Addiction genuinely does not care who you are, where you are from, who your family is or where you went to school. Anyone and everyone has the potential to become addicted to something. It may begin as a way to blot something out, to fit in, or just for ‘fun’. The road is really very smooth to get onto once you start.
There is a terrible snobbery about what people are addicted to. Somehow having an addiction to an acceptable substance like wine is much more tolerable (unless the drinker is on a park bench swigging it) than someone who has a heroin addiction. However, there are plenty of people who are outwardly functioning and respectable using opiates. The perceptions that people have drive the way addicts are treated.
Alcohol took away too many years of my life, too many relationships and almost my children. Being an alcoholic is like being completely blind to what is going on around you. Nothing and no one matters except making sure there is enough drink to keep you going. The pain my eldest daughter went through watching her mother trying to kill herself through drink was huge. The excuses I made for not being there for her were pitiful. I feel blessed every day to have her forgiveness.
When you give up alcohol, people are usually horrified and believe that you will become the dullest most uninspiring person in the world. The sentence ‘I can give up, I just don’t want to’ is uttered a hundred times a week to the ex-drinker. Alcohol is such a tolerated drug that rarely can people see how incredibly dangerous it is with the word alcoholic having been used to describe someone with no hope at all, but there are plenty of alcoholics hiding behind smart front doors in respectable areas. The reality is that drinking hides and distorts the real person. I am now who I should have been for all those years.
There is nowhere near enough help for those who want to escape their addictions. £162m has been cut from drug and alcohol treatment budgets in England since 2013/14. This means that those who do want to get help for their addictions will find it almost impossible to get an inpatient detox or regular visits from addictions workers. I was lucky - I had a strong loving family around me who saw me through it. Those I work with are not always so lucky. It’s an epidemic which really isn’t going to go away and the sooner the root cause is identified and treated, the less harm will be done.
About Sarah Colwell
Sarah began drinking at the age of 16. She’s now 55 and has been sober for the last six years. She works with ex-homeless and vulnerably housed people, many of whom have drink or drug addictions or issues. She previously ran a volunteer centre and worked in pubs. She also reviews plays and shows for local radio and has been known to write for local magazines. You can follow Sarah on Twitter and read her blog here.