Take a moment to picture an alcoholic. Are they young or older? How do they walk and talk? What type of childhood did they have? Where do they live? Do they have clean teeth? Are they employed? Have they broken the law?
The 15th to the 21st of November marks Alcohol Awareness week. In England alone, it is estimated that well over half a million people have an alcohol addiction, yet alarmingly 82% are not accessing recovery treatment. There are many possible reasons why those who need treatment for alcoholism don’t get it; some reasons could be: a person is in denial about their problem, they feel as though they are beyond help, or they are afraid of the stigma that still circulates around rehab and having a drinking problem. If you or someone you love resonates with these thoughts, this article may give you a fresh perspective. We’re going to look at four people from various backgrounds who have two critical things in common: one, they have all been alcoholics, and two, they have found long-lasting recovery.
“The alcohol wasn’t the problem. It was the symptom.”
Tom’s problems with alcohol occurred throughout his twenties, where he “went from being not particularly interested [in drinking] to regularly having a few pints a day and a shot of whiskey to go with each”. Tom’s drinking habits escalated to the point where he began drinking at work and neglecting his professional responsibilities. Like many who battle alcoholism, Tom’s drinking was in response to enduring problems with his mental health; despite having a successful job and plentiful relationships, Tom drank to escape uncomfortable feelings: “just as we all experience physical ill-health at some stage in our lives, we all experience mental ill-health too. There’s no shame in that. It’s not a sign of weakness”.
Sometimes recovery isn’t straightforward; Tom attended rehab three times before finding long-term recovery. The first two attempts were cut short because he was still in denial about his problem but trying for the third time was one of the scariest decisions he’s made, yet most rewarding; it has enabled him to find healthier coping mechanisms and live a fulfilling life- without alcohol.
“Since I stopped drinking, I have had a peaceful relationship with my partner.”
Like Tom, Stacey began drinking in her twenties, and alcoholism consumed her life to the point where she was having constant rows with her partner and neglecting her studies. Stacey made the brave decision to get help and said being around other people recovering from alcohol addiction was empowering as she “drew strength” from their stories. After completing twenty-eight days of rehab treatment, Stacey remains in recovery and takes each day at a time. Her relationship with her partner is “more harmonious”, and she’s on track to completing her university degree.
“The thing is, if I don’t have sobriety, I don’t have anything.”
After recovering from a water sports accident, Matthew became addicted to a mixture of opioids and alcohol. Although Matthew tried to separate his drinking habits from his professional life, he would suffer intense alcohol withdrawal symptoms whilst he was at work, to the point where he was sometimes too sick and later recalls having no clear recollection of that period.
After having fourteen surgeries on his stomach and being told he has a 2% chance left to live, Matthew found the inner power to find sobriety, insisting that taking his recovery one day at a time is the best way to get through.
Now, Matthew lives a healthier life and takes immense satisfaction from helping others recover from substance addiction.
“I want people to know that rehab can work.”
Similar to Tom, Simon attended rehab three times before he eventually found long-term recovery. His recreational drinking spiralled out of control and consumed every area of his life. He witnessed his relationships with loved ones deteriorating and began to understand he had a problem.
After making the brave decision to attend rehab, Simon is now three years sober and, just like Mathew, is passionately determined to help others by sharing his story: “I remember when I first left rehab, and I went to a meeting and met someone who was five years clean, and I was like “no way is he five years clean” I was even more shocked when I met another guy who was 30 years sober. I want people to know that rehab can work”.
Simon explains that he didn’t think he’d ever be able to have fun without alcohol, but now he goes to the pub with friends and says he’s never laughed so much; “I like who I am. I used to be horrible when I drank and now, I sit there with them, and I’m happy”. Simon enjoys attending meetings, spending time with his loved ones, going to concerts and living life to the full-without alcohol addiction plaguing his life.
Let’s put a face to the name
Cast your mind back to your perception of an alcoholic, do the following stories resonate with that of your preconceived belief? Half of the above ex-alcoholics are world-famous actors Tom Felton (from Harry Potter), and Matthew Perry (known as Chandler in FRIENDS). Yet, all four people have been equally susceptible to the illness that is alcoholism. Stacey and Simon are ex-UKAT clients, who both sought effective recovery from our rehabilitation centres.
As we can see, no one is immune from the harmful effects of alcohol addiction despite how much money we have or how successful we seem. Alcohol addiction can make us behave in ways we’re not proud of – but no matter your story, you are worthy of healing and beginning again. Alcohol addiction can make us feel close to death’s door – but you can restore your health and breathe in a new life. Alcohol addiction can separate us from our loved ones – but together, through recovery, we can reconcile. It’s important we remind ourselves that alcoholism doesn’t discriminate, and it can creep up on anyone from any background.
If you’re currently struggling with alcohol addiction, know you are not alone. More importantly, know that there are people recovering as we speak, and you can be one of them; more to the point- you deserve to be one of them.