So where were we, oh yes….I was drinking 10 pints a day plus a bottle of vodka and my daughter had just given me the ultimatum of sober up or my time as nana to her children was over.
Alcoholism is a funny thing; maybe it was denial or just plain ignorance but I genuinely didn’t think I had that serious a problem. People with alcohol problems sit drinking in parks with a brown paper bag, don’t they? Not someone like me who had a fairly successful career, raised a wonderful daughter and had been doing a social science diploma at college. Looking back it’s easy to think ‘wake up and smell the coffee! My relationship had finished, my career was over after long periods of absence, I’d been kicked off the college course and my daughter was running out of patience. It isn’t difficult to see the pattern. Of course not all these events were caused by my drinking and some of them (particularly the abusive relationship) may have been the actual trigger. Regardless, I was in a bad way and something needed to change.
For a while I hid away at home but after a couple of weeks of feeling sorry for myself I made the decision to ditch the booze. I didn’t know anything about alcohol addiction and thought I’d just go ‘cold-turkey’. I decided I would just lie in bed until the cravings passed. I didn’t realise just how dangerous detoxing from alcohol is. I was vomiting, shivering, severe anxiety and hallucinations – that scene in Trainspotting where Ewan McGregor is withdrawing from heroin was nothing in comparison. Alcohol withdrawal is a potentially life-threatening condition if you have been drinking consistently and heavily. I was lucky I didn’t have a fatal seizure and if you take advice from me, go and seek medical advice if you’re thinking of stopping.
After a week I began to feel physically better but stopping is the first step on the road to recovery. I might have been alcohol free but I had a long way to go towards repairing my life and coping with the emotions that had been masked by the drink.
n 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.