Neil’s Story of Alcohol Addiction and Recovery
Neil is a 70-year-old retired Senior Sergeant. He has been sober for 11 months after struggling with alcohol addiction for the last 11 years. Neil completed Hader Clinic Queensland Private’s 28-night detox and 30 days at the residential rehabilitation.
This is Neil’s story.
I grew up in Newcastle in the 50’s and the 60’s. My life was without complication being brought up in a working-class family. A carefree childhood running with other kids in the street, riding bikes and later surfboards.
I left school and gained a position in the bank as a teller, later working in the steel works, surfing, and finding out what life was all about. I had a very supportive mum and dad, however, life was not quite fulfilling, so at 26 I joined the Federal Police which gave me a more purposeful life.
I drove to Canberra and started my new career in the Police Force. I was a guard at the embassy and Parliament House at the start and was a senior sergeant in the Federal Police when I retired in 2011.
My life with my wife and children was wonderful. We had our home and were very involved in our children’s sporting lives and schools. This was a happy time in my life and my career path took me to interstate and overseas postings.
For the next 33 years, this continued. I was a daily drinker, but I was always in control. However, looking back now, I am sure my relationships and health could have been better without it.
Retirement age was approaching, and I was not prepared for it at all. Eleven years ago, I was offered redundancy and I jumped at the opportunity. My work, wife and children seemed to be all I really needed. How wrong was I! There was nothing that I had even thought about doing in retirement. From the moment I walked out the door at work, there was nothing. A few renovations at home and then left with my own thoughts, as my wife was nowhere near retiring. Gradually, it was replaced with excuses, being unmotivated, boredom and anxiety. I went from being a social drinker to isolation and daily drinking by myself to cope.
My mental health deteriorated, and I became completely reliant on alcohol to solve my problems. Not realising that drinking was mostly to blame. My physical health was suffering, I was depressed and anxious, and I also had serious heart problems. I now have a defibrillator.
There were times I would try to give up but would always end up drinking again. After a few weeks of exerting all my willpower, I would find myself at the bottle shop, buying a few bottles of red wine and wondering how and why I had started again. I was hiding my alcohol use from my wife and family, or so I thought.
It was the same thing every day. I felt trapped in the cycle of alcohol addiction. My relationships were suffering. I felt afraid and alone. I would go to functions and sit silently, most times I was intoxicated, thinking no one would notice. Mostly I thought I got away with it, however, my wife was quick to realise that I was drunk. I was a shell of my former self. I felt full of shame and guilt about having to sneak around and hide the amount of alcohol I was drinking. I finally sought help. I went to a few AA meetings. After a meeting, I would drink a bottle of wine. I didn’t fully understand the reasoning behind Alcoholics Anonymous.
Eventually, my wife became exhausted from my daily drinking. She looked through our bank statements and could see how frequently I was attending the bottle shop and the frequent lying trying to cover my tracks. Out of desperation she had done some research into Hader Clinic Queensland and suggested I read through their website, others’ stories, and how the clinic could help. I was not convinced and still thought I could do it myself. However, after lengthy discussions with my wife and a great deal of apprehension, I knew if I didn’t change, I was going to lose everything.
I was so afraid and depressed. It was a big leap of faith to go there, 28 days, easy!
When I first arrived at Hader Clinic Queensland. I noticed that everyone was young compared to me. I quickly worked out I was the oldest person there. It was easier to focus on the differences than the similarities, and a lot of their stories were way worse than mine. However, deep inside, I knew I was an alcoholic. I realised that I was no better than them because I was there in the same place dealing with the same issues, addiction.
The staff were amazing. Most of them were in recovery from addiction as well. I was told the truth about the seriousness of the disease by them. They educated me so much. I was encouraged to read the AA big book. It made sense to me and introduced me to the 12 steps and the 12 traditions. Inside the literature, I read my story.
I completed the 29 days of detox, however, my wife still noticed that as we got closer to the end of the 29 days that I was still a little blasé about being there, not fully grasping the seriousness of my addiction, or most importantly the effect it had on me, and equally as important, the ones I loved. There was hard love and encouragement not only from my wife, but my counsellors at Hader Clinic Queensland to continue a further 30 days of rehabilitation. I was not happy at all about the further 30 days as I was so very homesick. In my head, I was going home. However, again I had strong family support and realised that it was what I had to do for myself, to become the absolute better version of myself.
Hand on heart, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Not SO easy!
They taught me how to journal, practice mindfulness, read literature and attend regular meetings. I haven’t had a drink since I left Hader Clinic Queensland.
My life is very different now. I am part of my community. I attend regular AA meetings and enjoy listening to like-minded people and their survival and continual survival after addiction. I do volunteer work and I attend Saturday afternoon Mass at my local church each week which is part of my meditation, a time of my own thoughts. My health has improved immensely. I swim and ride my bike. I am more present for my family.
Since I have been at home, my wife and family have given me so much support. The community really supports people in recovery. I don’t have to hide anymore. I can go anywhere and do anything. The desire to drink alcohol has been obliterated, however, there are exceptions of fleeting thoughts that are easily set aside by applying and constantly referring to the literature and skills I learned at the clinic.
My advice to anyone wanting to seek help that is struggling with alcohol addiction, particularly at an older age like me, is to keep an open mind. The right people can help. I learned so much from the staff and everyone I met along the way. Most of all, I became willing and listened, taking on board to do whatever was suggested and as a result, I no longer have to live a life of shame and guilt.
Thanks to my time spent in detox and rehabilitation at Hader Clinic Queensland, I’m free from the depression and anxiety that plagued me for so many years. It is never too late to change your life one day at a time.
Photographs of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.
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