Lee is one of our lived-experience online connectors. He has been volunteering for Together Drug and Alcohol Services for several months and recently he has been generously giving his time, ideas and enthusiasm to the Plug In Devon project. This is his story
My first drink was at the age of 14 on Christmas Day, with my family. It was a Bells whiskey. I only had one drop and I thought it tasted disgusting.
I was a normal teenager: I liked playing football and I used to go round friends’ houses to have a few beers and play computers games. I never did anything out of the ordinary. I was brought up very well and had an amazing relationship with my dad and my brothers. I didn’t actually go to the pub until I was 17. From the age of 18 to 37, I was just your typical guy. I enjoyed my life. I lived a charmed lifestyle at home and I loved to travel: I went on a safari three times and travelled Europe. In 2010, I even got married in Kenya!
In December 2016, I had a beautiful wife, a gorgeous little boy, a big three bedroom house, a lovely car, money in my pocket. My wife was pregnant. I know what you are thinking: how can someone who was brought up well, had a great career, and enjoyed life end up addicted to drink and is now a recovering alcoholic?
In January 2017, my wife and I lost our baby because of a condition called Edwards’ syndrome. This is something very personal, but I share it because it shaped what was to come and because it shows how addiction can destroy your life within moments.
In December 2016, I had been drinking more. For some reason, I could sense something was wrong. Spirits started creeping into my evening drinking and became a regular fixture. Come early January 2017, after we lost our baby, I was slowly but surely becoming addicted to alcohol. By 19 January 2017, I was drinking very heavily. I wasn’t drinking cans anymore: they weren’t enough. I had started hiding alcohol at home and drinking at work too: I kept vodka in a Robinson bottle to keep me topped up and get me through the day.
My ex-wife kicked me out on the 27 January as it wasn’t safe for me to be around our son. In April, I was suspended from work with suspicion of drinking. In July, after 20 years in my job, I was sacked. By this time, my drinking had become uncontrollable. I was losing touch with reality. I was beginning to lose friends and I had lost contact with my older brother. By February 2018 I was divorced.
You may think things couldn’t get much worse.
In December 2019, after two and a half years of heavy drinking, I got arrested twice. I ended up in court and, thankfully, I was given an ATR, an Alcohol Treatment Requirement. I was referred to EDP Drug and Alcohol Service. EDP helped me detox and by 7 January I was clean. It wasn’t easy, but it was completely worth it. Recovery takes a lot of hard work and I had some ups and downs in 2020. I lapsed a couple times. However you get out of it what you put into it.
Where am I today? My situation has improved immensely. I live in a lovely house and I am a peer mentor for EDP. I’ve got food in the fridge and I’m seeing my son again. This is all because of EDP Drug and Alcohol Service: they have saved my life and today I am a proud recovering alcoholic. During treatment, I realised that since 2017 I had been suffering with mental health issues, but I had never acknowledged it because I was too worried about what people would think of me, I was worried they would judge me. I used alcohol as an anti-depressant. Now the stigma has been removed a fair bit. I still have work to do, but now I speak openly about my mental health, my suicidal thoughts, and my low moods. It’s something EDP have helped me with so much. Now I understand myself better. It’s not just the staff, it’s the whole set-up. At EDP I am able to talk to other service users and their recovery also helps me in mine. I’m very thankful.
Stay positive. Good things can happen.