have a new job working full-time in retail and I’ve never taken a day off sick. My friends have been amazing, as has my new boss, who knows all about my recovery and is really supportive. I recently got promoted and to top it off I’ve started running a vintage pop-up in my spare time. Oh and I’ve lost two stone in weight to boot!
Before I stopped drinking, I was worried that being abstinent would take away my freedom. But it’s actually been the other way around. I had become fully committed to alcohol – my life revolved around it and everything I did needed to fit in around my drinking. Now I don’t need to find ways to squeeze alcohol in - I’m free from it and it feels great.
Ruth, former Forward client
If you are worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, please visit our website (www.forwardtrust.org.uk) to see if we can help or email firstname.lastname@example.org.