Coping with lockdown as an alcoholic: Mother who hit rock bottom after losing her home and almost dying on a bender claims social isolation ‘drives people to drink’ – and credits online recovery meetings for staying sober
- Angie Wilkinson, from Yorkshire, hasn’t touched a drop for nearly 16 years
- Was admitted to intensive care and put on ventilator after overdosing on drink
- Attended first meeting after hospital stint and began journey of recovery
- Suspects she’d be drinking again in lockdown if not for her recovery programme
- Fellow alcoholic Adam Deering lost business deal worth millions due to drinking
- Nearly eight years sober and admits trying to get clean right now would be ‘hard’
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
With Britons across the country struggling with feelings of isolation and frustration at being stuck indoors, those who are fighting to stay sober have an even bigger battle on their hands.
Support group Alcoholics Anonymous has reported a rise of 22 per cent to its helplines since the coronavirus outbreak, and a 31 per cent spike in calls to its ‘chat now’ service.
With regular face-to-face meetings an impossibility, online gatherings are proving crucial for ex-drinkers as they battle to support each other and resist temptation.
Here, two former alcoholics in recovery programmes tell FEMAIL what it’s like to stay away from booze after hitting rock bottom – and offer words of hope to others who may be facing drink problems while coping with the Covid-19 restrictions.
Mother-of-two Angie Wilkinson, from Yorkshire, lost her home, her family and the will to live as a result of drink and drugs and an abusive ex-partner
Mother-of-two Angie Wilkinson hit rock rock bottom when she lost her home, her family and the will to live because of drink and drugs and an abusive ex-partner
She admitted she is struggling with the isolation of lockdown, and said if she hadn’t been in a recovery programme for the past 16 years, she suspects she would be drinking again.
‘Contact is so important for a recovering alcoholic,’ she said. ‘When I first joined a recovery group, I didn’t know what an alcoholic was. I didn’t know if I was or not.
‘I just thought I drank because of the situation I was in. It’s situations like this lockdown and everything that comes with it that can drive people to drink.’
Angie credited staying in contact with friends on FaceTime and attending recovery meetings on Zoom with keeping her on the right path.
After ending up in intensive care after overdosing on drink and drugs aged 33, Angie attended her first meeting.
After ending up in intensive care after overdosing on drink and drugs aged 33, Angie (pictured age 28 during her addiction) attended her first meeting
She told FEMAIL: ‘A family friend took me from the hospital. I had been on a ventilator for four days because I couldn’t breathe. I’d nearly died and they brought me back.
‘I’ve had many rock bottoms. I’ve been in refuge shelters and suffered abusive relationships.
‘The family friend had been in recovery for four years, but he’d never said anything about the drink.
‘He simply said, “Do you want to come to a meeting?” At that time I had nothing left, I’d lost everything, and I thought, well yeah. I’d have done anything to help myself get out of the situation I was in.
Angie told how she has had ‘many rock bottoms’, adding: ‘I’ve been in refuge shelters and suffered abusive relationships’
‘I went not thinking I was an alcoholic. I had to decide that. It was going to a meeting and listening to other people talk that did it. This woman shared about binge drinking and I related to her.’
Angie recalled later going to an empty church in Yorkshire and sitting there in silence, feeling her emotions welling up inside.
‘I just said, “If there’s a God, can you help me?” And I really meant that. I had no faith, no religion. But I just said, “If there is a God then I really need your help.” And I believe right from that point a higher power helped me.
‘I went back, got my caravan and moved to Scarborough and then I started going to recovery meetings and working through stuff.
‘Recovery is such a journey and in the beginning you have to be in pain. You have to be in pain in order to change.’
Angie, pictured as a young mum, recalled going to an empty church in Yorkshire after her first meeting and sitting there in silence, feeling her emotions welling up inside
Since going sober, Angie has taken up fitness in a big way. She’s competed in numerous body building competitions, including taking first place in the UK Bodybuilding Fitness Federation (UKBFF) 2014, as well as marathons. She credits exercise for helping her to stay focused.
Despite not touching alcohol for almost 16 years, Angie, 49, admits that Covid-19 isolation is affecting her mental well-being; but she’s taken the bull by the horns by reaching out to fellow alcoholics.
By helping them she’s helped herself, in what has become a morally rewarding virtuous circle.
She described her first online recovery meeting a couple of weeks ago as ‘really good’.
Since going sober, Angie has taken up fitness in a big way. She’s competed in numerous body building competitions, including taking first place in the UK Bodybuilding Fitness Federation (UKBFF) 2014, as well as marathons. She credits exercise for helping her to stay focused
‘There were about 15 of us. It was kind of a relief. I felt like I was back, it was good to see familiar faces again,’ she said.
‘It was a local recovery group I go to. It’s a real joy just being able to talk about things.
‘It’s not about the alcohol anymore, I haven’t got the urge to drink. I believe that was taken away; I’ll be 16 years sober in August.
‘But even though the alcohol has been taken away, I’ve still got the “ism” part of the equation. Because of isolation, those “isms” have started to bubble up.
‘I get that strong sense of loneliness, and an alcoholic seems to feel that more strongly than non-alcoholics.
Angie, known as the Strength Coach Queen, now helps broken women get back on their feet and grow stronger mentally and physically
‘I’ve covered up my feelings with work and a busy life, but now because of isolating I’ve had time to think and dwell on them. The problem seems to be giving them too much head room.
‘I get this tightness in my belly, a physical “arrrgh” and I have to get it out. I think that’s why I exercise a lot. It’s just there.
‘I know in the past I have got drunk on that feeling, so having that meeting online was vital, a huge relief. Being able to hear how others were coping, that too was a major boost.’
