From Suicide to Serenity
I was fortunate to be well respected and liked at school. I did three days school and two days at a football academy and the football seemed to make me quite popular. Drinking wasn’t really there in the early years because I had a hard training regime. So going through school was alright. And I come from a normal family. I perhaps had a little bit of middle child syndrome where I ended up with the hand-me-downs, but nothing out of the ordinary. There was nothing that I would say made me an alcoholic.
But my promising football career came to an abrupt end with a knee injury. I went back into full-time schooling, lost out on my YTS, lost out of the training programs and my future in football was over. Naturally my regime became more relaxed and I started going to parties and meeting girls. So that when my drinking started, at about 17 or 18. I enjoyed the social side of drinking and there were no real problems for a long time. I met my wife, had our first child, and got married. When our second child came along, a boy, I began blaming him for a lot of my drinking. He suffered from eczema which would keep him and us up at night. I would scream blue murder at him and it wasn’t even his fault.
I don’t know when I crossed the line, it just happened. I began to rely on alcohol more and more and it enabled me to sleep and lose all my insecurities and fears. It got progressively worse and I began to find myself drinking during the day. I would come home with all that fear, guilt and remorse and the only way to get rid of that was to make an excuse to get out and get another drink.
I lied a lot. I’d bend the truth any which way to turn things to work for me. I didn’t care about who I was hurting. It’s hard to admit now, but my wife and children felt like an inconvenience back then. They stopped me from just being able to plough on with my drinking.
And then I discovered that I could drink in the mornings. I was waking up feeling horrible and so would get up and be rapping on the off-licence door by 7:45. I knew full well that he wouldn’t be opening the shutter over the alcohol until eight but I’d try to convince him however I could to open it. I remember telling him that I needed it for a lunchtime drink but by 9am those four cans would be gone and I’d be scratching around going out of my mind planning the next drink.
I’d spend most evenings, most days, most minutes planning how I could get that next drink to get me through the day and get me back home. I was always drink-driving, how on earth I didn’t lose my license is hard to imagine. I now believe that I was being looked after by a Power greater than myself. He kept me safe.
My wife began to start finding out about my drinking and at about that time a family couple came to live with us for a while. This was a great relief because he was a heavy drinker too, so there was always alcohol in the house. My wife noticed my drinking was getting bad when she noticed that the crate of lager she bought on Friday evening was gone by Sunday. She didn’t know I was drinking in the mornings, at this time I used to run down to the off-licence on a Saturday morning, grab a can and neck it while I was doing the youngest’s bottle. It was ludicrous, crazy stuff.
While this couple were staying with us I began hiding drink around the house where I thought people wouldn’t find it. But my wife began finding it in the strangest of places. It then started coming out more and more and my wife and I went through a really rough patch. She tried to help me stop drinking but it was no use. Eventually it came to a head and my wife asked me to choose between the kids or the drink. I chose the drink. It was that important at the time and I couldn’t see what it was doing to the family, it’s quite painful to look back at now. It was such a crazy choice but in the midst of all that craziness it made perfect sense. Alcohol was the only way forward, I just couldn’t be without it.
She left and went back to her Mum and Dad’s but would often come back to find me obliterated on the floor. Eventually she moved back in and gave me the option again. I wasn’t ready to give up the drink so I moved back to my parents’ house. This was great for about a week while I necked my Dad’s supply of alcohol. When I started drinking a bottle of champagne saved from their wedding thirty years ago they began to see the seriousness of it. My Aunt is in AA so they suggested I speak with her which I did and she suggested I start going to AA meetings. But I couldn’t believe I was an alcoholic, I couldn’t see the problem there at all.
I was in and out of the doctors at this time and on one occasion, when I went with my wife, the doctor mentioned to me about the possibility of abstinence. I just laughed and said, “No problem”. When we came out she said to me,
“You haven’t got a clue what abstinence means have you?”
“No,” I said, “but I’m sure it’ll be easy.”
“It means no drinking,” she said. And with that I knew I couldn’t do it.
I carried on drinking which led me to an attempt to take my own life by way of an overdose. I couldn’t imagine life with of without alcohol. I knew I’d be miserable with it and miserable without it so what was the point of my existence, I thought. The house was empty and I took my opportunity, filling myself with as much paracetamol, diazepam, vodka and beer that I could. Thankfully somebody found me and took me straight into hospital where I work up later with my wife and children crying around the bed.
I remember this strange feeling of euphoria, like an out of body experience. I could see this person in the bed, but it wasn’t me. How could I have done this? I came out of hospital only to try an overdose again. I failed again. Nothing felt right.
I was signed off by the doctor and so to keep myself busy I began taking long walks into the forest. Sometimes it rained so I’d wear a long jacket in which I could conceal three or four cans of beer. I remember calling my wife on one of these occasions while I was sitting under a tree. I told her that I have a rope and that I was going to hang myself because I’ve had enough. I put the phone down and broke down in tears. I was in such a horrible space and I knew that I couldn’t quite kill myself but couldn’t see a way out either.
