Alcohol looked like a solution but it was the problem: Alex
Updated: Jan 12
Alex stayed at Ocean Hills in 2020 to address his alcoholism. Here is his story: from the depths of desperation to learning to live a happy and healthy life in sobriety.
What brought you to Ocean Hills? I reached a point of desperation. This included the loss of control of my use of alcohol on a daily basis, increasing negative thoughts and eventually suicidal thinking, including a suicidal attempt.
When did your drinking become a problem? If I am honest, drinking has always been a problem for me, starting in my teenage years when I was simply trying to fit in. Alcohol appeared to be the solution to everything, rather than the problem that it really was.
My loss of control over the frequency and amount of drinking probably started over the last decade. It insidiously became not only a habit but a full-blown addiction, which has only been addressed since accepting my alcoholism for what it was and seeking help, which led me to Ocean Hills.
I experienced increasingly desperate mornings, guilt, regret and shame.
In what ways did alcohol / drugs affect your life? Again honestly, using alcohol and drugs initially made me feel like I fitted in and gave me amazing highs that I was unable to replicate anywhere else in life. Over time that high was more and more elusive. Loneliness and despair were increasingly prevalent emotions, rather than good feelings, along with sacrificing a lot of other valuable and enjoyable time and space in my life that I spent planning, preparing for, consuming and then getting over the effects of alcohol. I experienced increasingly desperate mornings, guilt, regret and shame.
How did you know that you had lost control of your drinking? Despite attempts to have alcohol-free days by the end of work, I had usually fooled myself into thinking that I was entitled to consume alcohol for many insane and inadequate justifications, despite my desire to not do so.
My emotions and ability to deal with challenges were slowly eroded, leaving the lonely, desperate and continual feeling that the only solution was to end my life. This is what I call my rock bottom, a term I have heard many times since starting at Ocean Hills. During that that morning, when I looked in the mirror whilst painstakingly try to figure out a way to end it all, I accepted that I had lost all control of myself in this world.
What was your turning point to want to get sober? I have never had a problem loving others. The trouble has always been loving myself. When I realised the insanity of trying to take my life in order to deal with an addiction to alcohol, I realised that I was failing myself by imagining I wanted to continue drinking. The truth was in my heart I wanted to stop but I couldn’t.
I decided to be honest with my wife about the depths of my loneliness and insanity and together we found the phone number for Ocean Hills. I took it upon myself to make the phone call as a necessary step to acknowledge and accept where I was and take on the responsibility of seeking help.
Though there were challenging weeks leading up to arriving at Ocean Hills due to my addiction and mental state, I spent most of them looking after myself with the support of family and medical help. This helped me strengthen my will to take on the challenge of sobriety and discover that the challenge included learning to love myself.
What did you learn from staying at Ocean Hills? My favourite lesson from Ocean Hills was: “I am enough". These three simple words are profound in their depth and in my view, can lead many a stray human being to a peaceful existence in a world full of uncertainty, challenges and self-expectation.
I was also able to learn that self-care was my priority for the rest of my life, putting sobriety first as well as my health, without which all that love I have for others and want to express is not realised to its full extent.
I am grateful to have utilised the time at Ocean Hills to stamp out any residual doubts I had about being an alcoholic and start my journey with the amazing support of as 12-step programme, something I truly believe to be the mainstay of my sobriety, including a quiet exploration of what a higher power is to me and how that understanding can help me in my life.
What was your favourite thing about staying at Ocean Hills? I have too many favourite things to list a single one but generally, it was the people. From the day of being picked up from the airport by Elaine, who tirelessly works at her passion for helping others to find the path which has given her so much joy and liberation, to all the support staff, whether dayshift or night, and even casual conversations with Elaine's partner Wayne. All those I came in contact with at Ocean Hills were open and caring to enable my recovery to begin.
This gratitude for the people at Ocean Hills also extends to those who came in to talk to us about their experience from their own journey with alcoholism. And last but not least by any means, the two people I shared my recovery with. It was quietly reassuring to find common ground with people I ordinarily would not share such personal and challenging thoughts and experiences with, and developing a strong bond that occurs when sharing the start of such an enormous journey together.
What is your life like now that you are sober? Every day I continue to prioritise my self-care and sobriety.
Immediately after getting out of rehab, I was able to truly say I was there with my family for the first time in a long time, which was an amazing sensation. But there were some initial challenges.
The people who I had hurt during my active alcoholism (by prioritising alcohol over my responsibilities and other enjoyable experiences) were not immediately able to see the benefits I had gained from rehabilitation. It naturally takes time to build the trust of others that you have let down in the past, for them to see that your belief is true, and your actions now reflect your spoken intentions.
There were also some nerves to deal with, getting back out into the big wide world after the safe space of Ocean Hills and all its temptations, including alcohol on every corner of the street, at supermarkets and restaurants and other social outlets. All of this had to be carefully considered and managed as a risk to call me back to the life I led before I accepted that alcohol was not able to safely be part of my diet anymore.
How do other people react to you being sober?
In the past, I would have struggled to share such a private and personal experience with anybody, whether in conversation or in written form.
This comes from being fearful of how it might make them feel, or how they may judge me. Whilst it is still my choice whether to disclose my battle of addiction with anyone, the increasing honesty I am able to practice through achieving sobriety and knowing that it creates more goodness in my life means that I find myself sharing my experience with more people than I would have ever thought I would be able to.
It took me almost 39 years and an attempt at exiting the world altogether to be truly honest with myself about how hopeless my addiction to alcohol really was.
Life is certainly not without its challenges. I have always tended to push myself to achieve great things and challenges invariably come up along the way. Before, the challenges tended to be with the way I related to people and to do things to be seen a certain way as I believed that I was constantly being judged by other people. I wanted to control other peoples’ thoughts… all of which turn out to be ‘none of my business’!
Now I am able to live life as it comes and strive to be in the moment as much as possible. I now know most of the things that I worry about I can’t control and therefore can let go of. I also know that I must have the courage to change the things that I can in order to live a more fulfilling and fruitful life (all WITHOUT alcohol!).
What advice would you give others who are struggling with their drinking? Be honest with yourself. Acknowledge being honest with yourself is hard. It took me almost 39 years and an attempt at exiting the world altogether to be truly honest with myself about how hopeless my addiction to alcohol really was.
Next, be kind to yourself. Us alcoholics usually come with one or two extra defects or flaws of character that can drive us to abuse alcohol. One of these flaws is self-loathing or obsession with comparing ourselves to others. Another defect is rating others incorrectly as being much better than ourselves. Perception is a funny thing.
Russell Brandt's books regarding alcoholism had a very simple mantra for dealing with any problem, which I wrote down during my stay at Ocean Hills:
This is paraphrased and is based on the 12-step programme:
Accept that you have a problem (requires being honest with yourself).
Believe that the problem can be improved by working at it (requires a touch of hope and faith, also hard to come by in the depths of desperation).
Ask for help! (this was one I really needed to work on as I don’t like admitting the ‘weakness’ of not being able to do something on my own). When suggested actions are provided for your problem be open to following them.
Phone Elaine for a confidential chat on 027 573 7744.