Why did you choose alcohol treatment at Primrose Lodge?
I knew I had a problem with alcohol for ages. I tried a lot of other methods to stop drinking. I went to my doctor. I tried counselling. I tried using my own willpower and keeping a drink diary. I moved out of my marital home and back to my parents’ house, to try and force myself to stop. But to be completely honest, none of it worked. I just could not beat my addiction to alcohol.
I came home one day and I was absolutely broken. I couldn’t go on. My Dad said to me, “let’s start looking straight away for an alcohol rehab.” I’m so grateful he did. We found Primrose Lodge and took it from there. My Dad made the first call, then I spoke on the phone to a treatment adviser. I asked for help with my drinking. There was a room available the following Wednesday. I had a chat with my Dad and he said how much he hated seeing me like I was. I was in such a dark and horrible place. I just couldn’t function at all. I was buying alcohol in the morning. I was still going to work but I was drink-driving to get there, taking such risks with my kids. I knew I needed the help, so I decided to go for it.
What was going through your mind when you first arrived at Primrose Lodge?
Honestly, I wondered what I’d got myself into – I didn’t know what to expect at all. I was scared and very anxious at first. I used to suffer from these horrendous anxiety attacks, which affected me really badly. I remember I had a pain in my chest and my breathing was really heavy. I just never expected to end up in an alcohol rehab.
But I was also very aware that if I carried on the way I was going with alcohol, I’d be in big trouble. I hate to think actually, what would have happened if I hadn’t gone into Primrose Lodge when I did. My health was deteriorating so quickly. My blood tests were showing damage to my liver from alcohol. I’d already lost my marriage. I knew I would lose my children if I carried on. I was totally isolated – I wasn’t drinking in pubs anymore. I couldn’t see any way out of it on my own – so I was very relieved to start alcohol treatment too.
How were you in the first few days of our alcohol treatment programme?
I came in on a Wednesday and I did the first week without my mobile phone. I really do understand why that was necessary – so I could be right in there, focused completely on myself without any outside distractions or concerns.
I was pretty quiet in the beginning. We started each day with meditation – that was all new to me – meditating for ten minutes with some music. Then we’d have our process meetings in the morning. I would check in how I was feeling – the first day I remember saying that I was feeling scared and pretty emotional. Physically, I was going through my alcohol detox, which was managed with Librium over the first six days in treatment. My confidence was at rock bottom.
However, I was also taking it all in. I did feel totally open to everything. My Dad paid for me to go into alcohol treatment – so I did go with a very open mind, willing to listen. The honesty from other people hit me straight away. That was really humbling actually – all these people from different backgrounds, cultures and life experiences, sharing things they had never told anyone before. I couldn’t believe their openness. One part of the alcohol treatment programme is to keep a diary and I wrote on the first day how humbled I felt to hear people’s stories. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone anymore, cutting through the isolation I had felt for years. I soon learned that I could say whatever I needed to say. I was so grateful for that.
What did you make of the talking therapies in your alcohol treatment programme?
It was just really nice to get things out there. All this baggage that I’d had for so long, I could finally unload and get some help with it. I knew people could understand me at Primrose Lodge. I wasn’t Dave the drunk anymore. I began to understand I had a disease that needed treatment. People would listen to me and agree with the things I would say. It was such a relief to get things off my chest at last.
I just threw myself into the treatment process. For example, telling my life story to the group. I described how I had a loving family and was treated really well as a kid. I did well in school but then at 14, I started to rebel. I learned a lot through this about the way I used to drink to forget what was going on. I would often drink to blackout.
Next, I threw myself into writing steps one, two and three of the 12-step programme. This helped me to understand my alcohol problem and what the best sources of help were for me. What works really well for me is turning to a group of people who’ve been there with alcohol addiction and are now in recovery. This gives me all the strength and courage I need. And these days, it also allows me to help other people, who are struggling with their addiction.
What aspect of our alcohol treatment programme helped you most to face the impacts of your drinking?
