Age: 59 years old
Sobriety: 3 years
John spent 28 days in Abbeycare and three years later is still sober.
Focused, healthy and happy, John talks about his life then and now. That was three years ago and John has been talking with us about how his attitude to alcohol – and life – is completely different compared to the dark days of his drinking.
Alcohol gave him a false sense of self and John used it as a tool to overcome his shyness and enjoy many a social gathering. But like many other problem drinkers, the very thing that helped give him confidence ultimately alienated him from friends and family and he was no longer welcome as friends and family activities.
“I had been drinking since I was 16 years old at local pubs and farmers’ dances. I always knew that my drinking was different compared to my brothers and friends. I thought I was always the life and soul of the party, what I didn’t know was that if I took the alcohol away, I was somewhat withdrawn and uncomfortable in company.” “Most social drinkers don’t need alcohol to be outgoing, “social” and interact at social occasions, I did.”
For 40 years, John drunk almost daily and can only remember certain details of the last 10 years before he stopped. And, most of those memories are generally not pleasant.
“For a long period, I was a problem drinker. By problem drinking, I mean that I was bringing problems into my life like losing my driving license (not useful to a farmer when you are 3 miles from the nearest bus stop, or you can’t take a tractor onto a public road between your fields). I’d also wake up in various places not knowing how I got there.”
John’s drinking naturally got worse after the loss of his wife Anne and sent him on a dreadful downward spiral and he neglected every walk of his life:
“My real drop into alcoholism came after the death of my wife and the only way I knew how to deal with things was to drink to forget. My farm was going downhill fast and farming is early to bed, early to rise to make it work.
“I had been hearing but not listening to my brothers and other loved ones for years as they observed my demise. I was always going to stop tomorrow, next week, after my nephew’s wedding or after the next holiday.”
Being involved in a serious farming accident – which John now admits to operating whilst intoxicated – never got in the way of getting a drink but made him take the decision to seek help.
“The time came to really address my problem when I was involved in an accident on the farm and I was taken to the hospital. I needed a drink so badly that I signed myself out and refused surgery on my arm.
John called Abbeycare and spoke to a staff member and a call back with Abbeycare founder, John McLean, was arranged. John said: “Eventually my brothers arranged an intervention with John McLean of the Abbeycare Foundation and he came to visit me at my farm. At first, I didn’t want to know anything and was rude, resistant and quite obnoxious to him, but slowly he broke down my stupid resistance and I went with him to Abbeycare.
“I had always thought I could fix my problems by myself, but I was down on my knees with this one. All the questions were torturing me, why me? Why is this happening to me?
The main thing that I remember John telling me was that anyone can be a victim, but not everyone can be a survivor.” After being admitted to Abbeycare to undertake a detox and join their highly successful programme of recovery, John sobered up and now lives a life free from alcohol and has the first-class recovery.
He remembers the day he went in:
“I chose to be a survivor and go to the Abbeycare Foundation. Just going in lifted a massive weight off of my shoulders – I had hope for the first time in decades. I listened and learned to make the fundamental changes to my thinking that has taken me to the freedom of sobriety. I always thought sobriety would be a boring, dull and uninteresting life.
I will tell you a boring dull and uninteresting life. That is a life sitting in your house alone with only your bottle for a company and a few dire TV channels and not being asked along family or social events because you can’t control your drinking or your behaviour caused by your drinking.” Life is about choices, but not irresponsible choices.
Take up the reins of your own life and choose a life worth living. It can be done, I’ve done it.”
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