I suppose looking back I can see that I had a problem with drink from the age of 16. I was a binge drinker, going out every weekend from to Friday through to Sunday, drunk all weekend. I’d justify and rationalise by kidding myself that ‘it was normal, everyone’s doing that’ maybe it was the case that some of my friends were doing similar things but not everyone. I was taking lots of ecstasy and speed tablets along with the alcohol.
One significant event that I’ll never forget was having to identify my father’s dead body. That was so traumatic for me; I didn’t know how to cope with my emotions. Well I did, and that was by drinking to dull the pain, avoiding having to grieve by drinking. That was the way I learned to deal with any difficult situations in my life. Have a drink or take a pill and change the way I feel. Or avoid feeling anything at all if possible.
I got married and I became a father, my drinking continued to be regular and excessive. Despite all my efforts to tell myself that I was just like everyone else I remember feeling like I wasn’t. It turned out that I was gay, so when I discovered my sexuality I came to the conclusion that it was this that had been making me feel different, not my excessive, compulsive use of alcohol and drugs. It played well into my denial. Being gay was something I kept quiet, and especially as a married father. About the time my daughter turned 7 years old, after years of keeping my secret, I admitted to my family that I was gay, my marriage then ended and I was stopped seeing my daughter. This was a very difficult time. All my drinking and using escalated to the point where I was hospitalised twice to receive medical detoxification. I used substances to escape; I became a complete loner. I shut myself away in my home with alcohol, ecstasy and off I went. . I didn’t want anyone to know about my drinking and using so I hid away.
I luckily met my partner, although to my shame I became aggressive and violent with him, which I put down to the effects of my alcohol abuse. Looking back I can see I was full of anger and self-pity, I was scared, insecure and I would burst into tears if I saw a three legged dog walking down the street. But I would lash out physically and verbally when things didn’t go the way I wanted. I hated myself for that.
I was drinking to cope with the mess I had created and that was just making more and more problems for me. My relationship was suffering, my self-esteem and self-confidence was being eroded day by day. The only thing I didn’t let be affected was my work. I never lost a job and that played a part in my ability to deny that I had a problem with drink. I’d say ‘I’m in a full-time job, I can’t have a problem’ ‘how can I have a problem if I’ve just been promoted?’ I can see now that was just part of my denial.
I had two heart attacks as a result of my substance use and I was warned by the medical professionals that if I continued like that I was going to die. Initially I suppose I said I didn’t believe them, at least I didn’t want to believe them. My health was so bad I required heart surgery as a consequence of being drunk most the time for decades. In fact looking back I can see that I’m really lucky to have only had 2 heart attacks.
Due to the increasing unmanageability in my life, despite not losing my job, I ended up in homeless accommodation and that was the only excuse I needed to drink more. My self-pity and anger went through the roof and despite the warnings I had had about my health and was to start drinking again. I lost a lot of weight end up 9 stone 3 (58kg) deluded in my belief that I looked healthy when in fact I looked awful.
When I was ready my psychiatrist referred me for counselling at Addiction Support and Counselling in Falkirk. She used to say to me ‘Kenny falls off the kerb and he needs a litre of vodka’ that’s the way I was. I needed the tiniest excuse to be upset and therefore justify my drinking. At ASC in Falkirk I engaged in community rehab which was amazing. Without the support of my loved ones, groups and the Recovery Community I don’t know where I’d be today. The last drink I had 21 months ago I ended up with my face all cut and scraped and I told everyone I’d only had a ¼ bottle, they looked at me and said ‘Kenny when are you going to get this?’
That was the last time I drank. The folk I knew then in my drinking days mostly turned their backs on me. The counsellors Alistair and Weronika who took the community rehab groups gave me fantastic support; again I don’t know where I’d be without them.
Since then I’ve become a volunteer at FVRC and I’ve made real friends and real connections. My whole attitude to alcohol has been transformed. Two years ago I did not believe for a minute that I could survive without it and here I am 22 months since my last drink thanks to all the support I’ve received and being a part of this community which hasn’t stopped growing . The understanding of my problem is something else. People just get you, it’s amazing.
I been active in attending as many of the Recovery Cafes as possible and that has allowed me to become someone who once again loves company, being sociable, helping others, welcoming newcomers, using and sharing my lived experience to benefit others. Plus I love the banter!
It leaves me feeling that my life is worthwhile, it gives me a purpose and it makes me feel a hundred times better.