How are you now?
I’ve finished the programme and have asked for a few extra hours of support via aftercare, so I’m still coming in a few hours. Not just for myself but also to give support to the newcomers as well with my experiences here. I’m sure you might ask me this later but I have found this place very useful, so I want to give something back to the newcomers as well.
The very first day I came here with a friend of mine, knowing the counsellors and therapists themselves have gone through similar things that I’ve gone through, and they’ve studied and learned how to help other people, that makes a massive difference because they know where you’re coming from.
When did you first seek help?
This is not the first time I’ve sought help. From the age of 16-21, I was in and out of hospitals as an in-patient and out-patient, constantly. I was an inpatient for about 3 or 4 months, they’d treat me for anorexia and then I’d come out. Within a few months, I’d be back.
Between the ages of 16 and 21, I attempted suicide twice with drink and tablets. The drinking started at the same time as the anorexia. So, I wouldn’t eat, I would drink alcohol. I used to smuggle some into the hospital as well.
If we fast-forward a little bit, the reason I’ve come here now at the age of 57, 40 years later, it is the second time I’m getting treatment. The first time was when I was anorexic, although I had a drinking problem, I was too busy with work and family. The reason I came here, it wasn’t only for the alcohol, I realised I have cross addictions.
When I finally decided enough was enough with the anorexia and bulimia, I started exercising with weights mainly, in order to keep a stable weight but was preoccupied with food. I made a physique that I thought was acceptable to me. But it was still a compulsion, an obsession with the weight, with the image, and trying to maintain that weight. That kept me throughout my early twenties, and even now I’m still struggling with that.
When I first started coming here, I reverted back to old eating habits. I cut out certain foods and I lost so much weight. I wasn’t happy with that, and Help Me Stop has assisted me and referred me to people who I can get help from, and I am doing that.
I got married soon after I came out of the hospital for anorexia, at the age of 22 years old. My wife was 19, we were working together at the time at my father’s factory. I have three children; we had the first child straight away, three years later had the second child, and five years later we had the third child.
How were you managing juggling your family and your addictions?
It wasn’t easy. I was smoking cigarettes. I was drinking a lot. I used to get away with it. If they saw I was struggling, I would just say it was too many hours at work. I hid my drinking. It was only when I retired at 55 that I started drinking even more openly, but I hid the true amount even then.
They didn’t know I was coming here in the beginning. The advice from the therapists here is to be honest. I did tell everyone I started coming here and that I have a drinking problem. I got quite a supportive response which was nice to hear. It felt horrible when they found out what I had been dealing with.
The darkest time for me was the anorexia and bulimia when I first came here. I have a lot of resentment, anger, and regrets, during those years. I regret that I rushed to get married at such a young age, that I stopped my wife having an opportunity to find somebody. She’s a fantastic woman, she’s been honest, she’s been loyal, she’s always been open with me. Now that I am sober and free from all that I can sit down and analyse all these things. Of course, I have all these regrets.
What was the extent of your drinking?
I used to drink until I would black-out. I was still a functioning alcoholic, but I used to come home and continue drinking until I was black-out drunk. My tolerance level had increased a lot. I wasn’t the best of health, but I was functioning. I was doing that for the last year and a half since my wife found out about an affair I had. The more we argued, the more depressed I used to get, the more I used to drink. It was a cycle.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I realised my life has become unmanageable and I needed external help. I knew I couldn’t carry on like this. The slightest thing I had with my throat, I used to automatically think it was throat cancer because my mum recently died from throat cancer. If I had chest pain, I would think it’s all the smoking I’m doing and stress. Realising that I’m getting on in age and that I’m drinking so much, I thought I have to do something about this.
My girlfriend saw this place advertised and said let’s give it a try. She said to me it might suit me because I was still working at the time, so I came here with here and straight away I loved this place. I loved the therapists and I loved the way the system works. I thought it could work for me not only for my drinking but for my other addictions as well.
How and why do you think Help Me Stop has helped you?
The group therapy helped massively because if you have a problem you share it and you get feedback. Because in the group therapy, you’re with people with similar problems, or similar thoughts, or similar addictions as you have, sometimes when you say ‘this is what I’m struggling with’ – many of them have overcome it and they say this is what I did, or this is where I found comfort.
The therapists have gone through addiction before and they’ve studied the addiction cycle. They can give you more of their academic experience as well as their own life’s experiences.
I think it’s a combination of the one-to-one and the group therapy that we have. They also have, once a day, these workshops where they concentrate on one particular topic. It could be on anything, like co-dependency – there are lots of things. I find all these things build a big picture and complete the jigsaw puzzle of the pieces that are missing.
How is your recovery going?
It’s coming up to 70 days sober now. This is the longest time I’ve been without having a drink.
Mentally, I’ve found it liberating because I’m clearer. I’m more in tune with my emotions.
In this programme, you have to do a presentation of your life story in three stages. Stage one is where you talk about your journey in detail, and because I am more in tune with my emotions and morals, I do get emotional. I never used to before; I remember when I delivered my stage one, I started crying, and the last time I cried was a long time ago. I didn’t even cry when my mum died because I was so drunk.
Physically, I felt better and because I had this mishap with the eating problem, I still need to strengthen up a little bit.
I wish I could say ‘yes I do love myself’, but I’m working on it. This place has given me the tools to do that. I’m not there yet. I thought I was going to retire, but staying at home wasn’t for me. I need some kind of structure in my life, I need a purpose.
Did you find us different from other programmes?
Yes. Firstly, the cost is massively different between residential and non-residential; for someone who is employed, it is very affordable. The cost here makes a difference to a lot of people. It helped me, definitely.
If you were to ask me now after experiencing this, if this was the same price as the residential, I would still choose this over the residential for that reason.
But mainly, what helped me is the fact that I knew I was going to come here and then go out in the real world and put into practice what I learned here. The one when I was 16 years old was residential, I was an in-patient; you were confined in a little world and you don’t know what it’s like to live in the world with the temptation around you.
The thought that I’m going to come here, go home in the evening and see how I cope, and then come back the following day and share it with the group or a therapist made a big difference.