The great thing about being a heavy drinker is that you don’t really need to plan your days; they all kind of merge together.
There is no getting up and thinking ‘what shall I do today?’ as you already know: you’ll be drinking. Weekly routines go as the distinction between a Tuesday night and a Friday night is much of a muchness. Of course you have things you regularly do, seeing family on a Sunday, and things you have to do, like going to work, but essentially my number one priority was getting drunk and everything else had to fit in around this. I was so dominated by alcohol that my day would be planned to fit my drinking habits, which largely meant ensuring nothing was organised after 6pm as I could hardly see straight by this point.
It’s not a good existence – you never really look forward to anything, you’re constantly letting people down and gradually the control you believe you have over drinking evaporates. When I eventually realised how bad things were and stopped, I was left with this huge gap of time I previously filled with drunkenness. As I said in previous columns, the physical side of detoxing is traumatic and dangerous and should not be attempted without professional advice (a GP or get in touch with the DACT). What I hadn’t prepared for was the boredom and extra hours in the day that came after years of alcohol abuse. ‘Experts’ reckon it can take five years of recovery before someone has truly moved on from addiction and leading a normal life – whatever that is! How was I to start living life again when I didn’t really know what I was interested in nor had any friends who weren’t heavy drinkers?
We’re lucky in the UK; there are some great services willing to help if you’re willing to accept it. The biggest thing for me was ‘crossing the threshold’. I presumed most addiction services were full of the down and outs – the stereotypical druggies and alcoholics. Not normal people like me who had just got themselves into a bit of a mess. Boy was I wrong!
The writer is a volunteer at Sheffield Alcohol Support Service (www.sheffieldalcoholsupportservice.org.uk). The next instalment will appear in the Star in a month’s time.