I just read the brilliant article Russell Brand: my life without drugs and, in memory of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, I feel inspired to share my story.
“Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution,” Brand writes. This is also my truth. I have not picked up a drink, one day at a time, since 3 June 2007.
I am aware of the risks in telling my story. I may be judged, criticised or pitied. I am not a celebrity with a host of fans who adore me regardless. I have chosen to share my story in the hope that it helps another person.
Alcohol became my solution after my marriage ended in 1997. I was 25 and my son was one. I was shattered, heart and soul, to my core. I discovered that alcohol sedated the pain, allowed me to forget and helped me to sleep. I used it to take a holiday from reality. I’d get drunk in nightclubs with friends and find comfort in the arms of strangers. But the drinks slowly got closer together until I was drinking at home, alone, every night.
I had been a daily drinker for five years, from 5.30pm to pass out, before I realised I had lost control. From the outside, my life looked pretty good. I had a delightful son, worked as a journalist for the local newspaper, and lived in my own home. While some close friends may have suspected I had a problem, the rest of the world – including me – was slower to catch on.
But my internal world was hell. I hated myself, and couldn’t stand my own company. I felt angry, resentful, overwhelmed, lonely and ashamed. I fluctuated between anxiety and depression. I had suicidal thoughts most days. But a few drinks would change me. Alcohol was my great enabler and best friend. It made me feel powerful and hopeful and fearless.
I decided to stop drinking after I purchased my first home. It made good sense. I couldn’t easily afford the mortgage and my daily consumption. But when I tried to stop, I was surprised to find I couldn’t. I would drive past the corner store on my way home and tell myself to keep driving. And every day I would find myself at the checkout with bottles of alcohol. Again.
Alcohol had me. I could no longer live with or without it. Alcohol had ceased being my solution – it had become my problem.
Eventually I was desperate to stop drinking and became willing to seek help. I contacted a number in the phone book and went to a support group. I have been in recovery ever since – almost seven years now. My disease was diagnosed. Alcoholism is the combination of a physical allergy and a mental obsession. For an alcoholic, one drink is too many and a thousand is not enough.
Addiction is not simply a lack of willpower. It is a mental, physical and spiritual disease that is progressive and fatal. Addicts have lost the power of choice. I will never be able to drink moderately, no matter how long I’ve been sober. The only solution for me is complete abstinence.
Recovery has been a challenging and rewarding spiritual journey. Sobriety hasn’t always been easy – but neither is life. I’ve had to learn how to deal with life’s changes, uncertainties and disappointments. But I love and respect myself today. I enjoy my own company. I know serenity, joy and peace. I have freedom and choices. All I have to do is live a simple program and not pick up the first drink. One day at a time.