This post is the third in our series of local recovery stories. If you’d like to submit your recovery story for publishing please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It Took a Relapse to Convince Me
Growing up was relatively normal for me. I had a Mum, Dad and a sister. We lived on a farm, had some dogs and I guess I had a pretty ordinary country bumpkin upbringing. I went to a good primary school and succeeded in everything there. I was quite small for my age though and so perhaps compensated by trying to be the best at everything I could. I tried to succeed at anything that would get me attention. I did anything I could do to wave a big flag saying ‘look, aren’t I amazing!’. Whatever I did I practiced and practiced and practiced until I became the best at it. And it worked!
I found it difficult when I left primary school. I’d been the alpha male at my primary school but it became harder at secondary. I was strong academically but I wasn’t the biggest, the strongest or the toughest. But I still tried and succeeded to excel anywhere I could so that I could be noticed.
Most of the guys were going to parties, getting drunk and dating girls but I didn’t have enough confidence to get a girlfriend. The guys boasted about what they’d done with girls but for some reason it didn’t register with me. Then one day I got a girlfriend. The prettiest girl in the year below. All of a sudden this wave of attention came my way. All the girls that I fancied who hadn’t been interested in me suddenly were.
We got our fake NUS cards and went to the pub. We were fifteen and it was after school one day. I remember there being lots of conversation about it, my friends and I had talked about it so much. The landlord knew we were underage but back then I think that if you sat in the corner, had a quiet couple of beers and behaved yourself he would turn a blind eye.
When I took that first drink it made me feel so grown up, so manly. It was brilliant. Suddenly my interest in girls was kick started and I was able to go out and have a laugh with everyone, all helped on by alcohol. It let me have a fake persona, to wear a mask of the person I’d always wanted to be.
To me my drinking felt normal. But here were a few incidents where I’d made a fool of myself. I’d gone to a party, drank too much and thrown up in someone’s bath. Another time I fell asleep and on waking up peed in the corner of someone’s house thinking it was my own. These were things I’d heard other people do too, I just thought it was a silly thing that teenage boys did and everyone seemed to accept that. They thought I was daft, that was all.
Alcohol took on more importance for me when I started work at a golf club as a golf pro. Typically I’d shown no interest in golf before but at fourteen I’d picked up a golf club, practiced, practiced and practiced and then by seventeen I was so good I wound up giving lessons! It was unheard of! Learning that much in three years was exceptional. It was purely that determination to succeed again. I saw a goal and would work tirelessly until I got it. I had loads of will power.
I got in with the adults of the club. In hindsight I think this did me a great favour because I found it hard to associate with people of my own age, all my friends were four or five years older than me. Now everyone I played golf with was ten, fifteen or twenty years older than me. It put me in good stead to learn how to manipulate situations better, how to act adult. Drinking helped but at this point it seemed quite normal.
I remember my first really bad experience with alcohol. I’d taken a girlfriend to a work do. It didn’t help that I hated the job there. I’d gone in with the impression that I was going to be a golf pro but they had me looking after the shop, cleaning clubs and carrying them out to the first tee. I was basically a dogs body and boy did I resent it. So we went to this function, got drunk and told everyone what I thought of them. I got fired the next day.
I started at another club. This time my boss was also a heavy drinker and so my drinking felt acceptable. We used to keep bottles of whiskey under the counter and have Scotch coffees in the mornings. He and I had similar personalities, similar work ethic and a similar outlook on the world. He wasn’t an alcoholic though, he seemed to be able to stop when he wanted to.
It racked up aother notch when I began to feel as if I wasn’t going anywhere at the club. I’d got my self into a bit of a mess and working there just wasn’t working for me. By this time I often had to have a couple of pints in the morning to steady myself. An opportunity came up to work at a club in Ireland so off I went. So off I went to Ireland.
It was nice to start to start with but it wasn’t what I’d hoped for. I ended up in the house on my own. I was drinking heavily in the evenings and I wasn’t really getting to know people. I was about 12 miles from the main harbor activity. I started drinking during the day during the night – I just kept drinking. I was so happy with the situation and had to change the way I felt. I went out one night and somehow got back to the golf club and fell asleep by the front gates because I couldn’t find my keys. I was in a right mess. I was woken up about five hours later by the Garda. At this point I found my keys in my pocket and went to sleep in my car for about an hour. Then one of the lads woke me up, I drove back home, Jumped in the shower, then went back to work. After about half an hour of folding shirts and selling chocolate bars I was supposed to be giving some lessons but I got told to cancel those lessons. I was so annoyed at the loss of income that I decided to hit the f*@% it button.
