Reviewed By Pamela Kirkpatrick - Senior Accredited NCS & Registered Member MBACP Adv. Dip.
My Experience - The Journey to Admitting I had a Problem
12 January 2024
A local businessman who bravely shares his inspiring tale of confronting and triumphing over addiction with the help of family, friends and Find Help NI.
“I just had this overwhelming feeling that something bad was going to happen. It wasn’t sustainable to carry on the way I was. I was going to slip up, messing up big time at work, ruining relationships with people I cared about or hurting myself.
The Spiral of Denial
The thing is, I didn’t see it as a problem for a long time. I have a high pressure job, the phone can go at any time of the week, any time of the day, I’ve staff and clients that rely on me. So when Friday came I needed a release, I needed something that made it “feel” like the weekend, so I’d pour a drink as soon as I knew I didn’t have to work or take calls in the evening.
Once I started I couldn’t stop though, that one drink turned into I don’t even know how many. I’d try to find someone willing to party with me but if nobody was available then I was just at home, alone, drinking, snorting coke if I had it, smoking joints, and playing computer games. Sometimes I would phone people without regard for what time it was, with no reason in mind to call, or I would call into neighbours houses unannounced, hoping they’d join me or provide more drink or drugs. I’d become the funny drunk friend, who made everyone laugh, the one who was always up for a party, who always had coke available… work hard, play hard.
For a long time I felt in control, as I could always stop the drink and drugs by Monday morning. I fought my way through the hangover, which often lasted days, and would just about manage the working week, then pour a drink on Friday again. I didn’t have a “problem”. I was just partying, letting loose, having fun, de-stressing. It wasn’t long before I realised I hadn’t slept in 3 days, hadn’t eaten a proper meal and had been under the influence of something for too many days. I found myself rationalising that a line of coke on a Monday morning was acceptable. I was still functioning, holding down a job and I felt that nobody noticed.
Recognizing the Need for Change
Then one weekend after a 2 day bender I called a good friend of mine, she was out for birthday dinner & drinks with her partner as her birthday was the following day. She worked out pretty quickly that I was on one, alone, hyper and high, and invited me to meet her and her partner. She explained later that she didn’t want me to be alone in that state. We went back to their house, we listened to music, I "celebrated" with them and drank some more. They went to bed in the early hours. I couldn't sleep, I was alone with a bag of coke and nothing to drink. I remember feeling fearful, anxious, guilty and desperate. I struggled all night with my thoughts. My friend woke to find me pacing around her house, upset, angry, scared, and a complete mess of words and worry.
Come 10am, I had called my siblings, my parents and a few friends. I told each one the truth about what my life had become. I told them I was scared. I told them I needed to take action and do something before it was too late. I had an overwhelming need to voice thoughts that had been swirling in my head for months. This would be the first time I would acknowledge and admit that I had an addiction.
Exploring Options for Recovery
I wasn’t sure where to start but talking with friends helped me understand my options so that I could make a decision. I chatted with a close friend about my options, we explored the FindHelpNI.com directory together for ideas.
Did I need to go to rehab? Could I take time off work? How did I feel about attending AA? Can I stay with someone for a while? Would I go to counselling? Cold turkey? Or wean myself off? It took many hours and many cups of tea before I found a direction that felt right for me. I left with a plan of action and felt more confident in my next steps.
Embracing AA and Counselling
I decided that I would go to AA and aim to go every night for a week. I decided that I would stay with family so that I had a little extra support during that time. I decided to plan activities, catch up with friends or just go on a drive to keep me busy in the evenings. I accepted that I probably needed some counselling too. Now I was armed with all the contact information I needed to reach out for help. I was taking back control of my life and it felt good.
AA was fantastic, I truly mean that. I’m so pleased that I got the courage to go. I was really nervous about attending. I was worried who would be there, who would see my car parked up nearby and super anxious about walking in as the new guy. I hadn’t needed to be so nervous though as it was a super welcoming space. It was clear to see that other members were experienced in approaching new faces. One person gently greeted me, and asked if it was my first time attending an AA meeting. I explained that it was. They gave me a brief rundown of what was to happen within the meeting, made me a cuppa and got me sat down. They assured me I wouldn’t be asked to speak to the room and that other members may approach to welcome me after the meeting. There was no obligation to stay on for that. I found it really emotional listening to the stories of others but also very inspiring.
The Power of Shared Experiences
During that week I was so inspired by the AA meetings that I felt really resolved that I was going to stay sober & that it was possible for me. I had hope!
At times stories from the meetings would stay with me for days, some sounded too familiar and I was glad to be in weekly counselling sessions at the same time. It allowed me the opportunity to debrief, explore, and delve into the thoughts, fears, emotions and ideas that arose in relation to my recovery. My therapist helped to guide me in understanding myself, and the role addiction played in my life. In sessions it became clear that I had some work to do on self compassion, guilt and shame.
I continued to attend AA meetings for weeks in different locations. Using the AA website it was quick and easy to plan my week's meetings and because you didn’t need to book, it gave me flexibility alongside my busy work schedule too. Each meeting is run in the same way, so it felt safe, familiar even if it was a new location with new faces. Everyone was there for the same reason, to go one more day sober. I connected with different people each week, who were at varying stages of their recovery. Sometimes we would swap numbers and we’d check in with each other, plan to attend meetings together, and often we’d meet before an AA meeting so that we could go in together. Sometimes we talked in depth about our journeys, and often we found common ground in shared interests.
Crafting a New Path
Given the support from my family and friends along with regularly attending AA meetings, I began to craft a life I wanted, I started seeing the benefits of my sobriety, I felt much less shame, I felt better able to handle stress.
So, whether you know you have a problem with addiction or if you’re concerned you are drinking too much, I highly recommend attending an AA meeting. You don’t have to have lost everything to addiction before you attend, there are attendees there that are at all stages of addiction and recovery. AA meetings are a safe, understanding and inspiring space that welcomes everyone regardless of background, age or stage. From my experience AA along with counselling, and support from family and friends, were the best steps forward in my journey to a sober, happy, more fulfilled life.”
If you are struggling with addiction be sure to check out and contribute to our Addiction Resource Page
Every story of triumph over addiction is a testament to resilience, the possibility of change, and the strength within us all to overcome challenges. The journey to a healthier, happier life starts with reaching out for help and believing in the potential for transformation.
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