If you are worried about your drinking, it isn’t always easy to ask for help. In this blog, Brett Dixon writes openly about his struggles with his mental health and alcohol addiction in order to encourage others to seek support.
My mental health and my alcohol addiction are very much intertwined. I’ve spent many days wondering what came first in this chicken and egg scenario. I also ask myself if I had access to support earlier on in life, whether things would have ever gotten so bad.
For me now, at 35 years old, I believe my addiction to alcohol (and other substances and behaviours) is a side effect, or a response to my mental state and my mental well-being.
It’s a bit of a cliché but as far back as I can remember I’ve always felt different. I spent a lot of my childhood gripped with fear and anxiety. The only memories I really have of being a child are around being scared and feeling very unsettled. I felt like the things that seemed to come so effortlessly to my peers, always took a lot of effort for me.
I never spoke out about how I felt growing up. As a man – or boy at time – I felt too much pride, too much pressure to fit in with my friends and attempt to look cool. I didn’t want to sound weak or sound weird and I felt like hiding my feelings was the only choice I had.
I then found alcohol and wow did that fill that void I felt. It was like someone was pouring icy water over a blazing fire and I could finally breathe and relax. In that instance I had what I needed to become the version of me that I had always wanted. I felt good in my own skin, I felt confident, I felt cool, and I felt human at last.
Over the following 20 years, my relationship with alcohol went downhill. Slowly at first, rapidly towards the end. I tried to fix myself over and over with external things, but nothing ever worked, and I always ended up turning back to alcohol.
I also battled for a long time with how my life would look if I couldn’t drink. How would I fit in with my friends? Would I be a social outcast? Would I ever find a girlfriend? Would I just grow old alone? How could I ever cope with life without having something to numb my emotions? These thoughts and questions kept me stuck in my addictions for a long time.
Even when alcohol took me to the very edge of destroying myself; suicide attempts, crime and police troubles, losing jobs, losing partners and alienating my family, I still couldn’t let go. Alcohol was killing me slowly and I couldn’t find a way to live without it.
Until I asked for help, honestly and openly.
A lot of people have said to me over the years that I “just don’t look like the type of person who is an alcoholic or addict”. Or I “don’t come across as someone who struggles with mental health”.
But that’s me, and those observations are wrong. People have ideas of who can and can’t be addicted to alcohol or other drugs or have mental health problems and this stigma needs to be smashed. Addiction and mental health do not discriminate.
I was brought up in a loving home with a wonderful family around me. I was educated, I went to university and got a degree and I have worked for the majority of my adult life. I’ve never lived on the streets (although I did come close) but yet I have been alcohol dependent and identify as an alcoholic and someone who battles my own thoughts and emotions on a daily basis.
I drank to survive, but that was a very thin line to walk. Mentally I was incapable of dealing with life’s challenges, and did what I could to try and escape every time something in my life happened. I didn’t have a choice, I didn’t have anywhere else to turn, and before I knew it, I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. People with alcohol dependency often don’t have a choice, even when they want to stop, the fear of stopping is just too much without support.
Living with addiction is the loneliest, darkest, scariest place you could ever imagine. I’ve never met anyone who suffers from this illness that wants to remain in that horrid place.
People with alcohol dependency all need help; we are just normal people struggling with life. We are wired up slightly differently and our bodies react to things differently to others. We still have hopes and dreams just like regular folks. We still crave human connection, and we still want to live life and enjoy it to it’s fullest. However, we just need some support in developing the tools and methods to deal with the challenges we face. Please don’t alienate us, we’ve done enough of that ourselves through our addictions, help us find our way and in turn we’ll help others find theirs.
Written by Brett Dixon
If you are worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, there is help out there. Speak with your GP about what support might be available to you or someone you are concerned about. This is a great first step in finding help.
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. Calls are free and confidential. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9.00am to 8.00pm, weekends 11.00am to 4.00pm).
More information about organisations which offer help and support can be found on our support page.
This blog was published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alcohol Health Alliance or its members.