BLOG: Embracing Sobriety - A Personal Journey

21/06/2024

Bruce Jackson with a dogBy Spectrum colleague Bruce:

“As part of Alcohol Awareness Week, I want to share my personal story about my relationship with alcohol. I’ve always been open about my journey, both personally and professionally, and I frequently share my experiences on social media to encourage others who might be facing similar challenges.

My Life Before Spectrum

Before joining Spectrum, I spent over 22 years at Royal Mail – the last 10 of which were within the Address Management Unit. My job was to maintain the Postcode Address File (PAF), ensuring that all the address data you see online, including within the NHS, was accurate. While I loved my job and the colleagues I had worked with for so long, I gradually became more unhappy. Alcohol, to me, became the only thing that helped me get through the days.

Despite people telling me how alcohol is a depressant and probably the worst thing to take as an anti-depressant, I couldn’t see it. For someone who craved alcohol, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Yes, I heard them, but I didn’t believe them. I could only focus on the high that the first or second drink gave me. It’s often thought that after a bad day at work, grabbing a pint or a beer from the fridge is a way to wind down. But for me, it wasn’t just one drink – once I started, I couldn’t stop.

The Start Of My Drinking Habit

I started drinking heavily at the age of 17, as many young people do as a rite of passage into adulthood. While my friends eventually only drank in social situations, I continued to drink more and more at home just to fall asleep. Over the years, I repeatedly told myself and my partner that I could control it. I tried different methods, such as drinking lower percentage alcohol or even 0% alcohol, but I was only doing it to please others. In reality I wasn’t trying, I wasn’t ready to admit my need for alcohol.

The Turning Point

The turning point came with the loss of our pet cat, Clyde (pictured below). One rare night when I hadn’t had a drink, Clyde fell ill and we had to rush him to the emergency vet. My partner was too upset to drive, so I took him. If it had been a night when I had been drinking, I would have been incapacitated on the couch, unable to do anything. Saying goodnight to Clyde on December 15, 2022, I promised myself I would give up drinking after seeing the impact it had on my partner, Angela. It took another 13 days to finally gather the courage to go cold turkey, with my last drink took place on December 28, 2022.

Clyde the cat

The Challenges Of Sobriety

Going cold turkey wasn’t the best approach, something I later realised through working with amazing recovery workers and nurses at the County Durham Drug and Alcohol Service. I thought I had an idea of how hard it would be, but I wasn’t prepared for the mental strain. Combined with my unhappiness at work, I needed to find new ways to occupy my mind and change my mentality. I stopped binge-watching American TV shows and cooking curry five days a week, and instead revisited my love of music and found a more varied, healthy diet.

Posting a diary of my sobriety on Instagram became my thing. Following as many people as possible who were in the same boat genuinely kept me sane. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to stay sober, but I’ve been fortunate to have an inner circle of friends and family who have encouraged me every step of the way.

What Keeps Me Sober

Music: My go-to sober song is “Not Afraid” by Eminem. It’s ridiculous how many times I’ve played it. The whole song resonates with me, but especially the chorus: “Come take my hand, we’ll walk this road together.” It makes me feel like I’m not alone, that others understand my struggles and that I have someone to walk this journey with.

Bruno: Our 11-month-old English Springer Spaniel, Bruno (pictured top), has saved me in ways only dog owners can understand. When I feel down, he’s there to comfort me. When I need to clear my head, he’s ready for an adventure. The bond we share has been a significant part of my recovery. We recently celebrated my one-year soberversary by walking from Low Force to High Force in Teesdale.

Living One Day At A Time

It might sound cliché, but for me, I count my days of sobriety one day at a time – 510 days as of May 22, 2023. Living this way helps me focus on the present. Tomorrow never comes; it’s all about today.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope it resonates with those who might be struggling and encourages them to seek help and support.”

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