Back in 2019 I started noticing that my drinking had gotten a bit out of control. It wasn’t like I was waking up and just cracking on, but I found excuses to have a drink very easy to come by. At first it was to round off a good day, then it was to soothe a bad day...
When the pandemic hit it became even easier to justify, and also hide.
I lost my home around a year ago. I’m a bit hazy on the details but I know I hadn’t been a good person to be around. I borrowed money from anyone that would give it to me and never paid it back. Made up all sorts of excuses just to make sure I could get another drink. If I sobered up I felt so ashamed of myself that I needed another drink just to deal with all the feelings of guilt and failure.
I’d been out of work, and living out of a bag in a B&B for a few months before I met Cyrenians. I'd been sober for a few days, and struggling with it. One of the other guys staying there had noticed, and invited me to come along. He said they had breakfast meetings, and I’d get a bacon roll and a cup of tea. That was enough convincing for me.
When I turned up I realised it was one of those recovery groups. I’d never really thought they were for me. I still had it in my head that I could do it alone if I just tried hard enough.
One of the guys there was talking about his son, about how he’d missed the early years of his life and would always regret it. That hit home.
My son Alex is a cool wee guy. He’s dead creative. One of my favourite things in the world is a picture he drew of me when he was younger. We’d been out at the zoo and he drew me as half man half lion. His mum always said he thought the world of me. I looked at myself now and wondered what on earth he thought of me at this point.
I stayed behind to chat to the group leader, Mick. I wanted to know what the deal was – what happened if I relapsed, what did they expect of me? He was really honest with me and it didn’t feel like I was being lectured. Said he understood that recovery wasn’t linear but that to be in the group I couldn’t be drinking, that I would need to be honest about what’s going on and listen to other people’s stories.
I started going along pretty regularly, and talking to some of the people outside of the activities. I began to love fitness, we did a bootcamp together on Friday mornings out in the park. Sometimes it was freezing but I loved how energised it made me feel. I started to feel able to focus on what I wanted for the future.
Mick put me in touch with some people from his work who could help me with housing, and I got on the list to get a flat. I reached back out to Alex and told him and his mum what I was up to. They both seemed really pleased but I could tell things weren’t great between them.
I tried to meet Alex for a coffee every now and then, but he didn’t want to leave the house and his mum seemed to be working all hours. I felt like I was failing them all over again, until Mick recommended speaking with Cyrenians Family Mediation team.
It’s been a really cathartic process. I didn’t realise that Alex hadn’t been telling us the truth about how he was feeling. Despite all the work I’d been doing in my groups to open up, I’d missed that my son was struggling to do the same.
He hit it off with Jo, who helped him get connected to an art group full of kids Alex’s age. They all seem to have similar stuff going on so I reckon it’s the first place Alex has been where he doesn’t feel like an outsider.
For his mum and I, we got help to figure out how to better understand Alex. They said they think he might be autistic, and gave us advice about how to support him and make sure we all understood each other. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me to be honest, and some of the other people at my group have shared their own experiences dealing with being neurodivergent.
I’ve moved into a more permanent place now, and Alex has popped round for dinner a couple of times. We’re trying to build up the couple of years I missed when I lost my way, and I’m so grateful he’s still willing to try and build that relationship with me. I think his mum needs that time too – it’s good to feel like I'm helping, and not just making everyone’s lives harder.
There’s a long way ahead of me. My recovery is a work in progress, it’s always going to be I think. I’m proud of how far I've come and for the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to where I’m headed.