Jan's story: "I accept my past. I need to remember it and make my future better"

Jan | August 2019 | 8 minutes

I grew up in pubs, my parents were publicans and pubs were my home. I had mum, dad and a little brother; we had a car and went on foreign holidays - and I was popular of course, because 'everybody loves a landlord'! Happy days? Well, not quite.

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My dad drank heavily. Everyone liked him, he was fun and witty, a great landlord. But as I got older I started to see the cracks in our family life. My mum ran the business as my dad drank with customers. Luckily mum didn't drink much at all and in between looking after my brother and I, she kept the business going. Dad's drinking got worse and it became normal for us to see him drunk. I have a very clear memory of my dad looking very ill and shaking one morning, and my brother and I swore that we would never be like him. My brother stuck to his oath. At the age of fifteen I was drinking.

It started with halves of lager when playing darts with the pub team and working for family friends. As I got older I discovered that I liked spirits better than lager. I started going out to clubs and parties. I realised I was bisexual, which added to the confusion in my life. But I was having a great time, I knew everyone, never paid to get in anywhere.

"My brother and I swore that we would never be like [my dad]. My brother stuck to his oath. At the age of fifteen I was drinking."

Over the next ten years I was out nearly every night having fun - some weekends I wouldn't even get home. But my partner who I lived with for those ten years wasn't enjoying it; neither were my mum or my friends. I went from being the person everyone invited to their party to the person people started avoiding. My mum worried that I drank too much but I told her I was young and just having fun. My partner gave up worrying when I didn't come home some nights, and in the end gave up loving and trusting me.

My relationship ended and my drinking spiralled for the next ten years. I would either leave jobs or get the sack because I didn't turn up or was off 'sick' too much. Even though I worked I would still manage to run up debts by borrowing money so I could drink. My grandmother bailed me out as long as I promised never to do it again. The next time my mother bailed me out and I made her the same promise.

" I was lying about my drinking, I stole for my drinking, I ended up with a criminal record because of my drinking and I nearly gave my life for my drinking."

My drinking had changed. It wasn't as much fun anymore, but it was never the drink’s fault - it was other people to blame. Drinking was the one thing I did well, and it was always there for me. I hid a lot of it from my family, but they knew. I was unhappy and didn't like myself very much at all. I was lying about my drinking, I stole for my drinking, I ended up with a criminal record because of my drinking and I nearly gave my life for my drinking. Drunk and full of self-pity there were suicide attempts, too. But I still wasn't giving it up.

I was working at my local hospital and hadn’t been there long when I got taken out of the Department for smelling of alcohol. When confronted, I still denied my drinking. I woke up one Sunday morning feeling awful as usual, opened my knicker drawer for the half bottle of vodka that was hidden there and went to drink it. As I raised the bottle to my mouth I saw myself in the mirror; thirty-eight years old looking like death, shaking and about to sneak a drink of vodka. I saw my father all those years ago and remembered that I said I would never be like him. I broke down and cried, I had had enough. I needed and wanted it to stop.

"I accept my past and all the things I did, I won’t pretend they didn’t happen. I need to remember them and make my future better."

I poured the vodka away and Monday morning I was at my GP. My doctor was genuinely pleased to hear me ask for help. When I started feeling physically better I went to AA. I never found my higher power but I did find people the same as me, helping and supporting each other. I was there every week for a year before I spoke and now I find it very easy to say: ‘my name’s Jan, and I’m an alcoholic ‘.

Once I admitted that and asked for help, I got it. Work were very supportive, as were family and friends. I am still sober 12 years later, still working at the hospital. I am a different person. A better, stronger person. There are still times, and always will be, that I would love a drink. But I accept my past and all the things I did, I won’t pretend they didn’t happen. I need to remember them and make my future better. I am now 50 years old, happily married and happily sober. Happy days? Yes!