Hello, I’m Ben, age 28 and I’m an alcoholic.
As I turn into my Dad’s street, a large bush sways in the wind triggering my mind to memories of the past.
I distract myself by smiling at a dog walker and continue up to the house, pulling into the drive. The big white garage door fills the windscreen and another swarm of thoughts flood my mind.
I continued to drink after my hospital stay, arguably more heavily than before. I became a burden and as a result, I was passed between Mum and Dad’s houses intermittently.
I spent the majority of time in Nottingham as this was where my therapist was, but every couple of weeks we’d drive to Baldock services and make the switch.
I was too much for anyone to handle. I don’t know how much I was drinking at this point, but it was at least 50 units a day. I’d black out at any time; while eating dinner, while watching TV, mid conversation, even on the toilet.
I got into Dad’s car and over the hour drive, started to plot where my next fix would come from, what excuse I’d use and how I’d pay.
At this point I was openly drinking and my parents knew I was a full blown alcoholic. We chatted about how much I generally needed to function – 2 bottles of white, and 4 cans of lager – but this was never enough.
I had a routine at both houses and I stuck to them.
I’d tell my Dad “James (my therapist) said I should go for a walk, away from distraction and write 5 things I was grateful for and 5 things I’d change each day” – utter bollocks, I’m sure he saw right through it too (For privacy, James is a fictional name).
I’d get my shoes on, make a point of putting my wallet on the side to give the illusion I had no money, picked up a pen and post-it and off I went.
As soon as I rounded the corner, I pulled three credit cards out my boxers, checked the balance and noted whichever had the lowest negative balance.
I’d buy 3 bottles of white and two 70cl bottles of vodka. Why exactly that amount? Because this is what I could fit into my waistband. Two wines at the front, two vodkas at the back.
I waddled back to the house and on the way back scrawl 10 random things down on a post-it, before I walk in.
Wait, what about the third wine? I drank this on the walk back, and tossed the empty into the bush I mentioned at the start of this post.
When you’re an addict memories are triggered from everywhere and everything. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t have thoughts of drinking, shame, embarrassment, shock, sadness and disbelief.
But I can tell you one thing, they are never of happiness.
I park the car, walk through the door and sit down in the kitchen, Dad’s reading the paper. We chat, laugh and catch up about what’s gone on over the last month or so. The thoughts I had on the way in die down and I feel relaxed.
It’s taken a while to get to this point, about a year into recovery.
I use the ‘naming’ method – when a thought is triggered, I name it, rationalise it and then deal with it. By naming it, you don’t let it run riot in your head, you stop the euphoric recall, and it (mostly) ends with “oh yeah, that happened”.
Such a useful tool, but I feel drained in certain environments. It often feels like everything is testing you and it’s difficult to name thoughts all the time, but when you have 15+ triggers over the course of the day it’s imperative you action it as much as possible.
There’s no doubt triggers have dampened a year on. When you first leave rehab it’s loud, overwhelming, tiring, and a constant battle – it’s one of the reasons so many people relapse after treatment.
Name, rationalise, move on.
Name, rationalise, move on.
Name, rationalise, move on.
I wander upstairs and head to the bedroom to drop my bags off, here we go again. I note the pillows, the wardrobe, the drawers. Dad shouts up asking if I want a tea, but my mind has gone elsewhere.
After having a quick smoke to hide the wine breath from the bottle I’d chugged, I shuffled in the house.
I left the post-it on the side, so it was obviously visible, kicked my shoes off and headed upstairs.
One bottle under each pillow, one vodka on the left of the wardrobe behind the spare duvet and one in the bottom drawer under my pink shorts.
I breathed a sigh of relief, today’s mission was done, I could relax, I glanced at the clock, “all done before 1.00pm”.
I went downstairs, opened a bottle of wine out the fridge – first of the two I bought with Dad – had a gulp, cracked a beer and sat down knowing I was set for a while.
And that was the daily routine when at Dads;
– Drink the ‘agreed’ booze in the fridge at hourly intervals
– Interspersed with ‘my stash’ throughout the day
– Save half a bottle of pillow wine at bedtime
– Save half a bottle of fridge wine
– Drink half bottle of pillow wine at 2am when I woke up shaking
– Drink the rest of the fridge wine in the morning
– Drink 1 can of lager at around 10am
– Aim to go to the shop by 12pm
Sadly, these are now the moments I relive when I visit Cambridge, but I’d take double the triggers, memories and difficult situations in sober life, than live one day in my drunk days.
