Sven's story: "I marvel at how my life has changed."

Sven | June 2021 | 10 minutes

When Sven was called into the office by HR because they were concerned about his drinking, he wasn't expecting it to help - but, thanks to that intervention, he's now two years sober. This is his story.

When I first walked into AA, I was planning on attending every week. But only so people would believe me when I told them I’d given up drinking. Going through the motions would offer me the cover I needed to carry on drinking behind closed doors. Looking back, my thinking was deeply disconnected from reality.

I’ve always had a troubled relationship with alcohol; going hot and cold on the idea of drinking from a very young age. One moment I would be teetotal, the next I would be getting wary looks from even the most seasoned drinkers. I alternated between enjoying the ability to fit in that had eluded me and being afraid of losing control. It was a balance I wasn't able to strike, until I quit.

But that was my reason for drinking, at the core of it. Release. From overbearing control, from caring, from my problems, from self-hatred, self-doubt, from everything. I was an ostrich with my head buried in the sand and a strategically placed pint under that. I was oblivious to how things were falling apart around me – and they were.

"I was an ostrich with my head buried in the sand and a strategically placed pint under that. I was oblivious to how things were falling apart around me – and they were."

By 30, I'd dropped out of university, lost friends, relationships, jobs, family, and homes. I’d slept rough and narrowly evaded brushes with the law. I’d done things that I now regret with a sorrow that is hard to put into words. I’d destroyed my reputation as a poet and turned my back on a community that had welcomed me with open arms when I moved to Bristol. I abandoned something that was so much a part of me, it was like losing a limb. It was easier to think I was worth nothing than to face facts or fix things.

All my ambition and morality, naïve or otherwise, had melted away. I was barely existing. Just trying to survive from one session to the next, not caring whether I would wake up afterwards. I’d made my peace with the fact that I would never achieve anything and no one would mourn my passing.

I started working in one of the only places that would hire me. A call centre. Having been a high-flying salesman beforehand, I thought I was so much better than this. Did I mention my arrogance? Pure hubris. How does the saying go? All self-confidence and no self-esteem. I was continually getting into trouble at work, despite how much better than it I was.

"I’d made my peace with the fact that I would never achieve anything and no one would mourn my passing."

Things came to a head after a string of absences. When I managed to show up I was usually still drunk from the night before, if not from the walk in. And, more than once, I brought in a flask full of something that wasn’t coffee.

I was pulled into the office by HR one final time. They read me the company's policy on alcohol. There was a paragraph outlining how the company would support staff who were seeking help with addiction. Which brings us back to the start of this story.

I walked into AA, with no intention of quitting.

It might sound flowery or romantic to say that there was some kind of divine epiphany while I was sat in that room, and maybe it is. I can tell you two things for certain though.

• I am not a religious man.

• I have not drunk since.

I heard a lot of stories just like mine. Sure, some of the details were different; unique to the people telling their tales. But there was a common need for release, a feeling like people didn’t belong, and a sorrow. These were people, just like me, who were able to count how long it had been since they last had a drink. Not in minutes but in years. In decades even!

When they spoke about their lives now, it was inspiring for all the right reasons. They had found purpose, families, fulfilling jobs, homes; everything that I had lost. If I had heard those stories at any other time in my life I would have been jealous, resenting their success.

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"Something unexplainable hit home and I decided to commit, right then, to staying clean and sober."

I was prepared to lie about my sobriety to everyone I knew, had already started telling the lie to myself, but underneath it all I was a broken man. I was so at odds with the person I thought I was. Something unexplainable hit home and I decided to commit, right then, to staying clean and sober.

It wasn’t an easy journey. I found myself experiencing emotions that I’d poured booze on to numb for years, bubbling to the surface in surges. I experienced everything at 150% until things levelled out.

I found myself in situations fighting the urge to drink, fighting the strange logic that was trying to present excuses. It’s doesn’t count if I ‘mine sweep’ other people’s drinks in the pub right? I didn’t buy the drink then. Deep down I knew it would count though. I had a number of near sleepless nights fighting the urge to go the gas station for cider.

"I could continue listing things that show the proof of how things have changed for me but what it boils down to is simple; I no longer hate myself."

Then, of course, there was trying to mend the bridges I’d burnt. Approaching people I’d wronged and trying to earn their respect and forgiveness was so very hard. Often times it meant a slow and consistent show of improvement. No mean feat. Coupled with the fact I had to lose friends who were no longer healthy for me to be with, sometimes it felt like my world was shrinking.

I did however, have to pay my dues – and my debts. I had to lay the groundwork. It was only after all that, that I could do some soul searching and try to figure out why I drank. To think about what kind of person I thought I was, and who I wanted to be, versus who I had actually become. This was perhaps the most difficult part of all.

But it was all worth it.

"On 28 May 2021, I celebrated two years of sobriety. I marvel at how my life has changed."

On 28 May 2021, I celebrated two years of sobriety. I marvel at how my life has changed.

I have toured the country as a poet. Performed internationally. My first book will be released later this year. I’m going back to university to study creative writing. I still work at that job. I’ve been there three years now and it’s, by far, the longest I’ve worked in any one place. They’ve helped me spread my wings, try new things, take on more responsibility, and prove myself.

As long as I've stayed sober, no challenge I’ve met has been more than I can handle. I have reconnected with friends and family. I have a relationship with my mother and brother again.

I could continue listing things that show the proof of how things have changed for me but what it boils down to is simple; I no longer hate myself.

I look at myself now, amidst the sea of problems that normal life throws at us every day, and know that I am enough.

But I’m not writing this to preach about AA. I'm not advocating for one method of giving up over another. Though I do think talking to people helps.

This is just to say hello. My name’s Sven and I’m a no-hoper two years sober, thankful to find my heart's now actually, full of hope.