It was the middle of the day. I shut up the shop, locked it and went upstairs to get myself completely sideways. Proper sideways. The boss turned up and came upstairs. I told him where to go and where he could shove his job. I guess I resigned before he had the chance to fight me. I was raging. He then drove off so I jumped in my car and chased after him. Crazy.
I called my Dad and told him that I’ve had enough and to please come and get me. He flew over, put my stuff in the car and within 26 hours we’d driven non-stop from southern Ireland to Cork, taken the ferry to Port Talbot and driven straight home. I must have been awake for two days. I was in such a rush to get out of there. Back home I ended up working at a pub for a couple of years. Things were quiet during this time, Perhaps I’ve learned my lesson for now. But during this time I met a guy who I had previously given some golf lessons. He asked me if I wanted to make some money, didn’t want a job? I took up his offer and became a delivery guy, something I’ve had no previous experience of. As usual, I quickly went from knowing nothing to learning everything about it.
Then I lost my license for drink driving. But instead of getting fired, I got promoted! I became the warehouse manager. At this point life was becoming tiresome. In five years I think I’d had the experiences most people would have had in twenty. I’d had lots of different jobs, lots of different responsibilities, different girlfriends, and done a geographical. I think I was constantly searching for something to make me feel whole.
Then I met my last girlfriend and I thought ‘this’ll fix me’. She already had a child from previous relationship and I thought in the back of my mind that maybe this was what I was supposed to be. A responsible Dad and partner. I was so into this relationship that I remember coming back early from holiday because I missed her so much. Then I found out she was pregnant and again I tried to take on the mantle of saving her. It was all happening so fast. In just nine months I’ve gone from having a girlfriend with a kid to having a son of my own to. And I thought that would fix. For a time it did but there were lots of situations where I wanted to be in control. Financial matters, that sort of thing, I wanted to be the man of the house. Because of this we ended up fighting a lot and the only way I knew how to cope was to get drunk. At this point I would finish work, get the train home, go out to the pub for a couple of drinks and get home when I was good and ready. I was blinded by what I wanted.
Because of this and other issues she used to kick me out on a regular basis. My parents lived very close by so it was easy for her to lock me out and send me over there. We both liked to try to exert power. It was a dysfunctional relationship. I became more and more resentful about the situation. I always wanted to understand everything and I couldn’t understand her. I wasn’t in control and was trying hard to understand, but the only way I could do with it was to get smashed.
She thought I had a problem with drink. It was at this point that I went into AA, only to please her and the kids. I didn’t think I had a drink problem, I just thought I was someone who was very aggrieved. My drinking wasn’t daily so I didn’t think I could be an alcoholic. I think I thought I was normal, it was just what guys did wasn’t it?
My first experience of AA was alright but I wasn’t completely willing. There were a few deep dark secrets that I wanted to hold onto. I still assumed that I knew better but I made some good friendships. I did the program but I still couldn’t give myself to it entirely, especially spiritually. I saw too many reasons for there not to be a God and not enough reasons for there to be one. Too much had happened, I’d been done too many wrongs, there were too many bad experiences and not enough good ones. I just couldn’t believe.
I didn’t really feel that connected during those first eighteen months of sobriety. I was running purely on my own determinism. I was staying sober just to prove a point to my girlfriend. Then she began to comment on my not drinking, ‘why can’t you be normal,’ ‘why can’t you have just one drink’. It wasn’t her fault but it was a great excuse for me. So I began to cut my meetings down.
It began with alcohol free beer, then low alcohol beer. Then I started bringing home four cans a night, no more than that though, because if I’d bought ten I’d have drunk ten. I was trying to fight it but was losing quickly. Soon I was back on spirits and all the same stuff, the arguments and disagreements began again.
I started hiding the bottles in my golf bag or I’d open the window and throw them into the hedge. I’d always volunteer to take the bins down or hide the bottles in my jacket. I was trying to regulate my drinking but it just wasn’t working.
