Reducing harm caused by alcohol


I was born in Glasgow in 1970. My mother was a teacher and my father was a University lecturer. They divorced when I was a toddler. My mother soon remarried and my stepfather was a country GP.

I had a comfortable upbringing, however I had a lot of early difficulties understanding why my parents were divorced and there was a lot of bitterness around. I made the best of it and was a well-adjusted child, albeit with a profound desire to please everybody all the time.

Like a lot of people growing up in the 70s and 80s, there was a lot of alcohol around. My early experiments with alcohol were fuelled by what I could nick from the drinks cabinet without being caught! This progressed to going out drinking with my teenage pals, always to excess. In hindsight, I had no off switch. I didn't know when to stop and either passed out or was sick. This attitude to alcohol followed me right through my life; I always wanted to drink, would never drive if I could avoid it, and always wanted to party.

I guess that my serious problem with alcohol kind of crept up on me, I think that is common.

I was working as a regional sales manager for a large manufacturing company covering the north of the UK and Ireland. This involved me living in hotels for much of the working week. Of course, people with alcohol dependence always take up an opportunity to drink and don't need a motive! This job gave me both. It went from being a few beers in the bar and wine with dinner, to always having a bottle of whisky in the suitcase. Of course, eventually it started to affect my work; I was smelling of stale alcohol constantly, sweating and feeling nauseous. I  managed to make excuses for a long time but eventually the only person I was fooling was myself. This was a stressful time for my wife who knew there was a serious problem which I would not address or admit to. 

I started to drink in the morning to cover up my hangovers and this had progressed to 24/7 drinking. I was in a real mess and something had to change. 

I had attended some counselling, but didn't take it very seriously. I was still lying to everyone, including myself. I got back in touch with my worker at Addaction and we had a serious meeting. I knew I really needed some help.

He referred me to the local NHS alcohol team and they proposed a home detox. I grasped this opportunity with both hands. The detox was booked and I went through it with a great deal of hope. Two days later my employer told me I had been dismissed from my position.

This was a major setback for our family, however I was determined that it would not affect my recovery. I set about getting another job and was quickly successful. Another stressful job in the same guessed it, two months later I was back on the booze.

I had to pack the job in and ended up in hospital with a panic attack. This led to another detox in hospital followed by a lot of support at home from my brilliant GP. 

I was successful in my recovery, it was very difficult but my amazing wife was so supportive. I started my own small business, worked hard and stayed off the drink for nearly two years. I thought it would be okay to have a drink now and then, be a 'normal' person and I did manage this for a few months.

But it quickly went very wrong. I ended up drinking in the morning to cover up hangovers, until I could no longer cover it up and I suffered a bit of a breakdown. Then another detox...and all the anxiety and depression that alcohol brings with it. Again, my wife and GP were brilliant. 

That was twelve months ago and I have now accepted that I can never drink again and am very, very comfortable with that decision. It was almost a relief.

I am now a volunteer with Addaction and the Scottish Recovery Consortium and I am training to become a support worker. It's early days but I am full of hope and excitement for the future.