By Sam Thomas
On 10th November 2019 I attended A&E. I had begrudged going. Having been a regular attender, I knew what would inevitably happen. They would stabilise me and send me off on my way, to be told: “you must continue drinking.”
However, this time I didn’t want to. I had no desire within me to continue drinking one more day. Truth be told, I had no idea why I was drinking anymore, other than to avoid the regular episodes of alcohol withdrawal, which, in my case, had become unbearable.
The shakes, sweats, nausea and sickness, were just some of the physical symptoms that came with withdrawal. Confusion, deliriousness, extreme anxiety, paranoia and even psychosis (alcoholic hallucinosis) were the psychological symptoms I had been experiencing. I was entering the dreaded third day of withdrawal where the symptoms peak. Having been in this situation before I knew that an emergency medical intervention was the only viable option.
Sitting in the A&E waiting room, I noticed that people were staring. Clearly the shakes were visible and it was pretty telling that I was in a bad way. Thoughts, such as “why am I even here” and “I have done this to myself, so I’ve only got myself to blame,” were circling around in my head.
Recognising staff from all the previous times, I was too ill to care. This particular episode seemed worse than I had known before. Which was because I had stopped drinking abruptly (i.e. gone “cold turkey.”) Knowing that this was never advised, I had done it anyway. The very thought of having to drink just to alleviate the symptoms seemed pointless and unbearable.
Over the past eighteen months various traumas had aggravated my recovery. What was triggering me emotionally had in turn led to repeated relapses and a rapid escalation of drinking.
The combination and culmination of traumas over time remained unresolved. The drinking would naturally exacerbate the trauma. This, as I often referred to it, was “the ultimate catch 22”. What I needed was trauma support and detox support concurrently, but such a service seemed not to exist.
Trying to split the atom was going to take a lot of work. But first I needed to detox. To be weaned off this poison that had been my medicine for so long. As my turn came round to be seen by the A&E doctor I had no expectation.
I explained my situation being that I was now desperate. I had phoned the local drug & alcohol service. I had even explored the option to go to rehab.
I concluded that there was more chance of me being the first man to walk on Mars with the current funding cuts and waiting lists. I told the doctor on the phone that I had specialist trauma-informed therapy lined up but it was imperative I was sober for three months before I started. Even knowing my options were limited as I had been told in the past, “general hospitals don’t do emergency detoxes,” I gave it my best shot.
To my surprise the doctor said: “I think we will have to admit you.” Initially, I thought she meant as in stabilise my withdrawals with medications and vitamins: “You will need to be in for seven days,” she said.
This was a result. And to my relief, a way out of this. After three detoxes and subsequent relapses, I was more than ready for this. I had to be ready. This was a better time than any.
Those seven days in hospital weren’t simply a medical procedure, it was a chance to turn my life around. Everything I was waiting for was hinged on this detox and me being sober. This admission was a small price to pay, for a lifetime of gain.
What I had realised was that it is impossible to recover in isolation. From my hospital bed, I started tweeting about my progress and recovery, knowing that any addiction thrives on secrecy was an important learning curve.
I knew that communicating with others with similar experiences is imperative and that supportive networks like Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery programmes play a crucial role in filling that void of addiction.
Having been sober for four months before, I had learned the tools I needed to make it work this time.
Now at six months sober and counting, I realise recovery is about taking the road less travelled. Without a road map or guide you must navigate your own path. Inevitably, there have been bumps in the road but I have refused to fall off the wagon.
Keeping focused is key and before you know it the days become weeks, months and years.
As they say in the recovery community: “one day at a time.”
If you take one piece of advice from this article it is this: I assure you that life truly does begin at sober.
Read more articles like this in our Experiences section.