Alcoholic or not?

Day 13: I’ve been out of hospital since Thursday evening. My wife picked me up with our two young daughters. The oldest (5yr old) thinks the hospital is just where I had been working for the last 9 days when in reality it was the place I was admitted to after a severe mental health episode which saw me deliriously leave my house into the cold darkness of a February evening with just a vest and pair of shorts on. Not even footwear. I ran into woodland. I damaged my feet. I at some point returned back to my house (thankfully) and the police arrived along with paramedics who had to restrain me from trying to leave a second time. I don’t remember any of this except arriving at hospital and the bleary eyed and confusing days that followed.

I’m currently living with my parents whilst I process things and start the next part of my recovery. My wife despite asking for space and that I live elsewhere for now (totally understand that especially with young kids) has been very supportive. I’ve spent time with the children on my own and as far as they are concerned, I was never away. Daddy is back and he’s just his same old silly self. I suppose I am when I’m focusing on my girls. I’m not thinking about my worries, my conditions and what has just happened. As most parents will say, you are distracted and you are too absorbed in the lives of your little ones. It’s when they are with their Mam and I’m at my parents, sitting in my old bedroom alone that the thinking and worrying starts. It’s important that I don’t let the demons resurface and regain control of me. Today is my 13th day sober and tonight I’m attending (virtually via Zoom) my first ever AA meeting. To a degree I can manage the symptoms of my anxiety and depression but it’s been too easy to turn to the drink in the past. Drinking has intensified since COVID came on the scene and both the volume and frequency has been on an upward trajectory since the turn of the year.

Would I have considered myself an alcoholic? Probably not, no. I could go days without a drink. I could go a week without a drink. I would always be thinking about it though, and it was a constant battle not to drink. I’d always be looking forward to the next time I could have a drink knowing in reality I wouldn’t be having just one. I was hiding whisky and gin in cupboards, the garden and my bedroom. I was drinking in secret from my wife. I was using it to stop me feeling so anxious and stressed. I was no longer drinking for the taste, enjoyment or social aspect (although who is right now?!) – I was drinking to get through the day.

If that doesn’t scream ‘Alcoholicism’ I’m not sure what does? I’m not entirely sure if there is a criteria you have to hit, a questionnaire you have to fill out – but I know without support and treatment alcohol will damage me, my family and beyond.

I’ll let you know how the meeting goes but first I need to download Zoom onto my iPad. Stay safe out there guys.

Goodbye Potato and Booze

Day 9: As much as I’ve loved hospital food (I see potato plays a big part in the NHS) I’ve been given the green light to head back into society. This is the first time I’ve spent time as an inpatient at a mental health hospital and hopefully the last but it’s been a very profound experience. Scary, frustrating, boring and lots of potato yes but also an opportunity for me to be reflect, reset and rest. I’ve not been outside in the last 8 days. The longest I’ve ever been confined. Five of those days were in isolation in my hospital room. No TV, locked windows and just my own company. I’ve read books. I’ve did crosswords and wordsearchs. I’ve been fortunate to have had my iPad delivered so I could enjoy Monty Python for the first time and even more importantly – start this blog. My first post may have been at a very low point in my life but as I said at the time, it was the first day of the rest of my life.

I head into the next part of my journey today. I can’t wait to see my little girls again, albeit the anguish of not being able to tell them the truth for my absence will hurt. That said, how do you tell a 5yr old and her 2yr old sister that Daddy has been in a psychiatric ward recovering from a mental breakdown? Recovering from a spatial disorientation event which included running out my house at night bare foot towards the nearby woods. Wrestling the police and pushing my wife. I still don’t remember this but hearing it from others doesn’t make it any clearer or easier to process.

My focus right now has to be on me. The aim is to stay sober. I’ve boozed for 17 years of my life. Exactly half of my time on this earth. I don’t want to take another sip of alcohol for the remainder of my life. I know it will be hard and there are no guarantees but the NHS have been amazing and I have plans in place from the moment I walk out of here later today.

I hope you don’t mind me continuing to share my journey with you. Writing will help me. It might even help you. Speak soon friends.