A Personal Account By Jeffrey Adams
Our 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.
From 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