Michael's story: "After the fire, I became a totally different person and came to appreciate being alive."

Michael | November 2019 | 7 minutes

I would say I had quite a privileged, but troubled childhood. My relationship with alcohol began then and has continued to this day.

My father died when I was about three and my mother remarried. So, I went to live with my paternal grandparents. When I was 10 years old, due to my behaviour, I was sent to a children’s home because my grandparents found me uncontrollable. I spent six months in the children’s home. Shortly after I left, my grandad died. My behaviour worsened and my aunts and grandmother sent me to a boarding school.

I was comfortable there but started using cannabis and LSD when I was about 14 and left at 16 without any qualifications. I tried to get an apprenticeship as a boat builder since members of my family have always worked at the boatyard. But I was turned down due to my lack of education. The disappointment led to me drinking even more. This was 1969, so I got money through the youth unemployment scheme. I found seasonal work picking fruits and worked in a sheet metal factory and a laundrette. In fact, I did various jobs over the years.

Partying, drink and drugs were a way of life and I was wild back then.

When I had money, I drank every day. In those days it was mostly lager. I enjoyed the drink as it made me feel better. When I was 17, I had a psychotic episode due to using LSD. My GP referred me to a psychiatric hospital where I stayed for about a year and a half. After my release, I drifted all over the country. I started using cocaine around this time because of the ‘hippie’ life I was living. Partying, drink and drugs were a way of life and I was wild back then. I had various girlfriends but never settled into a long-term relationship before I met my current partner, who I met 32 years ago in a homeless shelter. I had decided a long time ago not to have children as it wouldn’t have been fair to them due to the unstable life I was living.

I have been to prison for stealing and all sorts due to my drinking and drug taking. I tried a few times to get clean but kept relapsing. Alcohol completely messed me up if I am being honest.

Alcohol completely messed me up if I am being honest.

What changed my life, was when I was involved in a fire in 2003. By this time, I was heavily into cocaine and regularly used it, along with my drinking. I was woken up by the fire but fell unconscious. Someone called the emergency services and I was taken to Royal London hospital where I spent seven months being treated for severe burns and had to be fed intravenously. I had a stroke while in hospital which left me with a few health issues. Sadly, I started drinking again in hospital as people would bring me drink.

After the fire, I became a totally different person. My attitude changed and I came to appreciate being alive.

After the fire, I became a totally different person. My attitude changed and I came to appreciate being alive. I got off drugs due to lack of access and with the help of a drug counsellor. I was sent to Brook Drive to help me detox and from there was sent for rehab.

Coming to Aspinden Wood saved my life because, if I wasn’t sent there, I would not have made it to Christmas. By this stage, I was drinking up to two litres of whiskey per day. When I arrived, I discussed with my key worker and staff and with the doctor, how much I would be allowed to drink. I started on four cans of cider and sometimes went to the shop to top up with brandy. But really, they have helped me to cut right down and eventually I want to be alcohol-free.

It is a constant battle against the drink. But I’ve realised I can be given all the help in the world but, when it comes down to it, it’s up to me to help myself. I’m still in rehab and don’t want to be here forever, and I look forward to JUST LIVING!

Aspinden Wood Centre (AWC) is a residential care and recovery centre for high impact, change resistant drinkers. It offers residents the chance to gain stability in their recovery whilst improving their physical health & mental wellbeing. The centre accepts men and women over the age of 18 from across the UK. They can be referred through social services.

If you need support to change your drinking there are many options available - ranging from peer support groups to residential rehabilitation.

Find out more.