Endless boss trips, back to back charters. Will this season never end? Weeks, months without a drink. I can’t possibly be an alcoholic, can I?
But who, or what, is an alcoholic? The scruffy old man in the long coat in the park with a bottle in the bag? The person on the bar stool daily from lunchtime to last orders?
What is an alcoholic? What is alcoholism? During a busy season I would sometimes go for weeks, or even months, without a drink. I was ok with that. The problems only began once I started drinking. Something happens to me both physically and mentally that makes it very difficult or impossible for me to control how much I consume. Once I start, I cannot stop.
I’m hoping that one day I’ll get bored or tired of drinking like this and that I’ll slow down to a more manageable or “normal” level of consumption. But when is this going to happen? It’s not happening. In fact, I’m drinking more and more and I’m enjoying it less and less. It’s not so much fun anymore and increasingly I am drinking alone. It doesn’t feel right. Something is wrong. I need to exercise more willpower and self-control, but numerous attempts by willpower and self-control have failed. When I take an alcoholic drink of any kind I have little or no control of how much I consume. This is the nature of alcoholism. This is what an alcoholic does. It is a condition for which there is no known medical cure. It is a progressive illness which gets worse, never better.
My drinking was having an increasingly negative and destructive effect in all areas of my life. My long relationship with my partner was in big trouble and the end was imminent. Alcohol had destroyed my honesty, trust and integrity
My career in yachting was also threatened. Over time I had developed a reputation as a drinker. On evenings out I would be the one who wanted to stay out drinking when everyone else had left, or were leaving. I’d start drinking before going out, often sneaking drinks alone to give me a “head start”. There were times I’d be found passed out in the crew mess during the early hours, or in the morning when the crew were getting up. I’d regularly still be under the influence in some way at the start of the working day and I’d smell of alcohol. I was reprimanded on occasions regarding my behaviour and conduct.
I was in quite a senior and responsible position but I was not a good example to my fellow crew. My reputation as a drinker was filtering back to crew agents and my employer, which was jeopardizing my future employability.
I tried numerous ways of controlling my drinking. Not drinking during the week, drinking only beer, drinking only wine, drinking better quality wine, not drinking alone, sober for October, dry January. But none of these methods had any long- lasting effect.
In 2016, of my own free will, I reluctantly attended my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I didn’t know anything about AA and I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that my life was a mess because of alcohol and admitted there was nothing I could do about it on my own. I needed help. and I wanted help. The hard part was admitting to myself that I had a problem with alcohol and becoming willing to do something about it. I didn’t want anyone to know how much I was drinking and the ways I was doing it. What would my friends and colleagues think of me if they found out I was going to Alcoholics Anonymous?
In AA I met lots of normal people of all ages and many nationalities. They were exchanging or “sharing” their experience, strength and hope. It was here that I heard stories which were strikingly similar to my own. I began to feel less alone with my problems and for the first time I was able to open up and talk honestly about how I’d been feeling and what I’d been doing. The relief was immense. It felt like the people in the meetings understood and cared. Indeed, they did, they still do and I gradually came to believe there was a solution.
It took me a little while to understand how AA works. It took honesty, open-mindedness, willingness and above all a desire to stop drinking. With the continued and unconditional help and support from the members of AA my life has changed beyond recognition. I have not drunk alcohol in nearly four years. Until then I had not realized the destructive effect alcohol had been having on me physically, mentally and emotionally.
At first there was a certain amount of fear when I thought about future occasions like birthdays, Christmas, weddings, dock parties, crew gatherings. How can I do this without alcohol? It won’t be any fun – I won’t be any fun – I’ll be miserable. Being in the company of people drinking was a bit awkward at first but this passed surprisingly quickly. I find I can comfortably be with people who are drinking as long as I am free to leave if and when I choose. It’s good to be in control and to be able to remember everything I said or did. I now firmly believe I am better company when sober and I can still have fun.
No one told me that I’m an alcoholic. It’s something I had to admit it to myself, after a self- diagnosis. Answering questions like those listed below helped me confirm what I had long suspected:
1/ Is drinking making my home life unhappy?
2/ Do I drink because I am shy with other people?
3/ Is drinking affecting my reputation?
4/ Do I drink to escape from worries or trouble?
5/ Do I drink alone?
6/ Have I lost time from work due to drinking?
7/ Has my ambition decreased since drinking?
8/ Has my efficiency decreased since drinking?
9/ Have I felt remorse after drinking?
10/ Do I crave a drink at a definite time daily?
11/ Do I drink to build up self – confidence?
12/ Have I ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
I answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions. When I made the decision to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting I thought “What has my life come to? This is the end”. What I didn’t realize at the time was that stepping through the door of AA was the first step towards a freedom and happiness that I’d never known before.
It’s not my intention to try and “sell” AA to anyone. There are no dues or fees for membership. All that’s required is a desire to stop drinking. My intention is to try and pass on the message to any person who has, or thinks they have, a problem with alcohol and needs help.
There was a time when I could not imagine life without alcohol. It had been with me for my entire adult life, through good times, bad times, happy, sad, celebration, commiseration, win, lose – it was never far away. These days there is no place in my life for alcohol. I am fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been and I have feelings of gratitude and enthusiasm which I’ve never had before. On my C.V., at the top in the personal details is written “Non – Drinker”. How relieved I am to be able to write this instead of thinking “How long will it be before they find out how much I drink”. When going for my ENG 1 medical and I’m asked about my alcohol consumption I am now able to be honest for the first time and say “I don’t drink alcohol”. How good it feels to say that – I can barely suppress a smile!
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