There is no doubt that alcohol is an integral part of so many of our social experiences, particularly during our years in our late teens and early twenties. It is difficult to find a party or gathering that does not include it in some way. It's considered normal, a right of passage even, to go out for drinks after work to unwind, or to celebrate with friends and family over a toast.
This is what makes abstaining from alcohol even more difficult, especially for recovering addicts. As part of our New Year, Same You campaign we spoke to ReachOut ambassador, George, about his experience with addiction! At the ripe age of 24, George is now 2 years sober, and we chat to him about how he recognised he had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and what his road to recovery was like.
Here are some of the questions we asked George on our podcast, After 20, and this is what he had to say…
At what point did you come to realise that addiction was a problem for you and one that you wanted to try and tackle?
It is difficult to pinpoint where it shifted from normal into something that was a problem, however there were certainly signs from the beginning. There is this saying in recovery that ‘you don’t know you have a problem until you try and stop’, which was true for me. I was going through a serious episode of depression, and nothing was really working to alleviate it. I had gone on and off a multiple medications and none of them seemed to work and I was feeling hopeless. I was around 20 and it was a gradual process where I started to self-medicate with alcohol. I knew somewhere deep down I had a problem and didn’t realise how powerful the addiction was. I had also gone through my first detox in hospital before I started to understand that I had a problem and couldn’t stop even when I wanted to.
How did you go about seeking help? How did you start and where did you go for advice?
I was seeing mental health professionals already when it started, and I talked to my psychiatrist at the time and explained I really do want to stop this time. Even though I really wanted to stop, I just couldn’t get past three days. I would make this decision to stop drinking and on the third day every time I would just fall down again. My psychiatrist actually said that was normal. Then I went through another detox but ultimately, I wasn’t ready yet and wasn’t able to stop. I tried to manage it on my own for another year or so. I would go on binges and then sober up for a week and relapse again and it would be this never-ending cycle of drinking, guilt, and shame.
During this period I decided to speak to my GP. I saw an addiction counsellor for a bit as well, tried going to AA meetings but essentially, I just wasn’t ready to stop. As much as I wanted to stop, I was in denial and couldn’t accept that in order to ‘stop drinking’ I actually had to stop drinking. However, it was December 2019 after a bad relapse that I realised the consequences from my drinking were outweighing any benefit, and that was when I really decided to stop.
Are there certain situations that you needed to avoid on your road to recovery to make sure you were able to stay clean and sober?
Definitely! I pretty much avoided all social settings and had to do whatever it took to stay sober, and for a while that meant staying well away from any drinking situations. That meant I couldn’t hang out with some of my friends because I couldn’t go to the same bars and pubs. I also went through a mourning of my old life because I had a lot of fun between 18-20 and that kind of kept me stuck for ages because I wasn’t ready to move on yet and let that go. I also had to break a lot of habits that I had built up. That meant not going to the supermarket by myself for a while because the bottle shop is outside and for ages I would go to the supermarket and then the bottle shop, so I had to really break those old habits.
What is your advice to people supporting someone who is suffering with a similar problem? What would be the one thing you would tell them?
It’s hard to help someone who is not ready. Be there for them until they are ready and let them know that you will support them. Someone might not acknowledge they have a problem yet, so it’s hard to find a solution when they don’t see that they have a problem. Also try and avoid passing judgement and if they make a mistake, they still need to know that they are supported. Being educated can help you to offer the right advice. You can find so many helpful resources about addicition here.
If you want to hear more from George make sure you check out our interview with her here on After 20.
And don’t forget, for the entire month of January, tbh Skincare is donating 10% of all revenue to ReachOut Australia to support the mental health of young Australians.