Mark began telling me about his life experience from the day he realised he needed help with his addiction to alcohol.
I knew I needed help 10 years before I actually saw a doctor. I knew, you know when you start hiding going to the shop and buying alcohol and not telling anybody. I was functioning for about 10 years, but my life battle was for people to not see me shaking, and the reason why I drank was mostly to stop myself from shaking and to stop my anxiety.
I think that there was a lack of communication between doctors and drug and alcohol services, this was around 20 years ago and anytime I went to the doctors I remember doctors looking at me like I was a piece of rubbish to be honest. I was told to just “Pull myself together”, “What are you doing?” “Just stop drinking”. There was no education there, but I was new to this, I didn’t know anyone else with addiction problems, so I thought it must just be me with this problem. Over the 10 years I was still working, but it got to the point where the drinking just took over and I started not going to work, and this become a regular occurrence. It got to the point where I would just lock my door and not leave. Obviously, my friends and family knew something was wrong, but this is when I started doing things like self-harming and that’s when my family found out.
At this point I lost everything I had, and had to move back in with my parents, at the time it didn’t bother me that much because I wasn’t in the state of mind to actually be bothered about it anyway. Being at my mum and dads I continued drinking, my parents drank as well, we are kind of a drinking family. At the time my parents would say “oh just have a few tonight”. I would continue to drink and get drunk, but this didn’t seem to bother them because they thought I was ok, but they didn’t see me walking the dog on purpose and going to the shop to buy a bottle of vodka. Everything was a secret, all done secretively, and I think that was part of the enjoyment for me to be honest, no one else knew and I got to be in control of that.
After a while things started to improve, I got myself a little place to live and everything started to go alright but and then it all happened again. I had gone to see my doctor and they had put me on medication, whatever it was, I remember them putting me on Diazepam once and all sorts. I saw lots of different doctors; however, I had never been to AA or a drug and alcohol service because I didn’t know they existed. No doctor ever told me about Inspire or CGL. Work wise I was doing well; however, I was always shaky, and everyone just thought that was just me. I just tried to keep a hold of it. I did know I was drinking a lot and at weekends, I don’t know, I just drank all weekend and then come Monday I would just try to function. I was lucky to have a good understanding boss as I took quite a lot of time off, because I would drink at night-time, if I drank that little bit too much I would just continue and not go to work, sometimes I would continue drinking all week and not go to work. I would then manage to get back so I could go to work and have a bit of normality, whatever normality was. I was doing quite well at work, but I was up and down all the time. It got to a point where I left my job and I locked myself away again.
It was actually my brother that found me, I was self-harming. I had never self-harmed before my addiction to alcohol, I put it completely down to looking for help, it wasn’t an attempt to end my life. It was a cry for help. There is a release, I remember that feeling and there is a bit of release there that helped, but my brother found me and told me that I had to move in with him. Again, I had lost everything, my furniture, my car, all from drinking.
In hindsight moving in with my brother was like going from the frying pan into the fire. At that point my brother and his wife were heavy drinkers and taking cocaine. To me I was like a kid in a sweet shop, because there was beer all the time. However, my brother realised this wasn’t helping me, so they started locking the garage where the alcohol was kept, but there is always a way, if you have a need, there’s always a way to find something. My drinking escalated from there and I became I bit of a problem child for them because my parents didn’t understand. My family didn’t see their behaviours as a problem and didn’t see why they should change their behaviours – this was just their lifestyle. I got to such a stage where my parents started to get involved, I remember coming downstairs one day and all my family were sat around the dinning table like a family conference. My family had found lots of bottles hidden around the house which were obviously mine. My mum arranged for me to go see a local doctor. The doctor looked at me, but he talked to my mum. He told her “Do not let this man stop drinking”, my mum didn’t understand this, but he explained to her and how dangerous alcohol withdrawals are. All of a sudden, my family got an education on addiction, and this was the first doctor who mentioned Inspire. He informed me to self-refer and my mum went with me the next day. The doctor gave me medication to take home, they don’t do this anymore.
