Receiving support for alcoholism - a case study

Michelle* has shared her story of recovery from alcohol addiction. She talks about her attempts to control her drinking and how Priory helped her to learn new strategies that allow her to confidently manage both her emotions and life’s struggles.

Michelle's story

With hindsight I think I have always been an alcoholic.

My first drink was at a party when I was 15 years old where I just drank and drank. I have no idea why - I think I was just trying to emulate my parents.

However, I didn't become concerned about my drinking until my late 20s. I began to notice that I was always the one organising drinks after work and was always one of the last to leave the bar. But then I got married, fell pregnant and stopped drinking.

I did my best to control my drinking

About a year after I gave birth, my Dad passed away. I started drinking heavily again, having around a bottle of wine a night.

One morning I opened the fridge door, saw a bottle of wine and thought about having a glass. This scared me and I contacted a local drug and alcohol charity for help. They assessed me, said I wasn't an alcoholic and suggested that I tried controlled drinking, which was impossible. I just couldn't do it.

I tried drinking a glass of water in between drinks but found it boring. I'd have a few sips, give up and get another glass of wine. They also recommended that I only drank 375ml of wine a night, which I would measure out. When I'd finished my allocation, I would pour another 375ml, promising myself I wouldn't drink tomorrow. After a few weeks of controlled drinking, I quit alcohol altogether and stopped drinking for about three months.

Over the next 10 years I did my best to control my drinking. When things went wrong in my life, my drinking would increase and then I would rein it back in.

I was desperately unhappy and I couldn't understand why

My best friend passed away and my drinking started to escalate again. I was desperately unhappy and I couldn't understand why. On the outside I had everything - a successful husband, beautiful daughter and a nice home, but I was dying on the inside. I felt so empty and no matter what I tried to make me happy, nothing worked.

In the 18 months prior to entering Priory, I was drinking at least two bottles of wine every second or third evening. The intention was only ever to have one or two glasses to take the edge off, but invariably that would become one or two bottles and I would drink until I passed out on the sofa. I'd wake in the morning with a dreadful hangover, desperately trying to recall the events of the previous evening and swearing I would never drink that much again. I wouldn't drink that day and sometimes I would make it through the next, but it wasn't long before I started thinking about a drink. I would convince myself that I had only got that drunk the previous evening because I hadn't eaten or drank too quickly. I'd promise myself that I would only have a couple of glasses this time.

My husband had started to comment on the frequency of my binge drinking. I blamed it on work and a difficult project I was working on. We had a big holiday planned on completion of the project and I promised I would get my drinking back under control on the trip, which I did. However, within a couple of weeks of being back in the UK, I got drunk again. I excused it the first time, blaming something that happened that day, but when it happened again two days later I’d had enough. I broke down and asked my husband for help. He contacted Priory and later that day I had been admitted to the Addiction Treatment Programme.

Receiving treatment and support from Priory

At Priory, I completed the 28-day programme, spent a further three days as an outpatient and then had one-to-one support for a year.

For the first time, I met people who felt as I did. I started reading the literature they provided and it didn’t take me long to figure out I was both an alcoholic and co-dependent. In a way it was a relief because I finally understood what was wrong with me and I could start doing something about it.

I have now been sober for two and a half years. When I went to Priory, I expected to learn a few strategies to cope with my life, but I never expected it to change the way I felt. The feelings of emptiness have gone and I now feel confident in managing both my emotions and my life.

*Names have been changed to protect patient identity

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