Hi, my name is Bill and I’m an alcoholic. It’s one of the best things in my life that I am able to say this because for a long time I didn’t know.
I always described my childhood as perfect. I spent a part of it growing up in a prefab in a park. My school was in the park and the pets’ corner and playground were my garden, it was brilliant. My parents were always very close, honest and hard working people, I was luckier than most.
We moved from the park and very shortly after I started ‘big’ school. My years there went by with no real problems, I was an average kid getting average results and because of my upbringing I was never in any real trouble or had any real problems.
When I was around 14 a friend suggested we get a bottle of cider, we got this and walked down to the local river bank so we wouldn’t be seen – the river ran through a golf course so we were out of the way. We shared the cider and I remember laughing my head off and falling around. It was great fun and it became a regular event.
A few more years passed without any problems and I started work as an apprentice, went to college and dated a few girls. When I was 18 I was dating a girl who was to become my first wife, she was only 14 when we met so we didn’t go to pubs, but I would get alcohol from the off license on Saturday nights when my parents went out. I don’t think she drank and it was only rarely that I got drunk and that was always her fault – she wouldn’t do what I wanted to do, she looked at me funny, she wasn’t coming down on Sunday, anything, and I would go into sulk mode and get a drink ‘just to show her who was the boss’ or to show her how much she upset me.
Eventually we got married and bought a house. Her sister and brother in law lived in the next street and I got on well with them. I started going out with my brother in law to local pubs because I thought that’s what married men did, it was expected. We ended up going out probably three nights a week. After about three years the brother in law moved house so I would go out on my own. I was coming home from work one day and just looked in an off license window, I saw a can of special brew and because I hadn’t seen these before and because I deserved it, being a working man, I went in and got two, well one was no good was it?
I walked through a small park to the bus stop and drank them in the park. On the bus home I felt great, alcohol always made me feel much more comfortable around other people, it allowed me to socialize, to make conversation, it took away my shyness, it made me funny, it took me to a place where I wanted to stay. This got to be a daily event and progressed to half bottles of vodka.
I became such a good customer at the off license I could get credit and would nip out of work for a bottle and drink it in work, never getting drunk, just getting to that ‘happy place’.
There would be another bottle on the way home. My wife didn’t like this so that would give me an excuse to go out to the pub again that night. This was when I started having blackouts. There were many mornings when I had no idea where I had been or what I had done. We’d had two children, a boy then a girl, but five years after getting married she left.
A week or two later somebody handed me some papers from the courts telling me I had to leave the house as she wanted it for the kids. As I worked shifts quite a long way from home this meant I had to leave work and move in with my parents. I had lost my wife and kids, my home and my job all at once and I thought it was all her fault because she had found somebody else.
It couldn’t be my fault because I wasn’t violent, didn’t steal, always worked. I hadn’t done anything wrong!
Alcohol is the greatest liar there is.
I then spent a year at my parents’, drinking their drinks cabinet dry several times until they stopped having any in the house (this is the guy who didn’t steal remember). I wallowed in self-pity, my world had collapsed and none of it was my fault. I had loved my wife very, very much and could see no future without her, why had she done this to me? I had a couple of half hearted suicide attempts, while very drunk, stayed at friends’ for days on end just staying very drunk. I had every justification.
After a year of this, after my Mother persuading me, I got a job in a local factory and met a girl and we started dating. We moved in together a year later. My drinking was under control, we would go out to pubs. Then it started again. I would pretend I was doing an hour’s overtime so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. I would then visit the off license for some gin and juicy fruit chewing gum. I thought the gum smelt like the gin so she wouldn’t know about the gin.
Later I would make any excuse to go out, I’ll get a video, I’ll get some chocolate, anything so I could go and get another bottle. I’d even make meals but we’d need a bottle of red wine. She left me. I got her back. She left me around six times I think but I always made promises and she always came back. One time she said she’d only come back if I went to AA, which I did.
I came out of that meeting thankful that I wasn’t an alcoholic, I wasn’t like those people and I told her so. It carried on.
Some years later and we had moved into quite a nice three-bed room house and had two kids, a boy and a girl. I had been going to AA again but was drinking after the meetings, and I thought nobody knew. Everybody knew. Just before one Christmas I said I would decorate the living room but she would have to move to her mothers with the kids for a few days while I did it. As soon as she left I went and got a full bottle of vodka and started stripping the walls.
She phoned and knew right away that I was drunk; she said later that she knew before she phoned. She was leaving and this time it was for good, it was over.
This was the start of my last drink. My last drink was a three-day black out.
I only remember two things during it. One was looking at a large cardboard box full of ripped off wall paper (a friend had called round and tried to help me). I remember looking at this box and thinking ‘if I drop a match into this box and go to bed all my problems will be solved’ thankfully I didn’t.
The other thing I remember is coming round one night and clasping my hands together I prayed. All I said was ‘please let this stop, I can’t handle it any more’.
They talk about miracles in AA; I know miracles happen because one happened to me.
I woke up in a chair and it was revelation after revelation hitting me. It was all my fault! I was an alcoholic! It was the first time I really knew what was wrong with me. For years I had been drinking just to exist but had always justified it as something I deserved.
I realized I had spent most of my life in fear, fear of rejection, of not being loved. Alcohol allowed me to feel like I fitted in but every drink I took demanded I took another and another.
The next morning was full of fear and remorse about what had happened the night before because I could never remember another drink took this away and the cycle went on again. All alcoholics know about hell, because we have all spent some time there. It is a truly terrible illness that affects everybody that comes into contact with it. Alcoholics will lie, cheat and steal to carry on without ever realizing what the actual problem is. Many die from this illness, still denying there is a problem.
Like they say in AA, alcoholism is the only illness you can have that tells you, you haven’t got it. This was 15 years ago and I haven’t had a drink since. Everything I’d heard in AA meetings came true; all the things I’d denied applied to me did apply to me. It was exhilarating and frightening.
How the hell could you be this ill and not know it? They say alcoholism is an illness of denial, I never understood that, I thought denial meant just saying ‘It wasn’t me’, I thought denial meant you were lying. It never occurred to me that denial could be so powerful that you actually believed it.
My wife and I did get back together and we had another child, a boy. He’s 11 and has never seen me drink. I thank God for that. All my family still live with an alcoholic but today they live with a sober one. I still make mistakes and still get things wrong but that’s ok, I’m a human being and human beings do make mistakes, I found out it’s allowed!
I’ve now known my wife for longer sober than I did drunk. She went to AlAnon for a while and realized that my drinking wasn’t her fault, or her problem. My eldest daughter went to Alateen with similar results. I realized I was not alone and one day at a time my life has got better and better. Thanks for letting me share this. God bless.