What it's like to be a recovering alcoholic in lockdown

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment I became an alcoholic.

In my mid to late 20s, I needed a drink just to get up in the morning. I was what people call a ‘functioning addict’ – a term I hate, as there was nothing functional about what I was doing.

As I turned 30, back in 2011, I met my then partner. Not long after, we got married. She gave me everything I could have wanted; a marriage, a house, a child – but I gave them very little in return.

At the time, I had a career in marketing, making a generous salary. Being in that industry allowed me to cover my drinking up to a point; I arranged many boozy working lunches and client meetings, and popped everything on the company’s expense account.

I started drinking a litre of vodka per day – at the weekend, this could double. 

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Eventually, I started losing projects because I was either too drunk or hungover to function.

The last two years of my addiction between 2016 and 2018 were the worst. My wife knew I was a heavy drinker, but I was devious and so good at hiding it that she didn’t know the extent to which I drank.

I couldn’t get out of bed without the knowledge that I had vodka in the house to get me going for the day. I’d walk the dog every morning and drink a bottle of Smirnoff in the woods, all before most people had finished their breakfast.  

The straw that broke the camel’s back came almost exactly two years ago when I was with my wife who had driven us to the local park. She was participating in a charity fun run. I’d already drunk a bottle of vodka and it wasn’t even 10am.

I was sat in the car when I realised it was blocking someone in, so I proceeded to move it and ‘somehow’, a crash ensued. The police were called and I was arrested for drink driving. I blew 156 on the scale – the legal limit is 35. I was facing a deserved 12-week custodial sentence. 

As a result, my family decided that I should enter into one of the UK Addiction Treatment Group’s rehab facilities in Runcorn. I signed in on 14 May 2018, aged 37.

It was a decision I made largely due to my solicitor telling me it would look good in court, and I was more scared of going to prison than facing my addiction. But I had no real intention of stopping my drinking.

Four days into my month-long stay, everything changed. The intensive therapy and brutal honesty I received saved my life. I knew that this was where I needed to be and so extended my stay to three months.

Shortly after leaving rehab, I split from my wife. Although she supported me completely, I knew that I couldn’t do well at sobriety unless I did it alone. 

Now, I have a great relationship with my daughter, and my ex wife and I are on good terms. My family want to spend time with me and my friends no longer avoid me.

Even though we’re currently in lockdown, it’s been OK. I am well-prepared for isolation because I self-enforced isolation for so many years, but this is still a big challenge for addicts.

My biggest issue has been not being able to see my daughter or my new partner, who I met seven months ago, and worrying about the people I love.

There’s only been one day during lockdown that I really struggled with. My neighbours were enjoying their hot tub in the amazing weather and they asked if I fancied a beer. It was the first time in a long time I had felt an urge to drink. 

I did what the program taught me to do; called my sponsor, talked it through and got an early night.

Through a podcast and Facebook group I run about recovery, I’ve heard stories from addicts who have relapsed in the last six weeks, which makes me sad.

For me, if I were to relapse, it would be a nuclear explosion, not a blip. And I don’t want to fail and let others or myself down.

Although there is darkness in my mind, I will fight it.

For help with drug and alcohol addiction during the COVID-19 crisis, you can visit UKAT, which operates private treatment and rehab centres in the UK.

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