Martin's story: "Alcohol was the way I coped with anxiety and depression" copy

Martin | July 2020 | 8 minutes

In this blog, Martin tells his story about struggling with alcohol from a young age, and how his sister finally made him realise it was time to make a change.

It took me a long time to realise that drinking too much was the way I dealt with my crippling anxiety and depression. From the first time I had a drink with my mates in the park when I was about 14, I was the one who always took it to the extreme. When I drank, everything felt easier. I felt happier and like I was better at socialising.

From a young age I never felt that I was quite good enough at anything. I felt that way despite having a close and loving family who always encouraged and supported me in everything I did.

When I was 15 I got meningitis and septicaemia. I nearly died, and it made life much more difficult. The meningitis affected my brain - my short-term memory suffered. I was frightened all the time and didn’t feel like other people seemed to feel. I made the mistake of comparing how other people appeared to feel on the outside to how I felt on the inside.

I was referred to a psychiatrist and labels such as ‘bipolar,’ ‘psychosis,’ and ‘mood disorder’ were thrown around. Various medications were prescribed, but it was alcohol that really made me feel OK. I drank with my mates whenever I could and would switch between groups of friends to make sure I was always at the party. I also started to use a lot of cannabis and dabbled in ecstasy at the weekends.

"I drank with my mates whenever I could and would switch between groups of friends to make sure I was always at the party."

When I went to university it all came to a head. Everything seemed too much for me. I couldn’t get my head around the timetable and where I was supposed to be and when. I was terrified of trying to make friends. Before long, my medication was all in the bin and I was drinking vodka alone in my room. I just wanted to be in my own oblivion. Reality was too frightening and painful.

Eventually, I admitted to my dad what a mess I was in. My parents came and collected me and that led to my first stint in residential alcohol treatment. At that point I still wasn’t really ready to accept how big of a problem I had with alcohol. I thought I just liked to get drunk. To me, people with alcohol problems were the guys in rehab who had been drinking a bottle of vodka a day for 30 years.

After 28 days in residential treatment, I left. I tried to stay sober, but my mates were all going out and having fun at uni while I had dropped out and was sitting in village halls at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. That was difficult, and within five months I was drinking again and had now started taking cocaine too.

My life was a mess for the next few years. I got a job away from home, thinking it’d be a fresh start, but I felt lonely and isolated and a bit of a failure. Each night I’d tell myself I’d only buy half a litre of vodka to limit myself but then I’d get in my car to get more. It’s incredible I never caused an accident.

I lost that job in the end and went back home. My parents didn’t know what to do. There was a lot of chaos, arguments and upset during that time. I felt somehow detached from it. I was taking a cocktail of alcohol, cocaine and cannabis all the time, trying to find a level where I was not too drunk and not too high.

It was my sister who eventually got through to me. I don’t think she said anything that anyone hadn’t said before, but this time I was ready to hear it. She basically said, “I don’t like you. I don’t know you any more. You’re making your family ill and I want my brother back.” At this point I was 21.

"[My sister] basically said, 'I don’t like you. I don’t know you any more. You’re making your family ill and I want my brother back.'"

I went into treatment again, but with a totally different attitude. There were people there who had been in and out for 20 years and I decided that wasn’t going to be me.

I was there for three months and when I left the next 18 months were all about recovery - I went to AA meetings and volunteered five days a week in an alcohol treatment centre. I’m now happily married and we’ve just had our second child. Through my work in an alcohol and drug treatment centre I’m doing something every day that really matters.

I’ve learned it is possible to grow beyond addiction and I can’t wait to help others do it too.

Find out more about Martin on his LinkedIn page.