Addiction is indiscriminate – it doesn’t care who you are or what you do.
One Leeds man, who wished only to be referred to as Dean, has spoken of his battle with alcoholism which nearly cost him his life.
What was first a social habit followed him home, destroyed relationships with those closest to him and left him suicidal, incontinent, with a criminal record and broke by his 30s.
Dean was a 20-something engineer when his drinking began to cause problems.
“It started off that I drank like anybody else did on a weekend and lunchtime in the pub, nothing dramatic, and then after an early relationship went wrong I felt I couldn’t cope,” he said. “I’m not blaming the people – it was my fault. I couldn’t cope with the pain or emotions and I found drink and that sort of took that feeling away for a short period.”
He later married but his problems escalated. After night shifts he would go home and drink a bottle of vodka in the early hours of the morning. Alcohol was his “pain killer”.
The breakdown of his marriage led him to leave the country to seek pastures new, finding a job in Scotland.
Dean said he would drink before work and sneak drink into work, disguising spirits in soft drink bottles, and often drove to work despite knowingly being over the limit.
“I was never pulled up on it because I was good at my job,” he explained. But in February 2006, his addiction caught up with him. He was caught drink-driving on his way to work and found to be five times over the legal limit but avoided jail.
He moved back to Leeds to live with family but spiralled into despair, relying on alcohol as a constant companion and becoming violent to those he loved. He was drinking as much as two litres of vodka a day.
Dean was kicked out by family, moving 28 times, to sleep on sofas, in sheds and spare rooms anywhere he could. He ended up homeless. He hit rock bottom.
“I was suicidal from drink – it stopped numbing it,” he said. “I thought the only way out of this was by dying. I didn’t want to be here.”
Following three failed suicide attempts, Dean sought help and attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting on November 19 2006 having had his last drink six days earlier.
Now aged 44, Dean has just celebrated nine years without alcohol. He followed the 12 step programme, met fellow alcoholics and turned his life around. He has remarried and now volunteers at AA in Leeds.
He said: “I thought I was evil but I was poorly. It was guilt, shame and remorse that took me to AA – I wanted to change who I was, how I thought, spoke and talked to people.”
Dean added: “AA worked for me because I could talk to other alcoholics and it blew me away. They understood me.”
Alcoholics Anonymous open day in Leeds
A free public information event hosted by the West Riding Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) will take place in Leeds this week.
Two recovering alcoholics and AA board members and trustees will talk to visitors about the service and their experiences at the HEART Centre, in Headingley, on Friday November 20 from 10.30am to 2.30pm.
To attend email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07413 553075. For further information visit alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk.