My name is Allen and this article is about my recovery journey from alcoholism, depression, anxiety, bipolar and a personality disorder.

On 12th October 2005 I took my last drink of alcohol and the following morning I was admitted to a psychiatric unit. On reflection I didn’t know what was going on and I had no clue what was happening to me emotionally, physically or mentally. All I knew was that I was going into hospital for a short stay to get better and I would not see my young children for some time.

But get better from what? What was happening to me? When could I go home? What was this medication I took at morning and at night?  It was like a constant conversation in my head and I couldn’t turn it off.  Little did I know that I had been admitted because I was a risk to myself and potentially others and I was initially going to be detoxed from alcohol and drugs. I was never the world’s greatest drinker but I loved everything about alcohol and now realise that since my early teenage years’ alcohol had been a constant in my life at home, in pubs, on the train to work, in the park, in the toilet, in secret or in the open.

So, I stayed in that psychiatric unit for 6½ months and I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and prescribed mood stabilising medication.  Since then I have experienced two courses of electro convulsive therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, one-to-one counselling, 12-step programmes for drugs and alcohol, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and numerous self-help books.  But still I am not ‘cured’! And I don’t think I will be.

This week I will reach 14 years of sobriety. It’s a great achievement considering that there was a time I couldn’t go a day without alcohol. 2018/19 has seen me admitted to another psychiatric unit, following numerous suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts, an additional diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and a dawning realisation that I need to go way back to my early years to start to really understand myself. Childhood / teenage trauma, bullying, substance and alcohol misuse, relationship problems, low self-esteem and lack of confidence, financial woes and debts have mounted up over the years.

The past 14 years have enabled me, with the help of a 12-step programme, to manage life, be as good a father as possible, to be a son, brother and uncle, and a friend. I have been able to study towards a degree in psychology and counselling. I’ve become a mental health first aider. I suppose now I need to look at myself and listen to others as to how I can manage my mental health and addiction, be the best father I can be to my son and daughter, and focus on what I need to do to alter the cycle of mental illness that has plagued me for so long.  Long term therapy seems to be the best option and I am midway through this. It is harder than anything else I have done but it also is giving me insight into my thoughts, feelings and behaviours. That is literally miles away from early 2018 when I asked a member of the Home Treatment Team if I could go into hospital and when I shared for the first time that I have heard a voice for most of my life and that this voice has had an enormous negative affect on me

I have always found to my detriment explaining how I feel extremely difficult and at times I get completely overwhelmed and unable to express my feeling and emotions as they are so intense.  I hope that this is a part of me that my therapy can help me with and also give me the skills and confidence to be able to share my feeling and emotions with my children, family and friends.

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