So many things – but one thing springs to mind is being asked by the treatment team if they could send a questionnaire to a family member. I said they could send one to my wife. When she returned it, they asked me if I’d prefer for them to read her words just to me on my own or it could be read out straight to my group. I chose the group. My wife didn’t hold anything back. She talked about the drink driving and she said I was verbally abusive – the fact I always had to be right when I was drinking. I was never physically violent but I did scare my son at times, which was a really horrible thing. There were other times she talked about when I was supposed to be with my son but I was drinking alcohol – so I couldn’t look after him properly. It massively hit home how my alcohol addiction had affected people close to me.
How helpful was it to work with therapeutic staff who are in alcohol recovery themselves?
That was a massive thing for me. I’ve been to counsellors before who aren’t addicts and they didn’t really get why I did what I did. The fact that there are counsellors at Primrose Lodge who have been there themselves – it’s such a big thing, it really bonds us together. One alcoholic talking to another alcoholic in recovery is powerful. I don’t think it actually works with people who don’t understand the disease of addiction. I wanted to be as honest as I could be in Primrose Lodge because I knew immediately that they just got it. And I listened when the therapists made suggestions because it was obvious they knew what they were talking about.
What about your family – did they visit you at Primrose Lodge?
I had my first family visit after ten days – my Mum, Dad, wife and son. I asked them what was going on for them and I waited for them to ask any questions they wanted to. It was quite emotional actually and really fantastic to see them. They said I looked much better already.
So the physical recovery from alcohol addiction kicked in quickly?
Yes. After my alcohol detox finished (six days in), plus the effect of the vitamins I was taking, my head started to get really clear. And my appetite was back – I have to say that the food in Primrose Lodge is absolutely superb. Before my alcohol treatment, I was bingeing in the evening on unhealthy food. At Primrose Lodge, I started eating three healthy meals a day. I started to really enjoy my food again. I could feel things in my body that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Which other therapies did you find useful and why?
We did mindful health at Primrose Lodge, which was a bit like yoga with stretching and deep breathing, with great techniques to help me get to sleep at night. That really helped me with my washing machine head. That’s one of the biggest gratitudes I have today. I can just go to bed without having all that mess in my head. Now, I read at night before bed – then I get a really solid sleep.
Which facilities at Primrose Lodge were beneficial to you?
Well, I went to the gym for the first time in my life at Primrose Lodge. I went on a bike for 15 minutes, followed by the cross trainer and the rowing machine. I felt really determined to give it a go.
What about your peers in alcohol treatment – how did you get on with them?
You save a little bit of money if you don’t mind sharing a room. Actually, for the first six days, I was in a room on my own. Then on my seventh night, an older gentleman came aged 73. He was a lovely bloke. We had loads in common and we had some good chats. I had a good giggle with another guy from East London, whom I shared with too.
Of course, there are people who you don’t particularly get on with – one bloke really got on my nerves because I didn’t think he was taking his alcohol treatment seriously – but actually, in the end, that helped me to talk about things that were going on for me.
What’s your lasting memory of your time in alcohol treatment at Primrose Lodge?
Yes, there were lots of emotions that I needed to feel – tears, anger, frustration, fear, all of that – but there was a hell of a lot of laughter too. Some nights, we were in tears of laughter, playing games and talking – it’s strange to say but it was really good fun in alcohol treatment too, despite the reason why we were all there. I never thought I’d be able to laugh like that sober. It certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom.
What would you say to anyone who is just starting out at Primrose Lodge in treatment for addiction?
Just open your mind up to it. Take in as much as you can. Do what you’re told. It works. The proof is there from people I’m still in contact with from Primrose Lodge. I’d say talk to people, leave your attitude behind – because the counsellors are on to that anyway! I went in for 28 days and I’d say that was the absolute minimum for me. I hit a wall at 10 days – I was in a real conundrum and I found it really tough around 12 days in – then I worked my way through it while still in alcohol treatment.
Why do you think alcohol treatment at Primrose Lodge worked so well for you?
The alcohol treatment programme totally opened my eyes. It taught me that I had a disease of the mind, rather than just being an alcoholic. My recovery plan that I set in treatment with my counsellor – I’ve pretty much stuck to it since leaving. In the end, I knew it was about saving my life.
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