I talked to a lady last month who decided recently that she would wean herself off the one large bottle of gin she needed to drink daily. She couldn’t get into a residential detox during the covid-19 lockdown, so she researched alcohol withdrawal and taught herself what to expect. She had the page up on her computer screen outlining what would happen, and it did. First, sweats, shakes and cramps. Then nausea and sickness (at first her body’s strong reaction to not getting the needed alcohol meant expulsion of her food through her mouth, I get the impression, though she didn’t say it in so many words, that later it came out the other end). She had other symptoms from the damage alcohol had done to her body, but she had done a lot of physical exercise over the years and had some advantages too. She reduced her drinking and suffered the detoxification at home one her own, ticking off all the stages of withdrawal. She experienced them just as they were listed on her computer screen. She survived them all and now she’s detoxed and somehow managed to avoid taking that one drink—which would have relieved the withdrawal pain, but put her back in where she started. She didn’t do it all by herself. She had kind and understanding professionals on the other end of the phone encouraging and supporting her. The Drug & Alcohol support worker asked her if she needed a doctor at one point, but she knew her body and she knew she would be alright.
But there was one more person who helped. This lady was in her house on her own the whole time, but it was her 9-year-old son who was on her mind through all the physical, emotional and existential pain. Hoping she could get sober was her goal and her motivation was the love of a mother for her son. Simple. Universal. Powerful.
She’s been sober for six weeks now and I asked her how she does it. She said when she really wants a drink she gets in her car (careful to not take any money as she passes places where she could buy alcohol), takes her dogs on an hour long walk around a lake near her home. She says by the time she finishes her walk the urge to drink has always passed. The more times she does this, the better she feels. She does other exercise and she finds that building her own support network is very important as well. She knows who she can count on for different kinds of support. It’s not something to attempt on your own—even during lockdown.
This is one of the many stories I’m privileged to hear working for the Service User Network. Hearing these stories inspires me and reminds me how strong people can be.
Here are some videos where you can hear, in their own voice, stories of real people grappling with their own lifelong challenges that can destroy lives (literally, and figuratively), but don’t worry, there’s plenty of hope: Addiction Recovery Stories