Thursday 5 January 2017

David's story: my struggle with alcohol

David had always enjoyed the occasional beer however, as his drinking steadily worsened during a difficult few years, it took its toll on his health. After a stay in hospital, he found himself supported by the Trust’s Alcohol Related Long Term Conditions Team and is now firmly on the road to recovery.

Almost a year on, David, 45, is sharing his story to encourage others who are struggling with alcohol to access the help that is available.

A good start

“I had a very ordinary, loving upbringing along with my two older siblings. My mum and dad were able to give me a private education and a privileged life. Up until my early twenties I had a normal relationship with alcohol…drinks in the local pub, clubbing in the City Centre, holidays with the lads. I married at 23 and my wife and I would go the pub on Friday nights.

“However six months after getting married my mother-in-law died. It was the first time I’d used alcohol as a coping mechanism. My wife and I drank a bottle of wine a night mixed with the odd bottle of sherry. Two years later, after many alcohol-fuelled arguments, we divorced.”

Coming out

“In my late twenties, I came out as a gay man. It was something I had suppressed all my life. I met my first long term gay partner and we moved in together. We partied hard, drank a lot and took recreational drugs.

“In 2003 my mum died after a long illness with cancer. My dad died two years later, suddenly, due to a heart attack. I also split from my partner around the same time.

“I hit the weekend scene big time, drinking a lot and taking drugs. I started drinking heavily during the week too. I’d call in at the local pub on the way home from work, stay for an hour, and then take a bottle of wine home.

“A couple of years later, I met my second gay partner and we moved in together. We were very happy. He also enjoyed a drink. We’d meet in town after work for a couple, and then go home with a bottle of wine. Weekend drinking got earlier too. In the end, we’d get up, have a cup of tea, and be opening our first bottle of wine by 9:00am.  We still did all the usual weekend chores, such as shopping and cleaning, but by now the drinking was out of control.  The only time I wouldn’t drink alcohol was weekday mornings and whilst at work. The rest of my waking hours were always under the influence of alcohol.

“Our lives followed this pattern for a number of years. Many good things came out of this relationship though; most importantly, I stopped taking drugs and have done to this day.

“In 2011, I had a heart attack. Back at home, after having a stent fitted, the first thing I did was open a bottle of wine. It was a habit. I didn’t know any different. Over the following year, I triggered sickness levels at work and was eventually dismissed. Looking back now, I think they knew I had a problem but because of the shame, I wouldn’t admit it.”

Losing my job

“Losing my job hit me very hard. I drank wine every waking hour of the day and night.  I never ate. My partner and I split up. I was drinking for four hours at a time and then sleeping it off for a couple of hours.

“At my worst, I’d drink at least six bottles of wine a day. I didn’t attend many family gatherings and, if I did, I was drunk and not very nice to be around.  I forgot birthdays. I let people down. I became physically weak too. I would fall a lot - not because I was drunk, but because I had no strength. 

“My bedroom looked like a scene out of Trainspotting as I couldn’t make it to the bathroom.  I didn’t bathe, shave or clean my teeth.  I was disgusting, though I didn’t realise it at the time. I didn’t care. All I wanted to know was where the next bottle of wine was coming from. 

“Family and friends tried to help. When I first rented my house, a friend stayed with me for three months. I had known her for many years and we had been through a lot together. She would spend hours thinking about how she could help but, in her words, she found it difficult to live with someone who was slowly killing themselves. I also stayed with my sister and her husband.  By this time, I was not able to drink vast volumes of any fluid without being sick. On one occasion I was sick all over her garden.

“My brother and sister were very supportive but neither of them knew what to do for the best. They called organisations for help, even tried to get me sectioned, but were told nothing could be done until I was prepared to help myself. They were also caring for my ill grandmother at the time, who later died. We had been very close but I didn’t visit her whilst she was ill - I was just too drunk.  It’s something I still have to deal with to this day.”

Starting my recovery

“By the end of February this year, my stomach was very swollen. My sister insisted I visit my GP and I was admitted to hospital. I had more than ten pints of fluid drained from me.

“Whilst in hospital I was put on a detox programme. That’s when my recovery began.

“I was very frightened.  I had dreadful dreams. I was completely paranoid. I thought the nurses were trying to kill me. I thought the tablets were poison. I’d phone people asking them to get me out.  Family and friends visited. They all stressed how important it was for me to eat in order to regain strength.  I had many arguments with a particular nurse who tried to get me to finish meals.

“On reflection, all the hospital staff were brilliant. They saved my life, even though I may not have realised it at the time! Five weeks later I was discharged. And, for one of the first times, I was glad to be alive.”

Following his discharge from hospital, David was referred to the Trust’s Alcohol Related Long Term Conditions (LTC) Team. The team work with patients with a history of alcohol dependence and a related long term condition, such as liver cirrhosis or liver failure. They coordinate a care plan to help reduce the need for unplanned emergency care and hospital admission.  

“This is support in every aspect of your life. Jackie [a senior nurse with the team] amongst others has been my saviour; a friend, a point of contact, someone to get angry with, someone to laugh with. Just brilliant!

“I have attended the Peer Support Group, which is held every month. I’ve met other guys in similar circumstances and shared stories, which has been a great help.

“I cannot big up the service enough. I believe everyone in a similar set of circumstances to me should be offered help from them.”

Looking ahead

“After a couple of months, I no longer needed to be drained. I am still dry, abstinent - call it what you like. I have got a job with Newark and Sherwood District Council. I have bought a new house and project managed the renovations.  I have been on holiday.  I have started attending the local pub quiz again – I have a J20. Being in a pub doesn’t bother me at all.

“I’ve had the odd wobble - I will always be an alcoholic and I never say never. But I’ve learnt different coping mechanisms. I remember how evil the process I went through was.

“My life is amazing. I am learning a lot about myself - some good some not so! I have a calendar and tick off every day that I’ve been sober. It’s 267 days today. Earlier this year I also lost two of my friends to liver cirrhosis, so I’m doing this for them.”

For more information about our Alcohol Related LTC Team visit: 


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