This week (19-25th November) is Alcohol Awareness Week. This is a week where we want to open up conversation about alcohol and the harm that it can cause, and let people know that there is advice and support out there – whether you think your drinking is a problem or you just want some tips on how to cut back.
Joe*, aged 37 and from east Telford has been kind enough to share his story with us, in the hope that it will help others too.
* names have been changed.
It’s easy for me to picture my first drink. I was about 14 and at my parents’ friend’s wedding reception. There was some punch made up for the occasion and I was allowed to try some on the condition that I had one glass and no more. Well, being a young teenager who was convinced I knew best I continued sneaking glass after glass until at the end of the night I was outside, vomiting on the pavement.
This could have put most people off, but knowing what I know now, it did exactly the opposite for me. I had been a really quiet and withdrawn child and I loved the feeling of self-confidence it gave me.
As I went through high school, my home life because quite difficult. Both of parents were drinkers and they were always arguing. I had never gotten on well with my step father but when he left, my relationship with my mum somehow got even worse. I ended up drinking with friends most nights and sleeping in the garage because my Mum would lock me out of the house.
As the years went by, my drinking became more excessive and problematic. I lost a marriage because of my drinking problem and I have two children I have not seen since they were infants.
Finally on August 15th I was admitted to Bushyfields hospital in Dudley for a residential detox. I had had multiple detoxes before, but the difference this time was that I spoke to Paul, Scott and Leighton from Telford dry house project ‘A Better Tomorrow’ (ABT) and secured a room in one of their houses. I have never looked back.
Shortly after entering the house I attended a ‘Staying Stopped’ course run by Sarah from Aquarius. The group was about helping people to keep their sober lifestyle going and prevent relapse by recognising triggers and smaller lapses and learning skills for managing them. I really enjoyed it and asked if I could help run future sessions. I went from helping out there to peer mentor training and volunteer training with Aquarius. I became a voice for service users, even attending board meetings in Birmingham and London.
Meanwhile I had started volunteering with ABT and helped start a cycling group for the lads at the projcet. I found myself some work and, having completed my two years with the housing project, I have moved out have my own little flat. I still go to groups so that I can keep myself on track, but also to help others who need the same help that I used to. It took someone believing in me for me to be able to make the changes that I needed to make, when I was ready to make them for myself. Now I try to be that person for others.