A Lawyer With Alcoholism Finds Recovery

I am someone who, after years of active alcoholism, can now see myself recovering, and, after a struggle, enjoying the process. Having first found that I can survive without alcohol, I am now starting to engage with life – work, social, and the world in general – without suffering the debilitating stresses for which I always felt drink to be the only cure.
My problem, my illness, goes back a long way. It was there when I was at school and university, but became increasingly obvious to me and those around me after I began work (as a solicitor in commercial private practice). I knew that I wasn’t behaving conventionally: at first drinking – often alone – every lunchtime, then first thing in the morning, eventually hiding bottles at home and sneaking them into work in my briefcase. I would wake up, not every day but often enough, with little or no memory of the night before and see looks of at best amusement, but more often hurt or anger, contempt or pity, at home and in the office.
Although one, then a second, good and loving partner stuck with me for several years, each eventually found the strain of coming second to drink and the petty deceits that went with it too much to handle. I resigned – usually negotiated ‘resignations’ – from several jobs, each time moving to another part of the country. My personal finances where usually at best precarious. Friends, other than the heaviest drinkers, gradually gave up on me after yet another embarrassing incident at a wedding or dinner. I felt embattled, often victimised, and, although I knew that my drinking was at the root of my problems, still felt – irrationally but desperately – that my drug of choice was the only thing that could ease my fear, anxiety, guilt and pain. In effect I hid, while all those things kept getting worse.
Over the last 10 years I have spent periods in a private residential treatment centre, and in general and psychiatric hospitals, have tried hypnotherapy, various prescribed medication and other forms of treatment. Different approaches may help different people; I can only speak about what has worked, and is still working, for me. First, I find it of great value to work with someone who has personal experience of addiction – it is easier for me to establish trust with another addict and I don’t feel the need to put up the justifications, defences and explanations I have otherwise found myself using (for instance with my GP). Talking to the people at Addictions UK, it is immediately clear that they understand addiction and feel strongly on a personal level about helping others to recovery. They are cheerful and never pious!
Very important is the ability to integrate my sessions into daily life – with all its challenges, hassles or pleasures – and the chance to talk about my concerns or reactions with real immediacy. As someone who has spent most of his adult life relying on alcohol to ease him through, or shield him from, much of what life throws up, I have had a lot of learning to do recently, and the knowledge that I can share my feelings and thoughts with an empathetic helper has been invaluable. Telephone counselling has a real advantage over the enclosed, comfortable but sometimes artificial world of residential rehab. From the start, I felt that my recovery was an integral part of my life, not a ‘treatment’ received in isolation from it, while the 24-hour helpline meant that I never felt isolated, especially in the vulnerable early days of recovery.
I am now working again (and am training to be a counsellor). My family relationships are on the mend. For the first time in a long time I usually get up in the morning calm, free of fear or regret and looking forward to the day.
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