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Recovering from alcohol addiction - a case study

David* has shared his story of recovery from alcohol addiction, sex and love addiction and unresolved childhood trauma. He talks through his life with addiction and how Priory allowed him to gain a better understanding of himself and his addiction, and set him up with tools and strategies for sustaining his recovery in the outside world.

David’s story

By the age of 40 most people would have said I led a happy and successful life. I was married with teenage children, had a well-paid professional job and was actively pursuing hobbies in my free time.

But behind the façade things were far from right.

My adolescent years had been unhappy ones, though I’d kept it all to myself - the loneliness, oversensitivity, bullying, low self-esteem and a desperate desire to be seen as successful by others.

As a student and later at work there were times when I found myself drinking too much and making a fool of myself, but I thought everyone did that sometimes. In my 20s and 30s, as the demands and responsibilities of adult life increased, the occasions when I drank too much became more regular, and when I’d been drinking I lost my inhibitions and my sexual behaviour became increasingly promiscuous.

I didn’t want to hear that I should stop drinking

I realised that things were out of control and sought help through my GP and various counsellors. But I didn’t want to hear what they told me - that the solution for me involved stopping drinking.  I couldn’t imagine my life without drink and the escape it gave me.  I wanted to believe that I could control my drinking and associated behaviour, despite all the evidence that I couldn’t.

My wife and children suffered enormously, I missed work through sickness, I had periods of memory loss after drinking and I felt increasingly hopeless. Attempts to stop drinking provided brief periods of respite, but they always failed and the drinking, uncontrolled behaviour and my sense of shame and despair spiralled out of control.  

Turning to Priory for support

I found myself in the Priory after attempting suicide while under the influence of alcohol. I was diagnosed with alcohol addiction, sex and love addiction and unresolved childhood trauma. To start with I wasn’t convinced about the sex and love addiction and just thought I did some bad things after drinking too much. But I did accept that if I continued doing what I’d been doing it would cost me my life, and I embraced the Addiction Treatment Programme feeling I’d nothing to lose.

Initially I found it confusing, wondering what I was supposed to say in the group therapy sessions and puzzled by some of the language, the rules and procedures. But the mist soon cleared. I’d imagined the Priory as a place for the rich and famous, but what I found were people from all walks of life, whose lives – like mine - were being destroyed by addiction of one kind or another.

For the first time I found I was able to be honest and open with my peers and the therapists about my addiction and its consequences. The programme introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programmes, where I met people leading happy and successful lives in recovery. I’d always dismissed AA but now I wondered what I could learn from the people I met.

My recovery journey

As well as gaining a better understanding of myself and my addiction, the Priory gave me a set of tools and strategies for sustaining my recovery in the outside world. At the heart of the Priory’s approach is the importance of addicts supporting each other in recovery. I found the weekly Aftercare sessions with other patents who’d been through the Addiction Treatment Programme immensely valuable. I supplemented these with one to one therapy with an addiction therapist recommended by the Priory.

I’ve been in recovery for over two years now and my outlook on life has changed completely. I’m at peace with myself and those around me in a way I never thought possible. Life has its ups and downs, but I take it as it comes without trying to escape from the world or myself by reaching for a drink. I no longer feel the need to drink and take pleasure in living each day for what it has to offer.

If I have one piece of advice for anyone struggling with substance or behavioural addiction it is to ask for help. The Addiction Treatment Programme at the Priory helped me to face the reality of my addiction and to begin my recovery journey and the new way of life it’s brought.  

*Names have been changed to protect patient identity

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