Alcoholism: The dark side of Cambridge
One recovering alcoholic’s message to everyone lost at the bottom of a bottle.
I am a third-year undergraduate studying at this university. I am also a recovering alcoholic. I am writing because I want to do all I can before I leave to help those still suffering from alcoholism, and to inform those who might not be alcoholics, but who wish to know more about the illness.
I often get asked what exactly is alcoholism? Well, a well-known text in recovery describes it like this: It consists of a physical craving. That is, when you have one drink, a physical craving kicks in that means you have very little control over how much you drink after that. And, it consists of a mental obsession that, no matter the consequences or your desire to abstain, makes you incapable of staying away from that first drink. The book says that if you have either of these characteristics then you are probably alcoholic.
Just to explain I got sober aged 20. Leading up to that point I had started drinking socially and then over time it progressed into something I couldn’t control. By the end I had become quite feral, living to drink and drinking to live. I had stolen vast quantities of money from my family, was kicked out of home twice, left school, got drunk and got so ill I missed an Oxford interview, finally winding up in a three rehabs and a psychiatric hospital where I had gone after I was so depressed I felt I was going to jump out of a window.
These are the dark places alcohol took me. It is a progressive illness in that it always gets worse, and never better. This is why I am writing. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through. You might be thinking “but I am not like that! I might drink everyday but I can control it”, or “I only drink to get to sleep”, or perhaps even, “yes my drinking is out of control but there is nothing you can say to help me. I have seen doctors, psychiatrists, counsellors and none of them have done anything to help.”
Well, let me take the last of those objections first. Alcoholics are particular in that they can get through to other alcoholics where nobody has been able to do so in the past. This is what recovery is built on; the idea that one alcoholic speaking to another can help both get better. If you feel like this I would honestly suggest you come to a meeting, with me if you would like, and talk and listen to other alcoholics. You will be amazed at the identification.
For those of you who believe you are in control of your drinking or that it hasn’t done much damage to you yet, I would posit a test. Step into a bar and try some controlled drinking; your answer as to whether you are an alcoholic should come pretty quickly. As we say, when we controlled it we couldn’t enjoy it and when we enjoyed it we couldn’t control it.
Lastly for those of you with a friend or brother or sister who is an alcoholic you might be wondering what you can do, or whether you can help. The answer is that if they do not want to stop there is nothing that you can do. However, if they do they try to get in contact with a recovering alcoholic (me if you would like) and have them take them to a meeting. Connecting them with people who can identify and relate to their struggles is the best thing. Meeting lists are available online if you need.
I hope this does not sound preachy or self-righteous; I am worried that it might be so. That is not my intention. Rather I am eager, earnest even to help. I don’t imagine this will instigate an exodus of people suffering from alcoholism into meetings, but I hope it might reach one or two of you who have reached the bottom of a bottle, and are wondering if life can be different if there is another way.
There is a solution! None of us liked the self-searching or the levelling of our pride that this process requires for its successful consummation. But once you give up drinking, you commence a new way of life that is infinitely better than drinking ever was. For me I have had great improvements in my health, my relations with my family are better, I no longer steal, I have travelled and lived abroad, I have gotten into Cambridge and soon I am about to graduate. This process gives you a life beyond your wildest dreams and I really want you to experience it too. That I guess is the real reason why I am writing.
P.S for those of you looking to go to meetings or talk about alcoholism I have created an email address [email protected]
Feel free to email me anytime.