Goku, Male, 57Written by Viknesan
Alcohol came into my life when I was just 16 years of age, introduced to me by friends. It was the social elixir of life and friendships. I used to share a few cans of beer with my classmates and even bought cheap cooking wine from the provision shop. We didn’t have a lot of money but drinking with my friends made it fun. After army, I started drinking regularly and it soon became a daily occurrence after work. Working in a shipyard was tough. I started out with the occasional drink, then social drinking which eventually turned serious. Now I joke that at first the alcohol went into me but after a while I went into the alcohol. I literally dived into it. This is my story.
Drinking after work helped me to destress and socialise with my colleagues. Over time, however, I was drinking even on weekends when I was not working. As time went on, I went from drinking two big bottles of stout and beer to a few bottles daily. Alcohol was my escape and relief from work and family stress. My siblings were drinking heavily as well. In my late 40s I was hooked on alcohol and it affected my work, marriage and family relationships. I used to drink and get verbally abusive with my wife and kids. I also had difficulty turning up for work, and one day the company fired me.
I secured a new job with a logistics company as a fork lift driver. I did try to stop drinking for a while then. I didn’t want alcohol to affect my job, but that didn’t last long. After a few weeks of shift work I started drinking again. I managed to keep my jobs, but I nearly got into accidents at work. Still, I continued to drink and had a strained relationship with my co-workers and family.
I started developing stomach problems like severe gastric pains and vomiting blood. I was also diagnosed with diabetes but I still continued drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms and enjoy the intoxicating effects of alcohol. It was not until my elder brother died from alcoholism and diabetic complications that I was finally shaken to my senses. I never expected a strong, educated and dedicated family man like him to just fall into a coma. I used to drink with him a lot in the past. During his funeral, it hit me hard that I was going to be the next to fall.
I decided to seek help. I didn’t want to die and my wife was supportive, even after the hell I put her through. I got better after detoxification and stopped drinking. I attended recovery support groups. In the early days of my recovery, there were times when I just wanted to give up. It was really tough to be ‘detoxed’ in a closed ward with other strangers, away from the comforts of home. I could relate to some of the counsellors who had a recovery background. There were moments I just wanted to leave mid-way and drink again, but I thought about my deceased brother and my family a lot. I had to stay clean and sober, if not I could lose a limb or become a “vegetable” like my brother.
When I was intoxicated, I wanted to be sober and dry; but when I was sober, I wanted to get intoxicated. Alcohol had always been my coping mechanism when facing stress and problems, but I had to do it differently now for my own survival. I relapsed two days after leaving the ward but my outpatient and support group counsellors didn’t give up on me. They encouraged and guided me every step of the way. My wife was very patient and kept on believing in me. I picked myself up quickly and followed up with WE CARE, a community-based support group on a regular basis.
I have remained abstinent for nearly one year and my health complications have improved. I have also chosen a healthy lifestyle. Looking back, I realised that one drink was too much, but a hundred and one was never enough. Finally, I admitted during one of the support group sessions that the only way to live life was to be alcohol-free. Even now after I embraced an alcohol-free lifestyle, if you ask me whether I love alcohol, I will still say yes. But now I love myself more than alcohol. I want to abstain from alcohol, stay sober, and forge healthy relationships with people in recovery from addictions. I know that I can’t do this alone and that I need constant encouragement and help.
I want to live again. It’s a constant struggle not to drink, as the urges and cravings are bad at times, but with the right help from my counsellors and the recovering community, I now have a chance to live a long and healthy life again, on my terms.
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