DDN May2021 May 2021 | Page 17


Tomert | Dreamstime . com about recognised that I was growing , improving and learning new behaviours .
Since then , my world has grown in wonderful and unexpected ways – because of recovery , not in spite of giving up alcohol . I regained a sense of what it was like for people to value my contribution . This was something I didn ’ t even know I had lost , but which proved to be a striking discovery in what recovery looks like to me . That is to contribute valuable and respected research in the field of addiction recovery , work that will promote and enable others to engage in recovery , as a positive and life changing experience . I have now found my source of happiness , and it is unequivocally , embracing life in recovery .
Professionals are told not to let their personal lives intrude into their work lives . Here , Lisa and I are both allowing our personal lives to intrude into our storytelling . My father was an alcoholic . His father was teetotal . Why did I choose to follow my own father , rather than my grandfather ? In truth , I rather envied my father when I was a teenager . He could be a charmer with the ladies , which I yearned to be , and had a wonderful singing voice , which generally only emerged when he was drinking .
My own formative years were spent in the North East . There were the usual adolescent drinking binges , which continued into university where I took up with a small group of young men for whom drinking became an occupation . In the first year on ‘ beer race day ’ we drank 16 pints , and over the years I became an episodic binge drinker , drinking until I could drink no more . As most of this drinking was conducted in small groups , where it was culturally normative , it was never considered excessive .
In my middle age , beer gave way to good wine . I would only go out occasionally , as by
‘ The fact that I had to wait until I was 59 to make this choice shows the degree of denial I was in . For some of us , there really is only one choice .’
then I had a family of four children . One of my medical friends and myself would meet every couple of months for a meal in a posh restaurant , washed down with four bottles of wine . I think we both considered ourselves to be mentally stable and that our drinking was nothing to be concerned about . It was only in later years that I realised that by the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ( DSM V ), I met the criteria for an alcohol use disorder . My AUDIT score was also indicative of problematic drinking and I scored two of out four on the CAGE screening tool . After a very heavy drinking session with two university friends and our wives I became so unwell that I actually gave up drinking for three years . This was actually easy , as I was psychologically but not physically dependent .
On my 59th birthday I drank too much , had an argument with my partner and was given an ultimatum , the relationship or the alcohol . For once , I saw the effect that my drinking was having on someone close to me . This was the third such episode , and for her it was the last straw . I was in the proverbial last chance saloon and I decided to leave the bar .
At the time of writing , now four years , seven months and 20 days down the track , I have not had a single lapse . I will never go back . I have
never been to a single AA meeting and never will , as I have managed on my own , though I have huge admiration for their work . I would never say , ‘ I have done it , you can do it too .’ The fact that I had to wait until I was 59 to make this choice shows the degree of denial I was in . For some of us , there really is only one choice . That ’ s not red or white . It ’ s abstinence .
Why might our stories be any more remarkable than anyone else ’ s ? They probably aren ’ t . Yet as humans we have a need for stories to nurture , inspire or encourage us . Change is possible . It was the one life lesson that Jerome ’ s father failed to learn . In the end alcohol killed him while his own teetotal father had lived until his eighties . How many years does alcohol take from us ? For Lisa and Jerome , giving up alcohol has opened up life ’ s possibilities in a way they never envisaged .
Lisa Ogilvie is studying for a PhD at the University of Bolton , having graduated with a distinction in her MSc in counselling and positive psychology .
Jerome Carson is professor of psychology at the University of Bolton .
Visit their website at positivelysober . org