Peter's honest account of dealing with his alcohol dependency

Peter Henderson, from Hebburn in South Tyneside, is sharing his story to raise awareness of how using alcohol as a coping mechanism can easily lead to harmful levels of alcohol consumption.

Peter, 42, always enjoyed unwinding after work with a couple of drinks but it wasn’t until his partner at the time flagged he was drinking more than usual that he began to realise he was slowly becoming dependent on alcohol.

He said: “Looking back I can pinpoint exactly when drinking started to become an issue – it was around ten years ago in 2011. My partner and I had been together for quite a long time, but we were having a few issues and I used to come home from work and unwind with a couple of cans. I’d always enjoyed drinking, especially when out socialising such as at football matches and BBQs, and I didn’t think having a couple of cans a day was an issue. However, my partner was worried about the fact I was drinking every day and I promised to stop.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t – I became a secret drinker instead and I managed to hide it until we went away on holiday in 2013. I’d promised not to drink, but I couldn’t resist and we ended up having a massive argument and splitting up. However, we got back together even though my drinking was increasing. Then she fell pregnant and my son was born in August 2014. Sadly, we only managed to stay together for another eight months and then our relationship fell apart due to my drinking.

“I lost three family members – my mother, brother-in-law and uncle – within a very short space of time and used alcohol to help me deal with bereavement. It enabled me to block out my feelings, but now I know I was using my grief as an excuse. I used to smoke outside and have a quick swig of whisky which I’d hidden behind the bin. My drinking was spiraling out of control, but I couldn’t stop.

“Peer pressure was also a massive influence, as it was difficult being around other people drinking when I was trying to stop. Also, alcohol advertising is everywhere, bombarding people with messages especially around Christmas and sporting events, like the Euros. There is nothing worse for me than on a hot day or after a day's work then seeing a picture or advert on TV of a cold pint of lager – it’s still difficult now.

“It started to affect my job, as a window fitter. I remember popping to the shops in between jobs to buy miniature spirits. I tried to hide but I ended up getting suspended after having an altercation at work, and I left in 2015. I knew I had to stop, so tried several times over a few years and ended up being hospitalised numerous times for alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Each time I would spend between 4-12 days detoxing, and I promised I would stop drinking but my addiction was too strong.

“Then in mid-2018 I was back in hospital again and the alcohol team at hospital introduced me to STARS, now South Tyneside Adult Recovery Service, who were absolutely brilliant. I had weekly meetings, attended abstinence groups and through their support I started on my road to recovery. They arranged for me to do a three-month rehabilitation programme in Cheshire in March 2019 which was extended by a month. I remained sober for eight months but unfortunately ended up relapsing and between September 2019 and February 2020 I was in and out of hospital again.

“I also suffer with depression and anxiety, and I know it is related to my drinking. I’m on medication now, which helps, but I still have good and bad days. In addition, I had a bad back but luckily had surgery on that last year despite the pandemic and it has made a big difference.

“I’ve now been sober for 15 months and I feel so much better. My friends are supporting me as it has been difficult, but the pandemic and lockdown helped as I wasn’t able to socialise. I used to play snooker in a pub team, but now I spend time with my son who lives nearby. He’s seven and keeps me on my toes.

“My advice to anyone who feels they might have the slightest problem with alcohol is ask for help. It’s okay to admit you have a problem and need help. You would be surprised at how many people are suffering the same way, so please speak to a friend, family member or your GP. Don’t suffer in silence. If I can help one person by sharing my story, then I’ll be happy as I want to help people as I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support I received.”

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