By Lewis Baker
It’s 4:30 a.m. I am woken up with cold sweats. My whole body is shaking. The anxiety in my chest is strangling me. There is a half full can of beer next to the sofa I was drinking when I passed out — advanced planning as I had been here time and time again. I reached for the can, not caring where I was or what I was doing, and gulped down the warm flat beer. It was as disgusting as it always was but I didn’t care, I just wanted to have this feeling. My stomach started gurgling so I went to the toilet and threw up. Still shaking like a crapping dog, I went to the fridge and got a four pack, opened one and went back to the toilet because after weeks of the same routine, I know it’s a delicate balance of trying to get more booze in than leaves.
By about 7:00 a.m. three out of the five cans have stayed in, the shakes have stopped. My head is clear and I feel normal. Normal enough to leave the toilet and face the kids — not normal enough to face the day or work, but enough to get through it now.
I had long split with the mother of my kids and was only living here after weeks of sleeping in the van. She took pity on me and let me sleep on the sofa.
So this was me, a 35 year-old boy who had spent the whole of his adult life getting wasted and drinking into oblivion. I had no job, no partner, the house was going, and the kids felt sorry for me. My days were spent scrounging for money and driving myself into a state of self-loathing. I was cutting myself regularly and my behaviour was erratic at best.
My younger brother lived a four hour round trip away and looked after me and eventually tried to get me sectioned for my own good. The clinic wouldn’t do anything until I stopped drinking, so I started attending a support group. As obvious as this sounds, what strikes me is what a blur this part is. I know I went to meetings, I know I was paralytic at these meetings, but somehow at some point, I managed to stay sober long enough to complete a detox program.
That was November 17, 2011 and I haven’t touched a drop since. I don’t know how or why but I was the lowest I had ever been and my self-worth was non-existent. Christmas was around the corner and no prospects. I can remember thinking “of course I am gonna drink again, just not today.” I am sure this helped, the thought of never drinking again would’ve been too overwhelming and I would have relapsed.
Another thing that I know helped was exercise. I had applied for the London Marathon (apparently) and got accepted first time (which is unheard of), so I started running. First it was a bit, then a bit more, constantly improving. I found that when I was exercising my head cleared, there was no “noise” and it felt good. It felt really good. When I finished and got back, I washed, changed and I felt amazing. My mind flooded with serotonin and I was energized and full of positivity for the first time in forever.
As my sobriety continued, the anniversaries became few and far between. First hour sober, then first day, then week, then month etc. All were massive deals, but the sparkle faded a bit and each day was the same as the last, and momentum felt like it was slowing down. As the “firsts” faded, the achievements flourished — two miles, three miles, four miles, etc. It was amazing. I ran the marathon, but that was almost a footnote. I was in the middle of recovery and I was loving every minute of it.
And that was it. It sounds trivial, and I really don’t mean it to, it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but that was my recovery.
I was the last person who I thought would ever be writing these words. I honestly never thought I would be able to manage it. I was always “not drinking in the week” or “giving in on Monday.” I was meaning it every night before sleep and forgetting it in the morning, and I never had any faith in myself, but I did it. Every day that passes is a victory, and every day my confidence has improved.
I honestly believe I was supposed to walk this path. I believe that as a result of those dark days I am a better, more rounded person. I am blessed with a perspective and humility that I don’t think I would have had otherwise. Would I do it differently if I had my time again? I am honestly not sure. I caused a lot of pain to the people around me, people I love, and that kills me. On the flipside, I came out the other side with far more than I went in with, I showed my kids that you can learn from your mistakes, that you can change and that if you want something you fight for it. For that I am eternally grateful.
I am no one special and I am sure that my story is nothing compared with others, but I am real. I have felt the lows and now I am doing OK. I am still paying for my mistakes but that’s OK too, it gives me chance to try and right some of the wrongs, and to do some good. I want to help people with their recovery, because I know that there is life after survival. I am not educated in that respect, but I have experience. The fact is that I am no one special, I know that, and that’s beautiful. It is beautiful because anyone has the chance to change and that is a very special thought.
My name is Lewis Baker. I am a 41 year-old normal guy from High Wycombe in the U.K. I have struggled with depression and alcoholism for the vast majority of my adult life. I wanted to write this story with the hope it will resonate with someone, and hopefully, make their journey just that little bit easier.