One Derry man’s alcohol addiction story: ‘Don’t allow yourself to become another statistic’

My drinking started as a coping mechanism, and ended as a barrier between my family, friends and reality.

I decided to write this in response to the social media outpouring of confusion and how some people are coping.

Many during this pandemic are turning into alcohol to unwind to forget about the days and weeks ahead of us, and that is fine if you can control it in moderation, but what if this coping mechanism begins to control you, as it did me?

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‘MAN allowed me discuss my problems and piece together what can only be described as a jig-saw of a life put through a blender… Talk about a puzzle! It wasn’t easy, but what is?’ (File picture)

At home we pour our own. We drink as we please and the cost is minimal when compared to going out for a drink; but at what cost to our well-being and the well-being of those around us?

I drank to press pause. I drank to alleviate mental and physical pain, which in turn led to emotional pain, in which I drank to quell. Alcohol was my answer and I didn’t even know the question.

It started off as a “few” which then turned into a few before work, during and after. This wasn’t overnight, but over a period of months and increased as time went on. This is what my coping mechanism had become.

I was never falling around drunk (although that did happen on occasion), but my body and brain began to depend on alcohol; I became a vessel for alcohol, I lost myself to it.

The everyday pressures of homelife and work were then met with increasing amounts of alcohol, and that on top of my existing pressures of mental and physical (worsened by alcohol consumption) ensured that I now became dependent on alcohol to relax, socialise and function. Function. Think about that.

A functioning alcoholic can be anyone from any walk of life. A hangover is a blip, as when you’re leaving home, you know that alcohol will be a factor in your day, so you can exist. I say exist, as living in the confines of alcohol, you never have control to live your life.

If you are able to control your drinking, that’s good. If you are able to control what you do when drinking that’s also good. But remember, alcohol as with every addiction, slowly creeps up on you, and you are the last to see it. Alcohol can have a detrimental impact on your life, your family’s life, and if you have kids, their lives, now and in the future.

The only way I can describe my addiction is running on ice. It’s good fun to begin with, and the danger signs are all around you, but you continue to run and try and steady yourself. Eventually it ends with you falling and hurtling directionless on the ice; the momentum here is alcohol, and there aren’t very many ways to stop.

Please, don’t let alcohol become something you need to rely on when this virus leaves us, because it became a coping mechanism. When our new reality dawns, and we move into a virus-free society, don’t allow alcohol to be your new hurdle, as the feelings of powerlessness and confinement due to the lockdown and the feeling of isolation, are what addicts feel daily. You don’t need that in your life, you don’t deserve that in your life.

Use this time productively; turn these negative times into a positive. Talk to your loved ones, family and friends. Reignite old friendships, but most of all look after you. You are worth more to all of the above than you know – just ask them? And don’t forget to tell them how much they mean to you.

Drinking because you are bored is a coping mechanism, and as stated my drinking spiralled due to this. These mechanisms and pressures come in all forms and all lead down the one road, if you are not careful – dependence.

Don’t allow yourself to become another statistic in the battle over the bottle, and if you think you or someone needs help, then that can be the beginning of a new life in which you or they have complete control.

I reached out to Men’s Action Network (MAN) while running on the ice I previously mentioned. I sat in a private room with a counsellor and didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t judged or pushed into admitting where I was in my life, I knew I had to be honest. I broke down. I was exhausted, I had had enough, I knew I didn’t want to be this shell of a person anymore.

MAN allowed me to discuss my problems and piece together what can only be described as a jig-saw of a life put through a blender… Talk about a puzzle! It wasn’t easy, but what is? That was three years ago.

Today, I continue to be no saint, but alcohol is behind me. It’s no longer a necessity in my life nor something in the corner of my eye. I now live my life according to my life choices, and that, when looking at my young daughter means the world to me. Addiction took a dad, brother, son and friend away, but he slowly came back – you don’t need that journey; You’re worth more, I’m worth more.

*To contact MANcall 02871 377777 or text: 07544802916.

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