It was the week of my birthday, and I went out for a meal with my family – I’d had enough, so with the medication from the doctor I self-detoxed and religiously followed the doctor’s advice. Something clicked, I was sat in my brother and his wife’s house watching them drinking and taking cocaine that made me realise I actually didn’t want to be like them. The first week was really hard, thinking back I don’t know how I did it. I remember seeing the councillor from Inspire the day my mum had taken me, I was drunk, the week I had started my self-detox, I was booked in again to see them again and one of the most amazing feelings was sitting there and saying I haven’t had a drink in a week. I remember he looked up at me and was surprised that I had managed to do this.
That was the start of my recovery. I was then put on a 12-week community rehab course through Inspire. I was becoming stronger and stronger, clearer headed and more determined. Just being in my brother’s house made me realise I didn’t want to be like them, and it really spurred me on.
I started the Deap Programme, however I almost left at lunch time. I remember being sat with these 12 people thinking I’m not like you. However, something made me stick it out and it was the best decision I ever made. At the time it wasn’t the best 3 months of my life, but in hindsight it was. Those 12 weeks set me up for the last 12 years of my life. I met some amazing people, meeting different people all the time, I learnt a lot and I still use things to this day from what I learnt from the Deep programme. Anything to keep myself safe in my recovery. I do have a bit of a soft spot for any client at Parkland Place Lancashire that says they are doing the Deap programme, I am so happy for them.
I was very fortunate to be honest because when I finished the Deap programme in May/June, I moved to Italy in August. If anyone has the opportunity to move to another country, I would tell them to do it. That was my saving grace. I was lucky to not be around the beer culture and around people that didn’t drink for quite a long time. I’m not sure what would of happened if I would have stayed where I lived, but no one knows that. To completely change your circumstances really helps, it doesn’t have to be a big change, we encourage people who are in treatment to try and change their circumstances or their norm, even moving furniture around can help. I just took it to the extreme.
I haven’t had a drink since, not one, I would be gutted if I ever would do. I don’t think I ever would.
I was in Italy for almost 8 years, I finally came back home. I worked for a few years as a support worker for people with Cerebral Palsy and then I started working for Adferiad Recovery at Parkland Place Lancashire. I feel privileged to be honest, where I have been in my life before, I feel privileged to be able to help people.
There aren’t many days that I struggle working in a detox unit, sometimes when we get a client in and I can smell alcohol on them when they are admitted, however this isn’t really a trigger. I never leave work and think about having a drink. Years ago, I set myself a protective factor to keep myself safe, for example I never walk down the alcohol aisle at the supermarket, I never buy anything with alcohol in it such as foods. Even though the alcohol in food would be cooked out I still wouldn’t do it. I have always kept at that standard as I think to myself If I start letting myself eat something with alcohol, that is me lowering my guard and I am not sure where I might stop and that scares me.
I find doing group sessions at Parkland Place Lancashire very rewarding as a staff member. I don’t go into a group and tell the clients that I am 12 years sober, it does slowly come out to the clients over time as I get to talk to them and get to know them. I have the confidence to talk to them about what they are going through, because I have been there, and I understand how they feel. I find it very humbling to tell them they will feel better and there is hope out there. I always speak to clients about what they plan on doing after detox as I believe that aftercare is vital. I think clients should always have aftercare. When you leave detox, you feel that good and that invincible you thinkyou’re alright, however you’re not alright, aftercare is what helps someone look at the underlying reasons they have an addiction.
Recovery is hard work; detox is the easy bit. Aftercare is a client putting the hard work and dedication into the rest of their life. I see so many clients who have that determination to put all this hard work in and are doing it for themselves.
The thing I love about my recovery and working here is being me, just being Mark. Being the confident me. At work I get to be me, Mark and it feels amazing to be honest. I always remember being at home and not leaving because of my agoraphobia was so bad, or I couldn’t make a cup of coffee because I was shaking too much, and then I look at where I am now.