Angie said she believes people who are only a few days or weeks off the drink can ‘really struggle’, but through recovery meetings they can get a point of contact for support.
‘If you’re questioning whether you’re a normal drinker, then it’s possible you’ve got a problem,’ she said.
Angie credited staying in contact with friends on FaceTime and attending recovery meetings on Zoom with keeping her on the right path during lockdown
‘A normal drinker does not question whether they’ve got a problem or not. I think if you’re questioning it, you know something’s not quite right.
‘When I was introduced to my recovery group, I wasn’t told I was an alcoholic. I had to decide whether I was or not.
‘My idea of an alcoholic was a tramp on a park bench drinking out of a paper bag, or someone that woke up in the morning and poured themselves a drink. That’s what I thought.
‘And I thought, “Well I’m not like that. I don’t drink like that.” But the important thing is what alcohol does – when it sets off a craving. I used to tell myself I would have one drink and that was it. But once that first drink gets in, it sets off the phenomenon of craving.
‘Alcoholism is a progressive illness, it’s a progressive disease. And you might just be at the start – the point at which you can stop it. And there are people out there who can seriously help you.’
Angie, known as the Strength Coach Queen, now helps broken women get back on their feet and grow stronger mentally and physically. Follow her on Instagram – @angie_queen_strength.
Businessman Adam Deering, from Greater Manchester lost everything to drink and drugs, blowing a deal worth millions because he was too drunk to turn up to a meeting
Businessman Adam Deering lost everything to drink and drugs, blowing a deal worth millions because he was too drunk to turn up to a meeting
After being expelled from school at 14, Adam spent a brief spell in the RAF – where he started drinking – before ending up working in factories and casual security jobs.
Realising he had a knack for sales, a friend took a punt on him and by 21, Adam was running his own debt management business.
But with money and success came temptation, and Adam’s hedonistic lifestyle saw him spiral into drink and drug addiction.
After one particularly heavy bender, Adam failed to turn up to a meeting that could have seen him sell his company for nearly £7million. Two years later, it went bust.
After being expelled from school at 14, Adam spent a brief spell in the RAF before ending up working in factories and casual security jobs
But hitting rock bottom made him seek help, and thanks to a stint in rehab in Thailand, where he shared a room with Pete Doherty, and recovery meetings he quit booze and drugs and has been sober for almost eight years.
To stay clean, the 38-year-old property developer and father-of-three attends regular recovery meetings with other recovering addicts. But because of social distancing restrictions, face-to-face meetings haven’t been possible, so he is relying on Zoom and Skype.
Calls to alcoholics charities spike amid lockdown
Charities like Alcoholics Anonymous and charity Alcohol Change UK are playing a vital role in organising online meetings and setting up relief networks.
The AA Fellowship usually holds 5,000 face-to-face meetings a week across Britain – a hugely important lifeline that’s currently an impossibility.
Tom Fox, a non-alcoholic trustee elect at AA, told FEMAIL: ‘Our phone lines and online response service has seen a rise in the number of calls since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
‘We are grateful that we are able to help people during this time, either by directing them to another member to speak to or to an online meeting where they can receive help.
‘Since the outbreak, calls to the help line have gone up by 22 per cent and calls to the “chat now” service have risen by 31 per cent.
‘The email response service has seen a rise of 32 per cent, boosted by a 300 per cent increase in requests for meeting information by members as those meetings go online.’
He told FEMAIL: ‘Recovery meetings made it through the Second World War. People stayed sober by having pen pals. We are blessed that we can have FaceTime. We have the technology to stay in touch with people.
‘I connect with other people who are in recovery. That’s one of the first things I do in the morning. I reach out to people to see how they are.
‘I find that just by virtue of helping someone else you’re helping yourself as well. That’s about all we can do.
‘There are always going to be testing times, but you’ve got to adapt and be versatile and use whatever tools are at your disposal.’
Adam added that he has been praying a lot for people around the world suffering from the virus, and those plagued by alcoholism.
‘I’m quite blessed in that I’m nearly eight years sober. But I wouldn’t like to be somebody new, trying to get sober now, that would be hard,’ he said.
‘But on the other hand, a lot of the temptation has been removed. Pubs have been shut.
‘You can still get alcohol from the supermarkets or wherever, but all the pubs and clubs have been closed. So there’s another argument to say maybe it’s a good time to get sober because half the temptation is not there.
‘I don’t have any alcohol in the house. There’s no need, I don’t drink so I don’t have alcohol in the house.’
Adam said understanding if you have a problem with alcohol comes down to whether it’s costing you more than money to fund your habit.
‘I didn’t drink every day. I always binge drank,’ he said. ‘At the end of the day, if it’s affecting your relationships, your work, how you feel about yourself, your self esteem – that’s enough of a problem to say stop.
Adam, pictured aged 23 in his first office, spiralled into drink and drug addiction as a result of his hedonistic lifestyle
Adam with Pete Doherty at rehab in Thailand. He described the singer as an ‘interesting guy’
‘Get onto some online communities, on Facebook, Instagram, for example. And there are also helplines you can reach out to.
‘A 12-step programme is what worked for me so I’ve stuck with it, but people get help in various ways. There are loads of different books and fellowships out there now. People seeking help just need to do some research online and they’ll come across what suits them.
‘We are in an unprecedented time, but there’s never been a time on this planet where we have had so much access to resources. And everyone has a smart device and access to that unlimited resource, so there’s no excuse really.
‘You can reach out, you can investigate, you can find out about stuff. All we are being asked to do is stay indoors. It’s not like we’re being asked to dig trenches and dodge bullets!’
Follow Adam on Instagram – @adam_deering
Adam said understanding if you have a problem with alcohol comes down to whether it’s costing you ‘more than money’ to fund your habit
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