The Lucky Addict

Ive mentioned on social media this week that I’m finding it harder to blog because it was originally set up to help me understand and share my struggles. I was coming to terms with alcohol dependency and being sectioned – two things that I ignorantly thought would never happen to me although looking back, I was prime meat for that outcome! The blog was written in diary form as I moved from hospital back into the community and followed the long path of recovery. I had a great mental health community nursing team, my wife accepted me back home to be with her (and my girls) after a short period of time at my parents (which for a 34 year old Dad with kids, a job and a mortgage, was very soul destroying) and I returned to work, who have been very supportive throughout this whole period.

I’m under no illusions this isn’t the way it works for everybody battling addiction and mental health problems. I have often struggled to voice my issues because I felt like a fraud feeling the way I did and drinking the way I did when to others I had this ‘perfect little life’. I’ve had access to a lot of support and interventions too along the way which again, many haven’t had in the UK and beyond. It’s a postcode lottery and for me my numbers came up. Maybe I was just a lucky addict.

But what you need to realise is that when you’re struggling with severe mental health conditions like I was – you can’t see beyond your own struggles (and often the bottle) so even the love of your children isn’t strong enough to make you want to continue or fight for change. It hurts to write that but it’s true. There were many times Id be pissed on my own at 1am on the couch thinking dark thoughts whilst my wife and little girls slept oblivious to it all above me. I was functioning (I hate that term actually – clearly I wasn’t functioning within myself) but to the outside looking in I was ‘Okay’ (another term I don’t like. ‘Okay’ is so beige. So nothing. So open to a swing in both directions) .

I’ve just realised I use brackets a lot in my writing. Sorry! I’m conscious of it now…

I had therapy with great addiction therapists, my employer paid for a Psycologist, I completed courses of CBT and above all I have a loving and very understanding wife – we have plenty childcare cover for our daughters and she would always encourage me to talk. Something I rebuffed. To many people reading, all of these things may have helped you not get to the point I did, maybe not. But I say this not to rub it in anybody’s faces – It’s a reminder that one size doesn’t fit all and whether you have this, that and everything in front of you – if you’re not ready or invested in getting help or starting your recovery it isn’t going to work. No matter how much money or resource is thrown at it. Just look at how many ‘celebs’ and people with money have succumbed to addiction and suicide over the years, not always as a duo but rarely they come as a stand-alone in the cocktail.

It’s only since I’ve been in long term sobriety (minus those two stand-alone days of picking up again) that I’ve realised that my life can be wonderful but only I can navigate it that way. The depression cycle I was in (aided by alcohol) meant I was only ever a drinking session away from blurring my happiness and judgement again but I no longer have that fog in front of my eyes. I’ve written loads of times about dips in mood, increased anxiety and a few bouts of mild depression since I’ve been sober but that’s part of the bigger picture of living life with a mental health condition. What I can do now is identify and manage my condition without the additional obstacle course of alcohol.

The only time I’ve wanted to harm myself in the last 17 months since entering recovery was on one of the two occasions I drank (to excess and in isolation) – For me, alcohol is clearly the loaded gun in my story.

It’s 11:40pm now and it’s been a very long week so I’m going to leave it for now and watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV before I turn in for the night. I’ll be sure to post again soon – even if it’s just to boast about how perfect my life is (joke!)

I’m keen to talk a bit more about how AVRT is working for me because it really has been a game changer so I promise to share more on this in the coming days. Take care everybody and speak soon!

Suicide. Yes, I said it.

I heard earlier in the week about a male colleague from another office ending their own life and although I didn’t know him it nonetheless cuts deeply. It’s not the first loss we’ve had as a company to suicide and the stats would suggest that it won’t be the last. To lose one life to suicide is one too many and despite all the awareness campaigns and charities the UK has to offer, the complexities of mental health will always mean people fall through the cracks and continue to add to the ‘statistics’.

Of course, nobody is just a statistic. They are a husband, a wife. They are a son or a daughter. A brother, a sister, a friend, a work colleague or that person you always said hello to in the village but didn’t know their name. They are the musicians we have always listened to. The actors we’ve seen in many films. That reality TV star who was constantly facing abuse from the newspapers and trolls on social media. The link? We are all humans.

My lifetime has been peppered with suicide albeit indirectly. My Grandad often talked to me about his brother who they believe completed suicide by lying down on a train track after earlier finding out his wife had been having an affair. There’s the classmate at school when I was around 12 who hung himself. At that age it was so confusing as to why he had did it considering he seemed ‘fine’ at school earlier that day. A Cousin of mine who I wasn’t close to but would still speak to occasionally was another who died from suicide earlier this year. He leaves his little child without a father. I see that innocent, small kid on the school run most days. It hurts just thinking about it.

I’ve been suicidal. When I was at my lowest and suffering with my dissociation episodes I was saying things which suggested I wanted to die. I was out of control and can’t remember those events but to hear about them from others makes me feel so sick with fear that at my lowest I could have ended it. Sure, I used to often think about killing myself in a sober, conscious sense but it was never more than fleeting thoughts. Glamourising the idea in my own head. I know that sounds strange but I would often be soaking in the bath day dreaming about how I could end it and which way would be the quickest / easiest. No surprise that these thoughts would be more common when my anxiety was playing up.

It wasn’t until I had my mental health breakdown that this looked like becoming more of a reality but I will be forever grateful to my wife for being there on all of the occasions I was at my most vulnerable and rightly so, she got the emergency services involved.

I’m not a counsellor and I’m not the man with all the answers but I believe we can do TWO things. If we all do this we will reduce suicide figures. We won’t stop suicide all together but we can try to prevent it.

• If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or killing yourself and don’t feel like you can reach out to family or friends PLEASE contact the Samaritans on 116 123

• If you are concerned about somebody don’t avoid them because of your own awkwardness but also don’t feel like you have to take on all of the pressure. A simple text, call or visit to somebody to check in could make a huge difference. We can’t be with somebody 24/7 but we can make them feel visible and heard by connecting

As I say, we can’t control the actions of others and should not carry guilt if somebody you know does pass because mental health is complex – but I know that if I follow those two things above, I’m giving myself and others a chance.