My first experience of alcohol was on my 18th birthday – the traditional first legal drink. I didn’t enjoy it. For the next couple of years, I wasn’t really that bothered by alcohol – I’d have a couple of beers every now and then but to be honest, I preferred other drugs.
But by the time I hit my early twenties I found it increasingly hard to get hold of other drugs, so I turned to alcohol: it was legal, socially acceptable and you could buy it pretty much anywhere.
Over the next two decades, I started drinking more and more heavily, to the point where I drank every day. Although deep down I knew something wasn’t right, I couldn’t admit to myself that I might have a problem. My doctor was the first person to tell me I had an issue – my liver wasn’t in a good state, and they told me as much.
Even after my doctor spoke to me, it still took a while for me to admit to myself that I had a problem. I was 47 when I first tried to get help, and it was hard – drinking had been part of my life for over 20 years.
I was lucky enough to get private counselling and also started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. But although I knew I needed help, I wasn’t ready to give up right away. It took a while, but I realised that I wasn’t able to address my drinking until I came to terms with my father’s death. I was referred to a bereavement counsellor, who supported me to work through the issues surrounding my father’s passing.
It was only then that I knew I was ready to start dealing with my alcohol addiction, which I did with the support of the team at the East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Service in Sittingbourne. The staff were great and I felt I could talk to them – the first person I admitted I had a problem to was my key worker Tina. Telling other people is one of the hardest things about early recovery, but Tina was great – really supportive.
I stopped drinking three years ago this Christmas, although I had a bad patch and relapsed briefly after a close friend passed away in February of this year. But I’ve been sober ever since and my life is so different now to before. I used to be homeless and now I have a home, I pay bills and I have a wonderful dog, who I absolutely adore. I also give back by supporting the Sittingbourne service.
For anyone reading this that thinks they might have a problem, my advice is to reach out. It’s not easy, and no one will do it for you, but with the right support, change is possible – no matter how long you’ve been drinking for or what age you are.
Monica* (name has been changed to protect client’s anonymity), former client of the East Kent Community Drug and Alcohol Service, run by The Forward Trust.