A Life-Changing Time

In an earlier series of blogs starting here, I described what I initially learnt about addiction treatment at a local treatment agency in Swansea, West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in the early 2000s. Later, in 2005, I was commissioned to write a profile of the agency, which ended up being over 180 pages long and containing a number of Stories. Here’s is one such Story, of someone recovering from a serious alcohol problem:

‘I am writing about an amazing two years in my life. It has truly been a life-changing time. Not only have I stopped drinking (and that in itself I would never have believed possible!), but I’ve really begun to live life more fully and have been able to put my life back together again in a very positive way. Throughout this time, I have had great support and help from WGCADA. I can’t speak highly enough about the organisation and the staff I have been in contact with…. so please read on…

Starting at the beginning, I came to WGCADA in despair. I had developed a serious drink problem. I never drank alcohol in my youth and only drank socially small amounts until my early 30’s. By the time I was 40, alcohol had become an important part of my life. But it was fast becoming a bigger part of my life than I could deal with.

Initially, the amounts of alcohol were not great, but it was the regular daily drinking and reliance on the alcohol that should have alerted me to the problem to come. Instead, I just drank more and more, and wine and cider became a way of chilling out, relaxing after a hard day, cheering me up, slowing me down, and just about any other excuse going.

Over time, I became well and truly addicted, physically and mentally, and I was very frightened. But I would rarely admit to the intense fear. It normally sent me straight to the bottle again, and after a calming drink the future always looked easier and the plan to cut down on my drinking seemed much more achievable.

I tried on many occasions to reduce my drinking through my own self-discipline and through a structured programme. These plans were short-lived and failed, and overall the quantities I drank were steadily increasing. My life was a mess, I was off work ill, long-term, from a fairly responsible job. As my condition was getting worse, there was not much hope of going back to work. My family relationships were disintegrating and I had also lost all sense of personal value and meaning in life. The future was very bleak.

I knew my only chance was to stop drinking. I had tried many times to quit, and I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I was able to organise an inpatient detox. After I came out I felt so clean, but I knew there was no way I would be capable of staying that way. My lifestyle and all my impulses were too mixed up in alcohol to stay sober for long. I had been to WGCADA while still drinking and desperate for a way forward. Now I was sober, was this a resource I could turn to?

And what an amazing resource! Early on in discussions, I had to make a fairly fundamental decision. Was my personal programme of recovery going to be about controlled drinking or about abstinence? I knew I really needed to stay clear of alcohol. Knowing myself, I was sure moderate drinking and I were not compatible!

That first week, as I heard the counsellor speak to me about abstinence, I remember clearly thinking, “How can this counsellor and anything he can say ever have the power to stop me drinking again?” I was as determined as I have ever been about anything, but I just couldn’t imagine a Programme which could change me that much.

We started to look at the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which were new to me, and to work in more detail with the Minnesota programme I found the structure this gave me was so important.

Even so, there were weeks when I came to see my counsellor and cried my way through the session in despair. Like many people in early sobriety, I found life to be very hard. Not only is there coping without drink, but there is facing up to the chaos your drinking has caused you and others around you. The help that WGCADA gave me to feel my despair, and to channel it in positive ways, was immense. The atmosphere was so supportive and I felt so accepted for being me, a recovering alcoholic

I began to gradually work through the programme. I had already discovered that I was not alone. Many staff at WGCADA understood where I was at; they had been there in their own experiences in the past. The staff were wanting for me what I willed for myself, that positive sobriety. There was always someone to speak to if I phoned, on the occasions when life threw me one challenge too much and I needed to hear some sane strong words. And there was always access to weekly help and advice in my counselling session. This was not soft, easy advice, and there were many times that didn’t want to hear those tough words and reminders of what was best for me!

It is easier to learn in an environment of acceptance. I recognised the unmanageability of my life and my need for sanity. I knew I never wanted to be in that despair and hopeless place again. I also knew I had the beginnings of a new life which was exciting, full of self-discovery.

Working through Step 3 was a wonderful experience for me. I had a faith and had questioned it and doubted in my dark drinking days. I found that faith in such a new and real way and could really understand and accept Step 3, which says, “Made the decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”

I completed Step 4 and 5 when I made my moral inventory and had the opportunity to share it. I was then very moved by a presentation that was made to me in front of the client group and staff. It was in the form of a letter from my counsellor, and a medallion. I’ll always treasure this to remind me of the hard work WGCADA staff and I put into the early days of my recovery. I now have the opportunity to continue the counselling on a monthly basis, as the initial treatment is over.

As I write this, I’m almost two years into sobriety and can honestly say that life is so rich and rewarding, and this is the result of being able to digest and apply the lessons of the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and its application using the Minnesota programme. I would not be here without the staff of WGCADA and the amazing Programme they helped me to understand and apply.

I continue to follow the Programme. I’m on a course, which I know I need to maintain and continually progress along, but it is so blessed to have such a strong foundation.’

Photograph by Marcus Woodbridge, shown on Unsplash, a source of free high resolution photographs.