My Journey into, and out of, Alcoholism – part 1

Alcoholism is an insidious and progressive disease that dominates, violates and destroys every aspect of your life - family, relationships and career.

The following story has been fictionalised from real-life experience.  To ensure anonymity and maintain confidentiality, I tell the story in my voice.  Some of the dialogue has been modified.  The aim of the story is to raise awareness on alcoholism, a disease currently ravaging many people in our communities.  It is a story of despair turned into hope.

Addiction is giving up everything for one thing: Recovery is giving up one thing for everything!


No one human sets out to be an alcoholic.  It certainly wasn’t part of my plan, but it happened, it inhabited and took control over my physical and emotional being. It eviscerated my spiritual being. I became a shell of a woman.

It all started in high school.  One day, on the first day of the second term, a close friend managed to smuggle in a bottle of vodka.  After the matron had turned the lights out, we snuggled up in her bed and took turns sipping the liquid.  I was sixteen, and it was the first time I tasted alcohol.  I felt the rush straight away.  I don’t remember when we fell asleep, but we woke up the next day soaked in vodka and late for class.  We lied to everyone who’d listen that we had period cramps and were allowed to stay in bed.  That day passed in a foggy blur from the hangover.  I wanted more, but there was none. We were in a catholic school for girls, and they were strict. I couldn’t wait for the holidays.

During the August holidays, I raided my parent’s cabinet. I drank the vodka and filled the bottle with water. Then I drank the brandy and filled the bottle with black tea. When dad found out, he went apeshit and blamed our house help.  She was fired and threatened with prison. As she left, she vehemently denied it and said she saw me “are you out of your mind, my daughter does not drink!! Get out of here before I call the police!!” dad bellowed. Amazingly, I didn’t feel any shame as I watched her lose her job over something I did. Instead, I had a light bulb moment! I couldn’t drink his alcohol after my scapegoat was fired, so I resorted to stealing money to buy my own.  My dad was a landlord, he had properties all over the city and he stashed cash payments under his bed, and there was a lot of it.  He never found out. I was very clever too, I never bought alcohol near home, I travelled out!

Fast forward to age eighteen and my parents shipped me abroad for further studies.  It was paradise.  My entire being spasmed with delight of the endless opportunities and freedom of being my own boss.  No parents to hide from.  No neighbours to complain of empty bottles over their fence. No house helps to watch my every move. I had my own flat in London and an endless supply of money. 

In London however, the first shop I walked into to buy alcohol, asked for my ID.  I didn’t have any with me.  The yearning thirst was ripping me apart – I hadn’t had a drink in almost 3 days.  I raced home in the winter cold, grabbed my passport and raced back to the shop.  The shopkeeper could tell I’d been running, and he was probably wondering why a teenage girl want to buy alcohol in the morning.  I never returned to that shop.

I drank half the bottle before heading out to the university for orientation and registration.  I had a buzz about me and made friends that very day.  So, when one of them suggested we meet later in the evening for drinks, I was more than enthused. For once, I could drink openly and go home whenever.

At the ‘drink-up’, as Londoners called it, one of the girls refused to have alcohol, “oh, I don’t like the taste!” she said.  “Never mind the taste, feel the effect, and you’ll get used to it!” I blubbered.  I was already buzzing and feeling fearless.  “I don’t need alcohol to have fun!” she stated.  I thought she was an idiot.  Of course, you need alcohol to have fun, I consoled myself.

Even though I didn’t drink often on weekdays, once I started, I could never stop and many times I had to be kicked out of pubs.  I drank more and faster than everyone else.  I would wake up with major hangovers and feelings of dread, and zero recollection of the night before.  A few times, I woke up in strange flats with strange men whose names I couldn’t tell you.  But still, I drank, and the cycle continued.  I was paralysed with a never-ending thirst for vodka.  So, I decided to have a plan.  Study and work hard from Monday to Friday, then party harder from Friday to Sunday.  It worked well!  For a while.  My drinking buddies became fewer and fewer.  No girls wanted to socialise with me, because, apparently, I was ‘embarrassing’.  My perpetually imbibed brain reasoned they were jealous: jealous because, unlike them, I didn’t have to work and study; unlike them, I lived in a flat while they lived in students’ dorms; unlike them, I had an unlimited supply of money from Africa.  I was independent and making life in a strange city effortless and fun.

Only now do I realise, I was a brilliant example of self-sabotage, self-loathing, and a self-destructive wrecking ball.

I decided to change my circle of friends.  I needed to be with people who wouldn’t count how many shots I’d had.  I needed people who wouldn’t tell me I’d had enough.  I needed people who knew how to have fun.  I needed people who’d laugh at the silly things we did the night before.  So, at the age of twenty, I found myself socialising with older men and women who knew how to party.  They loved my accent and my wallet.  But I didn’t care, they didn’t judge me.  And I was an amateur compared to these guys.  Now, I realise, I needed these guys so that my excessive drinking didn’t stand out.  I could never fit in with my uni mates who wanted to go out for a pint, literally!  One pint!  At this age, I could down a pint in under 2 minutes!  I could drink neat scotch!  I could do tequila shots all night and not throw up!  I was Mike Tyson in the drinking arena.

One super early morning, my dad called, he was peeved, “You spoiled brat! You spent fucking £2,000 on your credit card last month! Are you insane!!” he was screaming.  I had a major hangover and bruises on my arms that I had no recollection of how I got them.  There was a half-eaten doner kebab on my pillow which was covered in lipstick and mascara.  Dad was screaming and making threats.  I simply disconnected him, switched off the phone and went back to sleep.

Alcoholism is an insidious and progressive disease: after dad’s screaming and my doubled-up self-loathing, I had a drink, a shot of something awesome and my body came alive.  I was well on my way to physiological and psychological addiction.

Part 2

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Image: – Thuanny Gantuss

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