"I’d tell anyone struggling with alcohol use to focus on the great things in their life. Be honest with yourself and open with others so that things can get better."
Pandemic conditions led many to drink more, with 38% drinking on more days than usual, and 15% drinking alone when they usually wouldn’t.
Kathleen from Newport had always enjoyed a drink, but lockdown led her down a slippery slope that saw her hospitalised and unable to walk. Now four months free from alcohol, Kathleen looks back on an incredibly challenging year.
‘‘I’m glad to be alive. In fact I’ve had two lucky escapes. After being hospitalised for my alcohol use I caught coronavirus on the ward. It’s been a hellish year but I’m focussing on all the great things I have. I’ll live to see my two nieces graduate now. A few months back I wasn’t sure I would.’’
Kathleen’s drinking spiralled under lockdown conditions. Enjoying fine wine with dinner and cocktails with friends had escalated, and at her lowest point Kathy was drinking four bottles of wine and a litre of vodka over two days.
‘‘When lockdown began I’d hosted a few Zoom cocktail parties with friends, next thing I knew I was drinking wine with lunch, not just dinner. Eventually I would do an online shop and realise I’d bought nothing but alcohol. I was prioritising alcohol above food, all the while convincing myself that everything was under control. Looking back it’s astonishing to me. It was June when things really got out of hand.’’
Usually sociable, Kathleen began pushing people away. Isolation made the extent of her alcohol use more difficult to detect. Luckily, a very determined friend gave Kathy the push she needed to get help.
‘‘Ben came over to my flat two weeks before Christmas, he’s not a confrontational person but he refused to leave until I went in an ambulance. By then I was very sick and my skin was grey. I’d been vomiting for 10 days straight but continued drinking throughout my illness. Next thing I knew I couldn’t even walk. I have long-term nerve damage and now use a stick to walk.’’
Kathy was transferred to the gastro unit at the Grange University Hospital where she received help from a liver specialist.
‘‘He calmly asked if there was anything I wanted to tell him and I knew what he needed me to say. To his credit it was this interaction that prompted me to admit that I am an alcoholic. It was powerful to finally say it to myself aloud. From there I was able to get the help and support I needed. My close friends were astonished when they learnt what I’d been through, but my family and friends have been incredible.’’
The Road to Recovery
Kathleen called in to the BBC Radio 4 programme Call You and Yours in response to the question what’s changed in your life in the last year that you’d like to keep? She answered, her sobriety.
‘‘I’ll miss booze but I know I can never go back now. I’d tell anyone struggling with alcohol use to focus on the great things in their life, and be honest with yourself and open with others so that things can get better. It’s been a tough year for all of us and I’m sure there are so many people out there struggling, people that might be fearful to reach out due to stigma.’’
Kathleen is receiving continued support from The GDAS and is doing an incredible job of maintaining her recovery. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with alcohol use know that help and confidential support is available, whatever your circumstances.