I got home that evening and spoke to my Aunt who I knew was in Alcoholics Anonymous. She had a friend locally who was willing to take me to my first meeting. I was extremely nervous on the way there and drank several cans of beer to calm my nerves. The minute I went in there I felt a connection but something hadn’t quite clicked. I still thought I could get away with it and do these meetings. I thought everyone would be happy with me just going to the meetings, I thought that would be enough. I went to several more meetings with this guy. I was a complete wreck and looked an absolute mess. I kept looking around the room and everyone looked so decent, nothing like me.
I started asking my Dad to come with me to help me get to the meetings without drinking. And one night out of the blue we decided to go to a meeting a little bit further away. This is where I met my sponsor who, coincidentally, lived near to me. I asked if he’d help me and he gave me his number and asked me to ring him every day for the next three days. I did so, and from that moment on the desire to drink began to ease.
I started following the suggestions of my sponsor and started going to more and more meetings. Gradually I began to understand the program and the nature of the illness. The spaces between my thoughts of drinking began to get longer and longer. But I still had a couple more relapses in me.
The last one had my boss finding out about my drinking. Two of them came to see me at home. We sat down together and I admitted my drinking and explained that I was trying to stop with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. I gave up. I had to admit everything. After a long chat they asked me “are you an alcoholic?” and just stared at me. At this point I knew I either had to get honest or lose my job. When I admitted that I was they smiled a little and said “we’re glad, we know we can help you.” From that moment on they have done everything they can to help me.
I began to take the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous into work with me to read on my breaks and explained to the guy I was doubled up with what was going on. He was superb with it.
I started working more closely with my sponsor and would go round to his house about once a week where we would go through the program by reading the book and doing what it said. I wasn’t worried about going through the steps because I knew that there was something looking after me. After all I’d been through I knew that there was something watching over me. During one of these sessions I was told that this something was a God of my understanding. That made everything a lot easier because I didn’t have to believe in this or that God or believe anything in particular.
After taking steps one and two I was ready to take step three – ‘Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him’. My sponsor explained that we could do it anywhere I wanted; on top of a hill, in the back garden, anywhere, just so long as I did it. He also asked me if I would like him to be with me or if I wanted to do it alone. I said, definitely! I told him I wanted to do it at the church of my childhood so I phoned up and asked to speak to the priest. I had a good chat with him and told him about Alcoholics Anonymous and the program and that I’d like to come and do my step three prayer in the church if possible. He told me that would be fine and asked me what I was doing that night. I explained that I was going to a 6:30 AA meeting and out of the blue he said ‘it’s a great meeting, you’ll love it there.’ I was flabbergasted as he explained that he been sober in AA for twenty years or more. For me this was just another one of those signs that this was meant to be, it was unbelievable. It made it so special.
I went to the meeting with my sponsor and afterwards went to meet the priest. He made us both feel so calm and relaxed, at home and at ease. I remember sitting in that church as a child and being amazed at the size of the place. And now for the first time in my life I was there with this important purpose and reason. It was unreal.
He let us into the church and just left us at the front to do our step three prayer, which was quite amazing to have shared with my sponsor. It’s something I’ll never forget. Just one of those pivotal moments in my sobriety. It felt absolutely right to be there. The priest gave us a blessing and then we left.
I then went straight on to do my step four and five which I didn’t really have too much fear about. There was nothing in there that was going to rock anyone’s world. It was good to get it all off my chest with someone that I trusted. I learned a lot about myself through that process which I never thought I would. I didn’t realize it would go that deep and I found out that I was so prideful and egotistical. It was always than ‘me show’. Today I do everything I can to not make it the ‘me show’. I help others and try to be there for them and not do it for any selfish reason. I just try to be as honest as I can and to be myself.
I continued working through the rest of the steps. Some of my amends could be made straightaway and some are ongoing. My amends to my children will be until the day I die, just to be their Dad, to be honest, gentle and caring to them. I try to live in a spiritual way today, I pray every morning and every evening and try to correct my mistakes as I go along.
If someone asked me if Alcoholics Anonymous was a good or bad thing I’d have to say that it is 100% good. It is completely life changing if you can do it honestly and give yourself to the program. I can accept that it’s hard to do that at the start but everyone in AA has been there and understands where you’re at. Life today is fantastic. It’s challenging but also very rewarding and even now, when I do things honestly, I get that tingle in the back of my neck knowing that I’m doing the right thing. I remember hearing in a meeting a while ago that if you do something honestly, you do it spiritually. I love that, it’s so simple.
We’ve just been rewarded with our second baby in sobriety and that wouldn’t have come about without the journey of AA and the friends in AA. I wouldn’t change what I’ve got now for a sip of alcohol, I wouldn’t swap it for the world. It’s given me a new life and my family a new life. I go out and I socialize and drink isn’t a problem for me today, I’m comfortable to be around it, I just have no interest in it at all, not whatsoever. It’s worked a miracle for me that I never thought was possible. Today when I arrive home from work the children bolt up to me because I’m not this angry Dad they don’t understand, I’m a Dad that wants to play, to be there for them and to spend time with them. Alcoholics Anonymous works, it’s amazing, I love it!