The day my life changed: Alcoholism

24th September 2010 at 01:00
I turned my back on alcoholism. Then I knew I wanted to teach

I drank quite normally until my mum died when I was 18. I don't blame my alcoholism on her death but I think it was a catalyst. I was left with my dad and brother, who was 20, and we all did our own thing. Blokes and emotions don't really mix. We didn't discuss my mum's death, although we do now.

I started drinking at lunch times, with strangers and on my own. I had got a bit of insurance money from Mum's death and went to college to do my A- levels. All of a sudden I had money and time on my hands. The illness jumped on me. It took the opportunity when I was weak.

I started experimenting with other substances - some class-A drugs, but mostly just dope. I would predominantly drink beer, but as I got older I would need to follow that with something stronger to send me over the edge.

I didn't take my A-levels. By that stage I had lost it; drink had taken over. I worked full-time in a pizzeria for the next four years. At every opportunity, I would save money and go travelling.

I thought this would lead to recovery, but I would always take the problem with me because the problem was me.

I moved from East Sussex to London when I was 24 and started doing stand- up comedy. There were times when I would make progress and think I was moving away from negative behaviours, but I would always return to drink.

With alcoholism, the illness always progresses and never gets better unless you address it. I was hanging out with heavy drinkers so it was easy to hide my issues.

Part of my behaviour was irresponsible and immature. I didn't grow a life for myself. Even when I tried to learn the guitar, I gave up after a few months when it got too difficult. I didn't realise that you had to go through difficult times and consciously feel the pain in order to grow.

I realised that I was wasting my life. I was living in a bedsit in Tottenham in north London and working on a building site. I had the potential to earn a lot of money but I drank it away in the evenings. In the mornings I would say: "I'll just have a drink before I go", but I could never stop at one and rarely made it into work.

I didn't do it to get drunk; I did it to get oblivious. All the pleasure had gone out of drinking by then. It wasn't fun any more, it was just a ritual I had to go through.

Slowly, I realised that I was losing control and that I didn't want this life any more. One night I sat at home with a few tinnies with a bloke from the pub, who happened to be a deputy head. It was the summer of 1999 and we were watching Wimbledon on TV. Before I knew it, I said: "I've got to give up drinking."

He said: "Do you want to come to AA with me?" We agreed and went to an AA meeting two nights later. From the moment I got there, it was almost like coming home. It was what I had been looking for the whole time. I haven't had a drink since June 29, 1999.

I stayed in a dry-house for more than two years, learnt Spanish and started a degree at Goldsmiths' University in London. I then did a PGCE in primary education. I got a job in north London and started with a lovely class of Year 5s.

I eventually told colleagues about my drinking. I don't shout about it, but I have been able to help people who have been in that situation or who want to help a friend.

I loved the teaching, but the paperwork got to me and I started writing children's books in my spare time. They haven't been published yet, but I'm not going to accept no for an answer with this next one.

As told to Hannah Frankel.

  • For more information on AA, visit www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk. If you have an experience to share, email features@tes.co.uk.

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