So the last straw came a few days after my thirtieth birthday. We’d been out with some friends and had a really good night but at some point the Sambuca came out. My girlfriend seriously disapproved of me drinking spirits so we had a bit of an argument. Despite that the night had gone without a hitch but the next day was Good Friday, a Bank Holiday. It just made sense that I go down the pub on a Bank Holiday. A few drinks turned into a pub crawl and she caught up with me and said she wanted to meet me with the kids for dinner at a local restaurant. I agreed and promised to meet them there at eight o’clock. And I meant it!
I continued drinking into the early evening and eight o’clock came and went. I got some texts from her telling me to hurry up and get to the restaurant but this just irritated me more. So I drank more and got into a proper state. I ended up in a fight with a guy in the pub. I stayed the night at my parents but the next morning when I went back home and she got a look at the bruises on my face she decided enough was enough. This time I was out for good.
I spent three months with my parents, just one-hundred yards from her and the kids. That was torture. It was quite easily the most difficult time of me life. Drink was the only way I could stop the crazy thoughts that were going through my mind. It was heart-breaking.
I just couldn’t participate in life any more. I was functioning just enough to go to work. I battled through every day, constantly plagued by thoughts of her and the children, it never left me. The only relief I got was when I could drink myself into oblivion.
Then I found a place of my own and suddenly the reins were off. I could do as I pleased. To begin with my drinking wasn’t too bad, I avoided spirits and stuck to beer and wine. But slowly I realised that this grandiose fantasy of living as an eligible bachelor wasn’t living up to my expectations. My drinking became heavier. I couldn’t change my situation so I had to change how I felt about it. That meant more alcohol. Gradually it got worse and worse.
Christmas was approaching, it was horrible. I spent the first Christmas Eve on my own but managed not to drink. We had Christmas Day altogether but I was alone again on Christmas Day night. I was seeing the kids again on Boxing Day so didn’t drink. I had this fantasy in my mind that if we managed to have a good Christmas that it would sort everything, that it would be alright again. By the following day it was clear that there wasn’t going to be a reconciliation .
From the 27th to the 31st I just drank as much whiskey as I could buy. It was literally just bottles everywhere and complete oblivion, I don’t even remember it. I’d just fall asleep on the sofa, wake up remembering they weren’t there and drink more to get back to oblivion. I had to stop those feelings. It wasn’t a case of wanting to, I had to stop them.
Finally fear made we want to stop. It was New Years Day and I had to go back to work on the 3rd. I was in a right mess, I hadn’t eaten since Christmas Day and I’d drunk maybe a dozen bottles of bourbon. I couldn’t keep any food down. I got really ill at this point. I couldn’t regulate my body temperature, I was shaking and kept throwing up. It was a severe case of the DTs, I was even seeing and hearing things. It was really quite horrific.
I called my old sponsor and told him I was in a mess and needed him. He was there within an hour. Then I called my Mum and she came round. She arranged for me to go into hospital to be detoxed, I was so afraid. It was going to be the end of me if I didn’t get help, so in I went.
This time I knew I had a problem and completely gave up. This was hurtling to only one obvious conclusion and that was death. So I went back to AA but this time gave up and shut up. I had to, there was no other option for me. I’d previously taken on board every part of the program apart from God, the whole core of the program really. I had believed that knowledge alone would keep me safe and it hadn’t.
I got honest and handed my life over to God. I had to have God, I needed God and I found God. I had to rework the program with every fibre of my being. I did everything I had done before but this time I did it completely honestly and with God. It was He that enabled me to fully ‘get’ the program. I can have all the knowledge I want, do everything the program says but if I don’t have God, it just doesn’t work for me.
Life is amazing today. I don’t have everything I want but I do have everything I need. I do esteemable things, I help people, I do stuff I would never normally do. I called another alcoholic and asked them how they were today! I’d never have done that before, I wouldn’t have been interested! I know how to be a good person today. I’m not perfect, I’m a work in progress. I have good friends in the fellowship. I frequently speak to my sponsor and his other sponsees. I’m growing.
I suppose that for me this is the only way I have found to live successfully. I wasn’t living before, I was just muddling along unconscious of the world around me. Today I participate in life. I’m a good Dad, I’m good at my job and I’m there if people need me. I am the person I never thought I could be. I’m the person that I’d thought alcohol could make me. I’m everything that I wanted to be, thanks to God.
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