Susan's story: "I never gave up searching and fighting for a way to be free of alcohol. "

Susan | May 2020 | 7 minutes

In this blog, Susan tells her story about going from feeling hopeless and helpless about her drinking to giving it up for good.

I spent years trying to convince myself and the people around me that I did not have a problem with alcohol and that I could get back to ‘normal’ drinking whenever I wanted. Being a social drinker became a goal which I doggedly pursued for years, even though alcohol was gradually stripping away my dignity and self-respect, as well as the respect of those I loved. It destroyed my most precious relationships with the people closest to me.

My drinking journey began innocently enough years ago as a student, when I enthusiastically joined in with my peers on nights out. But I was a binge drinker and I realise now that, even then, alcohol did not sit well with me. I never knew when to stop. In the beginning I felt that alcohol gave me confidence, but over the years I slowly changed from being someone who ‘liked a drink’ to being a heavy drinker, which then progressed into a bigger problem. Ultimately, I became someone who simply could not function without alcohol. I was completely dependent upon it.

What I find scary is how this progression was so gradual that it went unnoticed, especially by the people closest to me. I know that I secretly had niggling worries at times about my drinking, but I quickly dismissed them. Alcohol stealthily and quietly settled into my life, sometimes lying dormant to fool me into believing that I did not have a problem. But it crept into my life and caused chaos over the years with increasing frequency, until normality disintegrated and my relationships fell apart.

"Alcohol stealthily and quietly settled into my life, sometimes lying dormant to fool me into believing that I did not have a problem."

After years of progressing down the spiral of dependency, I felt like I was being dragged to hell. Being awake was to drink and drinking was to pass out. In the later years I woke up in hospital, not remembering how I had gotten there. I had run-ins with the police, I hurt and lied to people I loved, embarrassed myself and those who cared about me. I felt increasingly ill and dishevelled. My skin was grey, my hair was falling out, I was very thin and my liver ached – but drinking alcohol was, by then, all that mattered to me.

Even if I tried to stop drinking, the withdrawal became so scary that I had to avoid it at all costs - the physical aspect was bad enough, but the emotional symptoms made it unthinkable for me to sober up. I experienced crippling anxiety, panic and fear of facing the people I had hurt, together with terrifying hallucinations.

Over the years I tried many things to stop drinking, from attempts at counselling to Alcoholics Anonymous, from stints in rehab to sessions with several different hypnotherapists. The interventions of my loved ones started off as gentle suggestions that I’d had too much to drink, but ultimately turned into them trying desperately to control my drinking through threats and arguments and throwing away alcohol that I had hidden. I told loved ones I was going to try to get sober, telling them that this time it was going to be different, only to start drinking again. In those couple of seconds I threw away their trust which had taken me months to earn. I felt overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame and fear.

"There are solutions out there and you should never, ever give up trying..."

In the end I felt that I had run out of options. I thought I had failed because AA, rehab and counselling had not worked for me. The thought of sobering up consumed me with fear - I felt hopeless and heartbroken and believed that I was going to die. But what I realise now is that in all of us, even those who feel the most hopeless, there is still a tiny glowing ember of who we really are. The person that we lost along the way as alcohol took control of our lives is still inside us – the person our loved ones are grieving for is still there.

I somehow tapped into that inner strength and I never gave up searching and fighting for a way to be free of alcohol. Even the most hopeless among us have lucid moments when we reach out to something or someone to help us. In those moments we can find our inner strength by looking at the love we have for the person we once were, and the love that is still around us. There are solutions out there and you should never, ever give up trying to find yours. For yourself, as well as your loved ones. You really do deserve that.

Susan is the author of From Rock Bottom to Sober Forever. She lives in Surrey with her husband and son.