So, at what point did this all go so very wrong, when did I start to descend down that spiral into the dark pit that I found myself in. Tuesday 13th March 2012 was one of the lowest points in my life, but how did it get to that point, what were the triggers, the reasons for finding myself face down on the floor and just five days later so close to ending it all with a knife blade at my wrist. That Sunday lunchtime it is clear to me now, I would never be able to take the easy way out, the cowards way out, because again that day like all the times before, God placed his hands on wrists and whispered in my ear the only words that really mattered.
But how and why did this happen to me, alcohol definitely became a crutch to hold me up, it’s an understatement to say I became dependant on it, I convinced myself I couldn’t sleep without it! But how did it come to this point?
I’ve always enjoyed a drink, but never really classed myself as a big drinker, it didn’t take much for me to get drunk on a night out, but at home I could drink loads and not feel drunk at all, that only seemed to happen when I was out which wasn’t very often.
I had been self-employed since 1998. I had already struggled with debt when I first started out and paid that back over time, but I let it happen again taking out loans and credit cards to pay off bills and debts, at that time the banks were throwing credit at everyone. I lived quite comfortably with my partner and two young children, I taught karate and had made it on the England squad, times were good.
But 2009 brought change, I retired from the England squad at the age of 35, although I passed my 4th Dan black belt later that year, there became a sense, that after all that I had lost a little bit of purpose in my life, I had at that point no goals to aim for. Then at the end of 2009 the “Credit Crunch” hit the UK, work just seemed to dry up and with it money, for the first time in over ten years I didn’t have any regular work, although this had happened before, then I had no kids and still lived with my parents with very little to worry about in terms of responsibilities, this time I had rent to pay, bills, loans, tax arrears and a young family to care for.
At one point I signed on at the Job Centre, if I was to pick a time where it actually felt like it all went wrong, it was probably that day, I sat in the Job Centre with people who quite clearly did not want to work, they would do anything not to, I swore that I didn’t want to become like that, I wanted to work and wasn’t afraid to, I didn’t really want hand outs, I wanted to pay my own way in life. Before I could complete the paperwork, I got a bit more work in, so I promptly signed off before receiving any money, anything not to have to step foot in the job centre again, don’t get me wrong, some people there were clearly looking to find work, but some were clearly there just for the hands out and had no intention of working. But as time passed, I became just like the lazy, workshy locals, that I sat next to in that Job Centre.
Work was hit and miss, a few days here a few days there, it barely paid the rent never mind the bills. The days I wasn’t working I found that gradually I didn’t even get out of bed, I would lounge around all day, pottering about on the computer, nothing productive, Facebook or games, watching the TV at the same time. Although money was tight I always managed to find cash for alcohol, the nights I wasn’t out teaching I would go to the local shop, buy either eight cans of cider or two bottles of wine, and drink the lot that night. If I was out teaching I would go to the pub after and have four pints of 5% cider. One thing I never did was drink before a class, I managed to keep it together for karate, that was the only place where I considered that things were normal.
As the weeks and months went on through 2010, work carried on to be inconsistent and money was getting harder to come by, in the mean time I was wracking up debts and bank charges. But I couldn’t break the cycle and things were getting darker, If I wasn’t working or teaching I wouldn’t really get up, wash or even dress, if I went to the shop I would just throw some tracksuit bottoms over the clothes I had slept in the previous night, eventually I spent so much time on the settee, I never left it, I just fell asleep watching TV with a can or bottle in my hand, I just started sleeping on the settee, I took myself out of the bed I had shared with my partner since 1997.
I couldn’t face dealing with the money issues, I just couldn’t get motivated to do it, if I was at home I just wanted to do nothing, just watch the TV programs I had got used to watching on a daily schedule and doing nothing constructive. At night I had convinced myself I had to drink, if I didn’t I couldn’t sleep, I would have bad dreams, nightmares, you know the kind where you keep going over the same problems, you wake thinking it’s real, you try to get back to sleep, but the same dreams comes back, the same problem, but if I’d had a drink that wouldn’t happen, I get into a deep sleep with no bad dreams, so I had to drink, it helped me escape my problems rather than face them. If I had continued to have these bad dreams, night after night, I would probably have been forced to deal with my problems, but as it was I was hiding behind the alcohol.
This cycle continued throughout 2010 and 2011, I knew deep down I had to sort this out, I knew a large crack was forming in my relationship and I knew if I didn’t sort it soon it would be too late, but I couldn’t seem to do anything about it, I just wanted to drink, I was convinced I needed to drink, if I didn’t I couldn’t sleep, I would be edgy, I would walk around the house rubbing my hand restless, I was hooked, I was no longer in control.
Towards the end of 2011 I got a full time job, regular money together with a bit of extra part time work. I thought this would be it, regular money, get caught up on some of the repayments and sort things out at home, I could get our relationship back on track once the money issue was resolved. I was wrong, because I still didn’t realise I had a drink problem, I thought it was the money that was driving the wedge between us not the drink. Earning regular money didn’t help either, it just meant that I had more money to buy more alcohol with and that was just what happened, to the point that in the weeks up to my complete and utter breakdown, I could get through anywhere between of 20 to 30 pints of cider and 8 to 10 bottles of wine a week.
The drinking habits got worse, I couldn’t not drink now, I had money, no excuse now not to drink every night. If I fell asleep with a can or bottle that I had started and I woke up in the middle of the night, I would finish it. If I woke in the morning with the alarm to get up for work and there was an unfinished can of cider I would finish it and go get ready, if it was a bottle of wine I would finish it, if it was nearly empty, then get ready or if there was more than half a bottle I would drink some more then save the rest for later. Some nights I would get back from the pub at 1am in the morning, I would search for something else to drink, then lay on the settee watching TV until I fell asleep, get up and go to work, I was spiralling out of control, I couldn’t leave any once I had started it, I couldn’t just pour it down the sink, that was a waste, I would it drink warm and flat, it didn’t matter it was still alcohol.
Then in March this year things happened at home and I had to find out where we were, my worst nightmares were confirmed, my relationship of 15 years was over and there was no going back, I had never felt so low in my life. During the last two years at my lowest points I had contemplated suicide a number of times, usually Sunday lunchtimes when the family were at Church and I was alone at home, I would sit on the edge of my bath with a small pen knife in my hand, trying to find reasons to end it or not. I knew the way the system here in the UK worked, I couldn’t provide, I wasn’t capable of providing for my family anymore, if they were a single parent family the state would pay for everything, they would be better off without me, they didn’t need me dragging them down anymore, but it always came down to one reason to carry on, that one message that was whispered in my ear every time I hit this point, that reason was that I knew the first person to find me in that bathroom, dead in a pool of my own blood, would be one of my kids, no kid should have to live with that, it would be better to live with me how I was, than live with the memory of finding me dead, that was the only thought that made me put that blade down, every time.
After that Tuesday night I couldn’t eat, I had no appetite for anything but alcohol, I was drinking more, but not eating, but after another suicide episode the following Sunday, I decided this time if I couldn’t find a way out then change was the only way forward.
I’m not all right
I’m broken inside
And all I go through
It leads me to you
(I’m Not Alright by Sanctus Real)
The next day started with a phone call that started a journey with God, a way out of the darkness and ten days later an end to the drinking. It hasn’t been an easy journey since, but I’m still sober and still on my journey with God, but now I am enjoying every minute of life, I refuse to let things bring me down anymore and I try to deal with things head on, not hide away.
Life now just gets better everyday and I can only thank God for that.