When it comes to addiction no two stories are the same, but something I have noticed is that there is a lot of stigma around addiction and alcoholism. People who fall into those categories seem to be judged or stereotyped. There is a lot of shame in admitting you are an alcoholic.
I felt it, I was in denial for a long time and thought there was no way I was an alcoholic because I didn't drink in the morning, or because I held down a job, or because I had somewhere to live and drove a decent car. I wasn't an alcoholic, I wasn't 'that' bad.
Addiction can take hold of anyone, literally anyone.
It doesn't pick unemployed people, or people from a certain background, it doesn't prefer women over men or someone whose parents are addicts. Addiction doesn't care if your rich, poor, young, old, male, female..
Any one of us can fall into addiction, and scarily it happens without us even realising.
This was true for me.
I became physically and mentally dependent on alcohol, and hand in hand with an alcohol addiction comes the extra baggage of mental health issues. I had awful anxiety, was depressed, self-destructive, I had suicidal thoughts.
Alcohol took so much from me as a person, it destroyed my self-confidence, it took my self-worth, my morals and values, I became everything in a person that I despised. I became dishonest, self-centred, I was unreliable, I hurt people that I loved.
It destroyed employment opportunities, any prospect of a future, my interests, I got into financial difficulty. It sucked in my family and close friends, destroying them along the way too. There wasn't an area of my life that alcohol didn't impact. My life became chaos.
But I still thought, I wasn't 'that' bad.
It wasn't always like this, it started out as fun - I was a big party girl, loved a night out. Drink gave me confidence to spark up conversations with strangers, to dance in a nightclub. I had fun.
In time alcohol stopped giving me confidence in social situations, or relaxing me after a long day at work.
What once gave me confidence left me a nervous wreck, I had panic attacks, my anxiety was agonising, I woke up every morning with that feeling of someone treading down hard on your chest, a feeling of dread. It took me to a very dark place.
Messy nights that I use to laugh about eventually became very lonely and dangerous nights.
They didn't end with heels in your hand waving down taxis, they ended alone in a hospital bed.
It was sad and it was lonely.
But I think the worst thing about it all was that it never felt acceptable to admit I had a problem. Alcohol is advertised everywhere as something people enjoy, we drink at weddings, celebrations, it's the centre of anything joyful in life.
Adverts on TV show bright colourful bottles of gin, people look classy drinking wine in nice bars, or ice cold bottles of beer are drunk in the sun.
We are constantly told it is something we are allowed to enjoy. And I wanted to enjoy it so bad, but that had long passed. It was now a need. I didn't enjoy the drink, I didn't enjoy the taste, there was nothing nice about it anymore. But it was nicer than the feelings I felt before I was drunk. That shame, loneliness, guilt, remorse, the anxiety. A few drinks took that away, only for a short amount of time, but I knew it would ease for a bit. Every time I would kid myself I could just have a couple, or it wouldn't end up like last time. It was the same every single time.
I tried for ages to pretend I was a 'normal drinker'. I pretended I enjoyed a glass of wine after work, or a cider in the beer garden like everyone else does. I knew deep down it was different, I knew once I started I had to finish. I had to drink until I was drunk, until I felt nothing, until I was numb to the world. I knew it did more for me than most people. I thought people who left a mouthful of drink at the bottom of the glass were mental. If someone had one glass of wine with dinner and then went onto coffee, they must have something wrong with them. I had friends who could sit in a pub all evening drinking lime and soda, I could never understand it. Unless you was pregnant why wouldn't you get smashed?
People drunk like little girls and it made me angry.
But I wasn't 'that' bad.
Wrong. I was very much an alcoholic.
I had to hit my rock bottom to get sober.
At the end of my drinking I was a mess. My family were as hopeless as I was. In all honesty I didn't want to be here anymore, but I was too much of a coward to do anything about it. I was so desperate for a way out of the chaos I was living in.
I knew I needed help.
I went into rehab for 28 days and thats when the penny dropped for me.
I learnt about alcoholism and addiction. I learnt about a 12-step programme for recovery. For the first time in my life I met other alcoholics who were from all different walks of life, but we all shared the same problem. I finally understood myself and I finally saw a way out. It saved my life.
Rehab got me sober, recovery groups keep me sober.
I thought I could go into rehab get a detox and be fixed, it doesn't work like that.
I shunned AA I thought it was for the hardcore drinker, not someone like me. I couldn't of been more wrong, it is an incredible thing.
I also do a recovery group through an organisation called Forward Trust. Another fantastic service. But again, it's the connections I've built with other people struggling with addiction that keep me going.
I read a quote recently that said; "There is no person walking the face of the earth who demonstrates more courage, dignity, honesty and integrity on a daily basis than an addict in recovery."This couldn't be more true for the people I have met on my short recovery journey so far.
The most important thing I've learnt in recovery is doing it 'Just for today'.
I don't think about not drinking tomorrow, or next week, or at christmas, or on my birthday, I just don't drink today. It works. I can stay sober today.
I am happier now than I have ever been. Theres a phrase in the AA Big Book along the lines of in sobriety you get a life beyond your wildest dreams, it sounds cheesy but it's true. The world still spins and life still happens, but today I can manage life. I have amazing relationships with people around me, I don't wake up drowning in dread, I find myself smiling for no reason at all, I feel excitement for the future.
I hope one day there will be much more awareness and understanding of alcoholism, especially the severe impact it has on mental health.
If you think you have a problem, don't suffer silently, find the strength to reach out.
There is support out there.
Alcohol left me living in shame. Today I am proud of who I am.
My name is Sam, I am 29 years old, a proud recovering alcoholic and volunteer for My Black Dog.
If you feel you are struggling, you are not alone, reach out to AA here.