Living With The Effects Of Alcohol

A Personal Account By Jeffrey Adams

alcoholOur front door frame was cracked because the neighbour kicked and battered it trying to get in. We would need a new door, and daren’t think what could have happened had our neighbour, drunk, high and delusional, entered our flat.

The police stayed on the phone during the incident, keeping my wife calm.  I put my full weight against the door as it started cracking under the pressure of the kicks. The police arrived in good time and Callum* spent the night in the cells to calm down.We decided not to press charges, we didn’t want anything to escalate, besides Callum had more problems than he could handle. Maybe a night in the cells would be enough.

The folk in our stairwell were sympathetic to Callum as we were. Callum was a young man, and his family were trying to get him away from negative influences, on the straight and narrow so to speak. The late night drinking, abusive shouting, stream of strangers trailing up and down the stairwell at all hours, ringing our buzzer in drunken confusion, was not easy to live with. I worked long hours with a 1 hour commute each way, and my wife  worked 2 jobs to support funding her university studies. We often went to work tired from the disruptions the night before.

One day after an afternoon repainting our flat,  we went out and a few minutes into driving realised our car tyres had been slashed.  Another time we came home to finger marks streaking down the outside of our livingroom window. A person had been dangling from Callum’s flat with Callum holding them by the ankles. The person fell, or was dropped, and ended up in hospital with a broken limb. Drunk, they had taken leave of their senses again.

I felt ashamed that our housing block had events like this going on. I’m not sure how we survived that time but it is a common story- surviving the effects of alcohol. It also doesn’t work to send people away to another location, because their problems follow.

Despite these fearful times, we never let go of hope that Callum would refind his way. We were rooting for a turnaround, for his sake as well as ours.

Life did change, our jobs changed and we moved. But we haven’t forgotten living around someone with addiction. It disrupts lives, it often kills the addict. We were only a neighbour, I can’t imagine what it must be like to live with someone struggling with alcohol. Sadly in Scotland too many do, because alcohol abuse is a shadow over Scotland, a crutch to numb, and for the most part, an affordable crutch. The weather sometimes doesn’t help, forcing people indoors away from social contact that could alleviate depression and the need to ‘have a drink’.

The rate of alcohol related death in Scotland is the highest level in the UK and men are the most vulnerable group. Encouragingly figures for alcohol related death in Scotland have been declining since 2006, slightly rising again recently.  The  steady decline suggests Scottish Government initiatives are helping, because in contrast, levels have not improved much in the other UK countries. But even with the improvements, male alcohol related death is twice as high in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK.

Source: Office for National Statistics.

graph of alcohol related deathsFrom our experiences and knowing the levels are still too high, I find it encouraging that the Scottish Government have started alcohol minimum unit pricing. Nobody knows if it will help the most extreme of sufferers -but it could.  There are always people who will complain at having to pay more, but we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done, and expect things to get better.  We’ve hoped for better long enough.

* Name changed to protect identity

Related story: Scotland’s Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing A World First



Categories: Uncategorized

Tagged as: , , ,

1 reply »

  1. Writing about this subject, is a good thing to do , Jeffrey. It’s a complicated business – each individual’s tale is different, as each person’s reason for turning to any kind of addiction, will be different.
    I’ll add a tale………..and I’ll change the names, too – though it’s years ago, in another place – only fair to do so……….
    I used to live in a row of houses. Three doors down lived Jim and Janet ( false names). Jim was an alcoholic. He was never truly sober. Fortunately, for the rest of us, he was a benign drunk – got drunk, sang ‘Black Velvet Band‘ outside my house at all hours, not really a trouble to anyone, but himself and Janet …and the children.
    Then …too many years of too much booze, kicked in, and he had a complete mental and physical breakdown. Complete. Hospitalized, didn’t recognize Janet, thought “they we coming to get him”. A terrible situation for all concerned.
    He was given an ultimatum by the doctor. “Carry on drinking and die, carry on drinking and lose your mind, or ….stop drinking.” With a lot of support and help from NHS specialists, and from his family and neighbours ( he didn’t have many friends left, by that stage), he stayed off the booze. This meant he even got a job – which meant he suddenly had money – which he never had before, as his benefit money went on booze. He used this to buy art-works from the local arts centre – mostly by local artists.
    Last time I saw him, that was the situation – he was working, had extra income to his needs, reasonably fit and healthy, wife and children much more comfortable – less living in a state of tension about what he might do next.
    This is a happy ending story – if only more were.
    Shows it can be done though. And he wasn’t a man of strong will –power or determination, to take on the path to recovery, he was a hard nut – tough background, but not a strong will. It was the straight-talking doctor, and the fear he put into Jim, that did the trick.
    This is reminding me of other tales, one not so good.
    At one time, I worked for NACRO ( The National Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders) . We had one chap there, who had ended up in prison, because he used fraudulent means to obtain money to pay for his drink habit. He’d been caught, and, after prison, put onto this scheme to train him for work, and so, hopefully, help him to stay ‘dry’. The thing is – he was clever – hence the ability to successfully defraud – he got caught , but only after some time, and using the same method on a number of people. So, as a recovering alcoholic, he used his intelligence to learn IT stuff, was very good at it. All looked promising when I left NACRO. I later heard he’d lapsed – gone on a bender. What a waste.
    My next door neighbour at one time, was a recovering alcoholic who had had to lose everything – wife, family, work – and find himself, literally, in the gutter, before he made the big effort to stay on the wagon. Another success story there – last heard of, playing piano in a posh bar – and successfully resisting temptation!
    So many tales – some work out, some don’t. There appears to be a basic weakness there, which some manage to overcome, and some don’t. A person who repeatedly gets drunk, can be very hard to deal with, as in your tale, Jeffrey – very hard to deal with. I would say that we need to be understanding, but that would be hypocritical of me, as the main reason I find my oldest friend hard to deal with these days, is because he drinks too much, repeatedly goes on ‘benders’, and when he drinks, he talks rubbish. He has a fine mind, which is being rotted by booze, and that not only gets on my wick when he’s talking rubbish, but it also distresses me greatly to see him going down that road, especially as bright flashes of his old light, break through sometimes, and I know that he’s still there. We don’t discuss it any more, as he just gets mad at me. It was the same when he had a cocaine addiction, years ago. We nearly fell out about it. An addictive personality – that’s what it comes down to – there are folk who have a need to ….need something …to turn to something and depend on something. Can be booze, drugs (legal or otherwise), sex, other people’s affection, animals affection etc. etc. It’s a basic need, which can be fine when in a balanced state – it’s when it goes out of balance, that it can cause such harm and havoc.
    It’s something I feel strongly about – “There but for the grace of God go I”. All too easily. When I was young, I used to drink too much, just to stop my brain whirling – now I give it some leeway to whirl, and have learnt relaxation techniques to help me to calm down and sleep without stupor.
    It may look like I’ve known a lot of alcoholics or addicts of one kind or another – I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more the case, that maybe folk don’t realise just how many people are addicted to something, one way or another, and how much this can affect their life and the life of those around them.
    Maybe even look in the mirror – as I did, there, at the end.

Leave a Reply