We interviewed Alan Butterworth, a real estate broker from Kwazulu-Natal who for many years struggled with alcoholism and recovery. Alan talks of his problems and what eventually lead him to get back on the horse.
AllTreatment: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Alan Butterworth: I was born in Scotland in 1955, and I a moved as a very young child to Africa and schooled in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. After I completed Military Service, I moved to South Africa. I am now a real estate agent and commodity broker in the coastal town of Margate, Kwazulu-Natal.
AT: How old were you when you first experimented with alcohol? Feel free to describe the experience.
AB: Probably at the age of 16 or so. Just a way of keeping in with the crowd at school. Even then I knew that I liked this! And even then I drank far more and got drunker than everybody else!
AT: Do you think you have an addictive personality?
AB: 100% addictive. After alcohol it became prescription pills and after that even coke! I think you are born with it. The medical fraternity is divided on why we are addicts. It is probably a combination of factors such as chemical imbalences in the brain to socialisation and life experinces.
AT: Were you ever concerned about your likelihood to become addicted?
AB: Deep down I think I knew I would have a problem one day. For me it only became a real issue in my mid forties but that varies with each individual. Some are a lot younger and some a lot older.
AT: Was there a quick escalation or did you 'dabble'?
AB: It went on for a couple of years with just average problems in my life but the actual slide into illness and total disfunctionality is a fast process. Probably no more than 6 months.
AT: Has it effected your relationships w/ family and friends? How? Was there an eventual reconciliation?
AB: One of the main fallouts of addiction is no doubt your failing relationships. These are the changes that you regret the most once you are on the road to recovery. I was fortunate and remained in my long term relationship but it was touch and go. Without Mary at my side during that time I would not be around to write this today.
AT: How was your professional life affected?
AB: I nearly lost my business as my partner and family had to keep it going while this hell went on around them.
AT: What was rock bottom like for you?
AB: A nightmare! Spent the day in a serious dwall. It was difficult to know the difference between n ight and day. Over the last few weeks I could not eat for 21 days and was continually vomitting. I could not get drunk anymore even after drinking up up 30 beers a day. I was carried into hospital with my last beer. It was a very unpleasant affair, and not recommended.
AT: Have you ever tried to quit before? How long did you last, what was it like, and did you start again?
AB: No I never tried to stop. Afer I was hospitalised I came out with great determination. However about 18 months later I had my first and final relapse and ended up in a ER. That was my last contact with alcohol, July 21st, 2001.
AT: Was there an intervention?
AB: On my final binge my partner threathened to walk out on me. That was enough for me to stop.
AT: What did you do for the recovery process?
AB: I never went to AA or similar groups. I just made my mind up not to drink or take pills. It is not easy to do but it has worked for nearly 10 years now.
AT: How did you find your recovery process?
AB: I was so weak after a week in hospital undergoing sleep therapy that it took a few weeks for me to resurface again.
AT: How did you cope with the urges to drink during recovery? How do you cope today?
AB: The urges have got less and less as time goes on. They are always there and it is really a question of day by day. I try to avoid social events with a lot of people drinking but I do still buy my partners wine from time to time. It is a mindset.
AT: What have you personally learned after the entire experience?
AB: Stop drinking or drugging if it starts to affect your life negatively!!!!!!!! Easy to take a few steps back and state that but the brutal reality is that it is the only way. Until they invent a pill we can take to stop our addictive behaviours total abstinence is the only solution.
AT: Where do you think you'll be in a year?
AB: A recovering addict can never say for sure where they will be but I know I want to be still sober. Time will tell. Remember one day at a time.
AT: What advice can you give to those currently facing addiction?
AB: Get help from professionals as fast as you can. It can be beat. Open up to your loved ones and let them help you. They will want to. Some prayer will help you as well!
You can contact Alan at email@example.com, or check out his blog, Alcoholism – A Life Sentence.
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