[Sarah's story first appeared in Guernsey NOW magazine, Winter 2012.]
My rapid descent into alcoholism, the journey I went through to beat this horrendous addictive illness and my life now as a recovering alcoholic.
I never chose to be an alcoholic; alcoholism, for some reason, chose me. It has no respect for age, gender, personal or financial circumstances—alcoholism is just a rapacious, life-sucking leech, which once it has taken hold is extremely powerful and very difficult to detach, but not impossible!
It is very easy for me to say it takes real courage, focus, determination and willpower to beat this illness but when I was drinking I was a complete mess and these words were meaningless to me, because all I wanted to do was drink, and then drink some more. I was totally oblivious to the damage and hurt I was causing to myself but, more importantly to me now, to my husband, my children and my extended family.
I was very rapidly killing myself, but I could not see that as long as I had my so-called friend in my life, alcohol, then nobody or nothing else mattered!
It hurts so badly to put these words down on paper and it is not a life I find easy to revisit, but maybe if what I say helps another struggling alcoholic or their families, who like my family were in the depths of depair, then it is worthwhile if I can give a small crumb of hope.
I will never know how I crossed that boundary from being a fun social drinker into a chronic alcoholic but cross it I did, and from having one too many drinks at a party I descended into being a secretive dependent alcoholic at home. I became a disgusting dirty loathsome pathetic shell of a woman who had no self-respect whatsoever, who only cared where my next drink was coming from, and who thought nothing about the misery I was putting my family through.
The hurt I caused them was immense and they were at their wits' end to know how to help me. I made promises time and time again to stop, and in my heart of hearts I meant it. I knew what I was doing was wrong but by then I was completely powerless over alcohol—I was heading to become another fatal statistic.
Then by chance, and much to my dismay, my family heard about a treatment centre in Jersey, called Silkworth Lodge. I say to my dismay because, although I agreed to go, it was only to get them off my back temporarily, so I could drink in peace. And anyway, I was indignant. Only really sick people needed treatment centres and that certainly was not me! What a joke! Alcohol was controlling my life and slowly killing me but I was not prepared to unwrap my hand from around that neck of the bottle!
Inevitably the day came and I belligerently entered the doors of Silkworth, being told it was an 8 to 12 week stay, vowing only to stay 8 weeks maximum, still not registering how ill I was, and clinging pathetically to the thought that there was going to be some magic cure and I would be able to come out and drink like any normal person again. How wrong I was!
All I can say straight away is that Silkworth gave me my life back. I know that sounds dramatic, but it gave me a chance to lead a normal fulfilling life again, which I am now leading, and for which I am eternally grateful.
Believe me it was not easy. I entered the centre a completely broken woman, a shell who was not living a life but just existing in an alcoholic haze. I wish I could say I had a transformation overnight, but I didn't. I knew only that I had reached my rock bottom and I was willing to do anything to regain control of my life again.
Life for me was not easy for the first and maybe second week. There was a structure, a regime and a programme to be strictly adhered to, and once the fog started to lift and my brain started to work again, I strongly objected internally to what I perceived as being told what to do and having my life and thoughts so closely monitored. How dare they! I was indignant but, thinking back, perhaps that was part of my recovery.
I was in a house with 11 other people from all different walks of life, but we all had one thing in common—an addiction, whether it be drugs or alcohol, and we were willing. That's all we needed to be—willing to change our lives. I was initially assigned a counsellor, had the programme explained to me, which I really didn't grasp at first, and that was it— the daily hard work began. The programme is structured, logical and quite simple, but involves an awful lot of hard work, but then nothing in life worth achieving is easy, is it? Once I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable, which it was, then I stood a good chance of fighting my illness.
I do not want to go into the daily life at Silkworth. It was tough and relentless, mercilessly challenging, and made me look deep inside myself, which was not always easy. Contact and telephone calls with my family were limited, which I found difficult, but I'm not sure that they were really keen to keep in contact with me anyway, because they had almost completely washed their hands of me, and in truth I needed to be completely focused on my task in hand—my recovery—which nobody, including myself, ever believed would happen.
But a recovering alcoholic I am, for nearly two years now, and I cannot express in words my gratitude for all the encouragement, support and understanding that I received during my three months in Silkworth Lodge. I was given back a chance at life again, as long as I don't have a drink.
Life has not all been a bed of roses since leaving Silkworth, but they gave me the tools to be able to handle life again. There have been very difficult times with my family because I think I had all but destroyed any trust and respect they had in me and for me, but that has gradually been rebuilt over time and with patience.
I am so lucky to be part of my loving family again. I was given a second chance, I took it, worked at it, and my life just gets better and better each day and will continue to blossom, as long as I never have another drink.
There are many support groups out there to help people who have addictions like myself and I would encourage people to make full use of these, as I have, because there you will find like-minded people who are going through or have been through the same experiences as yourself.
This has been my own personal journey, my own personal recovery, and I fully appreciate that many people follow different paths in their journey back to recovery but this is what worked for me. I am positively loving and glowing in my life today, and I hope that other people in addictions can achieve the same peace, contentment and serenity that I have.