My twin brother and I spiralled into alcoholism after our mum died
‘Hi, I’m Lee, and I’m an alcoholic and addict’… These are often the first words I speak most mornings, as I click onto an online sobriety meeting.
I’m proud to say I’m 28 and in recovery.
Usually when you announce your alcoholism, people are naturally curious. They often ask ‘what caused your problem?’ or ‘how did you get to where you did?’, but the truth is, there’s no simple answer.
I had a good upbringing, enjoyed my childhood, but I remember having an unsolicited fascination with alcohol. I saw how it made people feel and even at that age, I wanted that feeling.
I was just 13 when I had my first drink. This wasn’t your usual ‘glass of wine with dinner’ at your parents’, I drank vodka from the bottle. I wasn’t interested in the taste, I wanted the feeling and as my brain was flooded with endorphins, I believe I fell in love. It wasn’t a regular thing then, but I was drawn towards events or activities where alcohol was present.
This led me to start mixing with the wrong crowds, trying new things like marijuana for the first time.
Throughout school, not only did the amount I drank and smoked increase, but my curiosity was activated for other substances, such as Mephedrone – legal at the time, but quite rightly made illegal soon after.
In my later school years, it was noted by friends and family that while ‘teenagers will be teenagers’, I was taking it too far – often partying every weekend with no sleep. They had no choice but to intervene.
I agreed to curb my substance habit to please my family. But unfortunately, this was short lived.
I discovered cocaine and ecstasy in my late teens and again, to no surprise, a similar pattern emerged, and before I knew it, it became a daily habit, along with drinking 30 – 40 units of alcohol a day.
One would argue at this point I was dependent on alcohol, but I didn’t see it that way. As addicts, we are in denial anyway, but for me this period was about using substances as a coping mechanism. So you could say I was blind to the issues that I faced.
On 25 December 2011, when I was 18, my mum passed away. My twin brother Adam and I faced an immense amount of pain.
I knew I was using to escape, but I didn’t recognise that an addiction was taking hold and I couldn’t stop. I thought I was the life of the party, but the truth was, I knew I also couldn’t handle the pain on my own.
At this point, it started to affect my work life. I’d be itching to finish early, to get home and drown my sorrows. I wasn’t reliable and would do anything to get out of the job at hand.
It felt at the time that Adam and I almost supported each other through drinking. Both of us were blind to the issues that we faced. It seemed normal.
I’m not sure how, but 10 years went by, and as I progressed through my 20s, the damage became apparent.
My mindset had changed. It wasn’t, ‘I want to finish early for a pint’ anymore, it was, ‘I could do with a drink right now, first thing’.
My heart knew I was doing something wrong, but my head, the demon, wanted me to carry on. But I could feel my mental health slipping.
I had consistent heart palpitations from drug abuse and shakes every time I tried to stop drinking. I listened to my heart and went to the doctors in January 2019, and little did I know at the time, but this marked the start of my intervention. Looking back, I’m so thankful I had this awakening, as I know so many who haven’t.
Unsurprisingly, the doctor advised me to cut down my alcohol consumption. But with no real plan, and me not knowing the dangers, it was left to me and my dad.
In our naivety, we set house rules to systematically cut down the units I was consuming. The most memorable being the beep of a kitchen timer. Every 30 minutes, I could have one can of lager; I could give myself relief.
Even though I was still drinking, I continued to suffer withdrawal symptoms as this wasn’t anywhere near what I was consuming previously, and most upsettingly, I couldn’t binge when I wanted to escape.
This went on for two months, but the self-devised detox didn’t have the impact we were hoping for. I was still relying on alcohol to function. I was still a raging alcoholic.
As I tried to continue cutting down, my body, without its ‘fuel’ was simply shutting down. I experienced shakes, sweats, an anxiety riddled brain, depression, sleepless nights, anger and panic attacks. I couldn’t function with or without.
Many ambulances were called during this time and I knew it was only a matter of time before I went to hospital in one. That day came February 2019. My body had had enough.
I sat there in the back of an ambulance, feeling lost, scared and hopeless as I drank neat whisky, giving my body what it needed, when I thought, ‘How the f**k did I end up here?’
When admitted, I was put on a 14-day detox programme. It was obvious at this point I needed medical and mental intervention, as it was too unsafe for me to do alone; this was a life or death choice.
Over the first few days in hospital, my body slowly processed the remaining alcohol from my system.
When I thought the worst was over, I realised I had lost the ability to walk. I was 27 and I couldn’t walk to the bathroom. I spent three to four days in bed, found the strength to get in a wheelchair, then over a few days graduated onto a zimmer frame, eventually leaving hospital on crutches.
Alcohol had stripped me of my pride, self worth and motivation. I was a shell of the human I once was. I was discharged in March 2019 and it took me weeks to regain my physical strength.
Even though I had all the support from my fiancé, friends and family, along with the treatment centres, councillors, fellowships I had engaged with, I almost felt alone.
I had put everyone through so much, especially my fiancé, my rock, who has been with me through thick and thin, but at the time, I didn’t know what I could do in order to even begin to put things right.
However, 19 months on, here I am, living a happy and free life. My addiction does not control me, the obsession to drink or use is diminishing day-by-day. I am proud of how far I have come, but the biggest gift for me has been helping my twin brother overcome his demons.
Adam entered rehab in February 2020 after realising his addiction had made his life unmanageable. He sought help, is now seven months sober, and together we support alcoholics and addicts. We run an Instagram account where we post positive, real, inspirational content.
Our recovery today is something that 19 months ago I wouldn’t have even been able to dream of. I never had any motivation, ambition, drive. I never felt like I was worth something.
Today, we are crafting our future. We are in control. Change is possible, amends are there to be made.
I have given my fiancé the life she deserves. Adam and I have given my family the gift they really wanted.
And I know that my mum is proud of what we have achieved, and that she would certainly have a smile on her face if she could see my brother and I today.
You can follow Lee and Adam on Instagram here
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