Change Grow Live – health and social care charity

Donna's story

My name’s Donna and I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’ve been in recovery now for seven months after a small relapse in May 2017.

When I was 24 my brother had a diving accident and he broke his neck. I used to visit him in hospital every day. I used to go home and have a couple of glasses of wine to settle me down. It started off with a couple of glasses of wine, then it went to a bottle and then it went to two bottles. Eventually it got to three and my tolerance levels had gone up so the three bottles weren’t doing anything for me, so I went on to miniatures bottles of whiskey as well as the three bottles of wine.  The miniatures helped me to give me the kick I needed. Unbeknown to me I had become addicted.

I went into denial, I didn’t want anybody to know. Obviously my family could see the change in me and they kept saying to me “you’re drinking too much” and I used to just laugh it off. Deep down I knew I was drinking too much and that it was getting out of hand but I couldn’t stop it by then.

For ten or twelve years I was a functioning alcoholic whilst I was working. I functioned for a very, very long time. I would say by my mid-thirties it became that I couldn’t function any more. My life just spiralled completely out of control. So in 1999 I eventually admitted to everybody that I had a problem. I went to detox in February that year and my dad came with me, he was my rock.

So I went into detox and they asked me if I wanted to go to rehab and this was when there was lots of funding available so I said yes. I went through first and second stage, I was there for a year. I came out and had treatment in the community for about six months, so I was sober for 3 years. I went to college and studied counselling and was also working part time. Things seemed under control I was doing more to keep myself busy and I was enjoying life more.

In this time my dad became ill, he was diagnosed with cancer. We got the news that it was terminal. My dad had 14 months to live. First of all when my dad came home we could control the pain with the medication we were shown how to use but eventually we couldn’t control it anymore. He went into a hospice. He was told 14 months and in the end my dad lasted 4 months. That was the end of my sobriety.

I was sober for my dad’s funeral, I stayed at my mums for a few weeks and then went back to my flat and I was gone, until 2010. I had 3 months sobriety here, 6 months there…I think 6 months was the longest it lasted.

I was offered a 12 week day programme in 2009 locally but I was scared, I had heard about it, I thought it was too tough. When I finally decided in 2010 that it was getting really, really bad, I knew I had to do something or I wouldn’t be around. Following the day programme I had 6 months sobriety then I was back on the drink. That was nothing to do with the day programme, it was to do with me. I hadn’t taken in what I had been taught.

I went back to the day programme in 2014 and I had another 12 weeks, lasted 6 months again and went back to the alcohol. The last time I attended the day programme was in 2015, I was lucky they accepted me. It was my third time and I thought “Donna, if this time you don’t do it and you don’t listen, you’re not going to survive”.

I listened and I learnt. I was open. I was sober for two years, I went back to college to continue my counselling diploma. Unfortunately I let myself slip and instead of talking to myself when my emotions got the better of me, because I drink on my emotions, I just went to where I knew it would take my feelings away and numb them.  

It took me a while but I came to RISE to see the doctor in October 2017 and to ask for help… I felt embarrassed as I had volunteered here but I had to get rid of my pride so I could get the help I needed and it was the right thing to do.

It’s been a long journey. I never liked myself, I hated myself and I felt like the scum on the bottom of your shoe. Today, I like myself. I like who I am. I feel a totally different woman to who I was before. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, as long as you get there in the end. There is a good life for you but it’s what you make it. It has to be your hard work. I’m really grateful I’ve had so much help and I’m looking forward to giving something back to the community through the peer mentor programme and volunteer with the service.