The day I admitted I was an alcoholic
Richard believes the toughest decision he ever made saved his life.
At about 21, the warning signs started. I was in a pub with my dad. He said he'd noticed that I'd always had a drink before we met and was drinking quickly and choosing stronger beers. I gave him all the cliches about working hard, playing hard. I absolutely denied there was a problem.
I moved out of home into a flat share which obviously gave me more opportunities to drink. I was sharing with a guy who was was older and a heavy drinker. I went from weekend to daily drinking almost immediately. From 21 until I stopped at 27, there was hardly ever a day I didn't have a drink. I began putting on weight and I was stammering more than I had as a child. In other words, the booze was beginning to bring back the problems it had previously covered up.
When I moved in with my girlfriend, I decided to cut down. But within two weeks, I was drinking before I got home and secret drinking indoors. Alcohol had got me. We had a row and she screamed at me: 'Richard, you're 25 and you're an alcoholic'. That was the first time anyone had used the word. I used it as an excuse to leave and go to the pub. I was drinking lots - daily drinking of 8 or 9 pints a day and more at weekends. I was still holding down my job but I wasn't progressing.
Dealing with life on life's terms had always been difficult for me. My mum is anxious and worried about what people think. I'd picked that up and never felt comfortable in my own skin. But I still wasn't going to admit I was an alcoholic because of the popular perception of one as an old git in rags.
That's why many people pursue alcoholism into the gates of insanity or death because the stuff does alter your mind.
It's the only illness that tells you you haven't got it.
I didn't admit I had a problem until the day I phoned Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
My relationship was really rocky. She went on holiday with a friend and I thought 'great, two weeks of doing what I want with no nagging'. I did just that for a week then one evening I was alone for the first time I could remember. Almost out of the blue, I picked up the phone to AA. I knew about them because of a client who was very open about it. I wonder if he mentioned it because he could see the signs in me.
When I talked to someone on the phone, I realised I wasn't the only one. The London Regional Telephone Service passed my name on to a member of AA in my area. I agreed very reluctantly to go to a meeting with him the next day. I nearly didn't go but I didn't want to let him down. I was in a bad way - I was overweight, had a pain in my side and my memory was shot to pieces. I reckon I was close to losing my job. But even then I still didn't realise I needed to stop. I thought AA might help me drink more sociably.
I was nervous in case I was put on the spot. The room was full of people - a cross section of society - young, old, both sexes.
They gave me a cup of tea and suggested I sit and listen and try to identify with the similarities between my experiences and those of others not the differences. It's typical when you're in denial to latch onto some small difference as a way of convincing yourself your not 'one of them'.
That weekend I went to a meeting every evening and I haven't had a drink since.
Richard is now in his 40s, happilly married with two kids and a decent job with a law firm. Picture posed by model.
Page created on January 2nd, 2006
Page updated on January 16th, 2010