Cue my rock bottom moment.
The above had been going on for weeks and I could feel myself getting weaker. My liver felt like it was being stabbed, my stomach like lava, my head throbbed constantly, my shit was yellow water and every blink felt as heavy as lead.
I woke up every day feeling like I’d been run over, confused, and depressed, but I never realised, because no sooner after opening my eyes, I had a bottle in my mouth.
I smiled, but I wasn’t happy. I joked, but no one laughed. I sat with my family, but I felt alone. I wanted to talk to friends, but I was too embarrassed. What the fuck had I done?
Saturday 24th November 2018.
I woke up, went to the fridge, slugged some wine back, grabbed a beer and went for a shower.
As usual my stomach turned itself inside out and yellow bile filled the bottom of the tub. I cracked the beer and took a swig, water still on.
Something about this morning wasn’t right. I watched the yellow water wash down the drain, my liver was excruciating (more than usual).
I took another swig, trying to hold it down. Nope. Foamy metallic tasting liquid squirted out my mouth. “Fucking hell, stay in” I exclaimed.
I managed to get the can down after a few attempts, turned the water off, and stood there dripping. “Fuck, I can’t do this anymore” I thought, as I walked across the landing.
To the best of my recollection, this is the first time I ever thought this in the years of my addiction, and that tiny little thought laid a seed which no matter what I did, wouldn’t go away.
I went to my room, and drank more. I had to get this feeling away, get out of my own head, stop the pain in my liver, stop the anxiety, and start the day. Nothing helped.
I went downstairs, got a beer, sat on the sofa. I turned on the TV, and tried to distract myself. Dad was out, so I didn’t just feel alone, I was alone.
I couldn’t escape this feeling of anxiety, and worry. I went to the fridge, cracked another, slugged more wine, and stood blankly staring at the fridge.
Slowly swaying back and forth, I could feel the alcohol kicking in, but I was just… sad. I couldn’t handle it.
I set out for the shop, if I had more booze it would make me feel more secure, and sane. Dad wasn’t home so no need to shove it down my trousers and no limit to what I could buy. Jackpot.
I came back with a plethora of supplies. I sat on the edge of my bed and drank a bottle of wine staring out the window, no emotion, no music, no nothing. “Is this what I’ve become?” I thought.
When everything was removed I sat there and looked at my life; no job, hurting my family, hurting myself, helpless, lonely and in debt. I’d become something that I’d never wish on anyone.
I picked up the phone and called the only person I knew would talk to me. James, my therapist.
I don’t remember the exact call, but it was along the lines of “James, I can’t do it, something has to change”.
James never pushed me into making a decision, he knew I’d get there in the end and unknown to me, I was there.
I muttered “I need to go to rehab, I can’t do this anymore”.
I heard the door handle turn, Dad was home. I hung up, and stayed sat on the edge of my bed staring out the window. Tears rolled down my face. I got myself together and thought “right, go tell Dad”.
I slowly walked down the stairs and said “I’ve talked to James, I think I need to go”. His response shocked me. It wasn’t one of happiness, relief, or joy. Just very quietly said “Okay, I’ll sort it”.
Looking back, at the time I know what I expected, but after all the pain, struggle, hurt, sorrow, anger and helplessness I had caused, what else could he say?
I silently walked out the kitchen, up to my room, and sat alone.
I drank everything I could over the next 24hrs, and was whisked back to Nottingham the following day, as the clinic was closer to Mums. Sunday night I sat in bed with my mum, looking at old photographs, laughing, trying to forget what the morning meant.
The next morning, I cried more than I’ve ever cried, drank more in a morning than I ever had.
I was petrified.
I was in rehab.
Writing this blog churns up a whirlwind of shit memories, but at the same time I’m glad to feel strong enough to share them.
It’s cathartic to be able to put them on paper and almost analyse what I still find difficult and what kicks up dirt the most.
Most importantly, it allows me to begin to feel okay with who I was, and realise that’s not who I am now.
I’m going to leave it there.
Cheers, Ben x