Jim’s Addiction Recovery
At nearly 60 years of age, Jim had a realisation that he could have a different life, one without alcohol. This is his addiction recovery story.
Hi, my name’s Jim and I’m about to turn 60 in August and most of my life has revolved around drinking alcohol.
However, in December last year, I had a reckoning about a different life. One without alcohol.
I started drinking from an early age. It was part of my childhood.
My parents weren’t alcoholics, but as a young person, I often had glasses of wine at home with meals (with my parents’ permission) and special events always included a taste of alcohol – birthdays, weddings, any special occasion really.
It so happened that a wedding was the first place I got truly drunk, at the age of 11.
I have two older brothers, seven and ten years older than me.
The oldest brother got married at 21 and we celebrated with an outdoor marquee in the backyard. I was the “barman” for the family, charged with serving guests alcohol.
While performing this duty, I indulged in plenty of booze along the way, got blind drunk and fell asleep under the table, where I remained until the next morning.
Everyone in the family thought that my drunken escapade was all a bit of a laugh. I decided there and then that I really loved alcohol.
When I was fourteen, my parents bought a pub in a regional town. I grew up, and completed, my schooling living in a hotel. It was at that time I started drinking daily.
My parents didn’t seem too concerned – they didn’t see this as excessive.
However, when it came to finishing school, it was a concern. Drinking blunted any motivation that I possessed to achieve anything, especially academically – it followed then that school became quite the struggle.
After school, I entered the workforce, with my mindset totally revolved around socialising. Initially, I worked in the pub for my parents, but when I saw how much fun my friends were having on their weekends off, I decided to look for an alternative career.
I found that in the banking industry, where I stayed sixteen years. I started in our local country bank. Back then, the banks closed at 3pm and by 3:30pm, or 4pm (if we were busy). I’d go straight to the pub to drink. In a country town, that’s what everyone did. It was part of normal life.
Despite my drinking, I did well at the bank, got promoted and moved around a fair bit. I ended up in the Brisbane head office and my job in corporate finance involved a lot of client entertainment, complete with the expense account. All I was interested in was socialising, and drinking.
During my sixteen years of bank work, I got married and had two children, which was a bit of a blur as I drank my life away. I had no ambition, or motivation, except to drink.
Eventually alcohol drove my wife and me apart. I wasn’t really ‘present’ in our marriage or keen to do anything with the kids.
Whether it was work or kids’ sport, I couldn’t wait for it to be over, so I could go home and decompress in the only way I knew how – drink. Even though my marriage was crumbling, I simply didn’t care enough to do anything about it.
I eventually got sick of banking and decided to go back to the hospitality industry, starting at the bottom of the ladder and working my way up. Of course I got involved with pubs.
I managed pubs for twenty years. After my marriage crumbled, I remained single. Not being in another permanent relationship meant that I could preserve my lifestyle.
Living in a hotel meant that even after closing, you never ran out of grog. And when you get further away from capital cities, the rules around hotels begin to loosen. It’s not official, it’s a more unspoken thing.
By December 2019, I was beginning to feel tired and unhappy, particularly at work. I was feeling quite down, but I didn’t know what to do about it, so I did nothing.
Then my second grandchild was born. Even though I hadn’t been that involved with my family at that stage, I still wanted to make contact and visit. I
n order to do so, I needed to ensure that my vaccinations were up to date, so I visited a GP, where I was diagnosed with high blood pressure.
It was sitting in his office that I reflected upon the unhappiness in my job and my drinking.
On the strength of those thoughts, I decided to resign from my job. I had the resources to spend a few months on holiday, so spent a bit of time simply floating around, then went to visit my brother.
I hadn’t had a decent conversation with my brother in years. But somehow in our talking, I got really honest with him about the status of my life. And on the day of that discussion I had my last drink.
It was as if I’d been showered with a flash of divine intervention. In that moment, some how I just “knew” that drinking alcohol wasn’t going to be part of my life moving forward.
My brother supported me, knowing that I’d need support to solidify my decision. We got in touch with Hayden and discussed the process of rehab and I was admitted pretty much straight away.
What struck me was despite working in pubs for so many years, I had no knowledge at all about the disease of alcoholism and how it physically and mentally affects people. I was fortunate that a “cold turkey” withdrawal didn’t produce some of the physical side effects and horror stories that I’ve heard about since I entered rehab.
In fact, I thought that as I drank “top shelf” liquor, that alcoholism only existed for a metho drinker in the park! How wrong I was.
Prior to entering a rehab, I had never attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or done any step work. I seriously didn’t have a clue.
When it came to believing in it and a “higher power” I thought at the time, “we’ll see”.
However, I found my faith in AA, because hearing so many others repeating the same story, mirrored my own thoughts and experiences.
I came to realise that I had been very uncomfortable simply being around other people over the years, preferring to work by myself because I felt nervous, intimidated and insecure.
I lived in blissful ignorance for all those years in addiction. I never thought of looking outwards for a solution. I really understand how it’s often called “self medication”.
In the rehab program, I had a strong sense that we were all there for the same reason. And that environment made me feel more inclined to share my thoughts and open up to other people. It really was a group of people living and working together and really opening up about life.
I came to realise from an early stage that it wasn’t a residential rehab program that was going to save me, but rather, it was what I was going to do in the outside world, such as attend AA, that was going to be the key.
Today, I’m about to finish twelve weeks in the Hader Clinic Queensland’s transitional housing program, and as time has progressed, so has my readiness to re-join the outside world.
I have made firm plans to move to the Sunshine Coast to be near my family – my two sons and their families. I don’t want to live in their pockets, however, I am enjoying the opportunity to properly connect with them. I can’t wait.
The best lesson I have learned is that the fear of everything is what drives us. I feared giving up alcohol because I was scared of craving it. That fear hasn’t been realised.
Today I feel blessed and grateful for my life – and thank the Hader Clinic Queensland for helping me find a future that I can look forward to.
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