My 11th Year of Recovery

Perhaps stemming from middle-child syndrome between girls (it’s a thing!), I’ve always been competitive in most things measurable! I LOVE to win, but not by cheating, or to the cost or detriment of others. I try to be humble. At boarding school, I took satisfaction in small things, like having the nearest bed and locker in the 100-boy dormitory. First to shower, teeth and meals, and last to leave study at night. I came first place in all subjects, dux even, and strong at sport (captain rugby, tennis, rowing). Overall, I was labelled with ‘all-round excellence’. Not quite a Rhodes Scholar or an Olympic-level sportsman, but good enough to always be at the top, and never mediocre! For me, at the time, being mediocre was a scary thought.

My parents have always been hugely supportive, very loving and we’re a values-based family, believing that kindness and tidiness are next to Godliness. Very regimented from early on and we were all taught to be unapologetically independent.

After great high-school results, university, then fumbling around for a couple of years searching for a career, I fell into a young vibrant bank sales department with a massive partying and drinking culture (pre GFC). At the time, I could cope and thought nothing of it – we were invincible of course! Partying became a habit and then I grew into the instigator and the organiser of these drinking activities (almost daily – during and after work).

My behaviour and activities deteriorated to the point where I realised, I was in much bigger trouble and the slippery slope was steepening. Personal disasters occurred and my world continued to crumble. Among other embarrassing stories was one that rocked me to the core and still scares me. I was attending a large conference on Queensland’s Gold Coast, representing the bank. These were the rewards for top reliable salespeople, and a total privilege. True to form, at the gala event, I got myself completely blind. Alcohol is everywhere at these events, unlimited! I do not remember how or when, all I remember is that I woke up the next morning in a kids’ playground at Broadbeach. I had no idea where I was or how I ended up there, because it was kilometres from my hotel. I had no wallet – I had lost it. I had no hotel key, that was gone too. Also … no phone. I managed to get back to the hotel, who had already packed my suitcase because they thought I had run away – I did not answer my phone (lost remember!). I missed the pack-down from the conference. I missed the rest of the team as they had all left. I missed my flight back to Sydney. I then had to face the music and reality when I got home to explain this situation to my girlfriend (to be wife), friends, boss.

 

I thought it was the end of my world again. I had no idea what to do. What a bum! What a loser! How could this happen to someone who is so intelligent, such a great leader and a bright example, such a high performer? Eventually I determined there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Everyone is different, perspective is unique. I had some inner things to tackle before moving forward.

This time it was a few weeks before our wedding, I was trying hard to be good. Living alone was too tempting though, nobody had to know if I had a few by myself … a dozen beers later, I wanted McDonalds for a late-night snack and decided the best way to get there was to drive. Luckily, I did not physically hurt anyone, but the police noticed my erratic driving and pulled me over. Clearly, I was drunk. They put me in a cell until I officially tested high-range PCA an hour or two later, in the middle of the night. There went the job (sales rep, on the road), and a dark cloud over the wedding, honeymoon, and entire future together. Would I always be like this?

By the time we were married, I knew I had to change my drinking behaviour – at the very least if I wanted to STAY married. I had tried AA, had attempted cold turkey; I had tried a few different psychologists and a clinical psychiatrist … tried many strategies. I tried to stop by myself, I tried alcohol-free beer, I thought I could manage – after all, this was meant to be the best time of our lives! It worked for a while, until it no longer worked.

The cycle continued and because I could not stop drinking, I was depressed. And because I was depressed, I could not stop drinking more to numb the shame, guilt and embarrassment.

It did not take long for another catastrophe. A couple of months later I was rejected at a job interview … I didn’t go home … that afternoon I completely lost it. I started my own pity party pub crawl on the way home, walking. I was devastated. By 10 pm, I had not made it home, my new wife could not reach me (I had lost my mobile phone again). She was at the end of her tether. She called my dad. He was 600 km away and jumped in the car and drove through the night to Sydney. When he arrived at our home, I was an incomprehensible mess passed out on the bathroom floor.

I realised I couldn’t get on top of this on my own. A rehabilitation facility was tabled by my psychiatrist. Fortunately, we had a good relationship, and he was also a consulting clinical psychiatrist at an Inpatient private clinic. I was recommended, booked, and checked in there in just a matter of weeks. It was time. Time to get better. Rehab was no walk in the park. Four weeks intensive program as an inpatient, then another three years of weekly sessions as an outpatient, both by myself and in couples’ group counselling. I can truly say that all these kind people saved my life. They all intervened to help cease my pattern of self-destruction, in order for me to survive.

This was not an instant recovery (nor is it a full recovery). I hid everything from everyone for probably five years until I was comfortable discussing my alcohol issues. There was a deep sense of massive guilt (what I did) and shame (who I was). Plus, it is not very ‘blokey’ for a twenty-something year old Aussie male to talk about feelings and not get pissed like everyone else does.

Now I have passed all that – it’s pure clarity. The gains are limitless and growth is continual and ongoing.

I have passed what I refer to as my ‘Early Life Crisis’, moved into a successful ‘Career 2.0’, and I’m into my 11th year of recovery – able to utilise the power in my adversity to fuel a life more amazing and full of purpose than I could have ever imagined. In particular, the last two years (2019/2020) I have experienced accelerated growth. I’ve shuffled priorities, with home and family coming absolutely first. We write a gratitude journal together over dinner every night.

I cannot imagine a better life and I am passionate about giving more. I have learned that giving and kindness are two ‘superpowers’ (yet they are so easy!). There are so many particularly inspiring people in our world! I love to listen to them, absorb the small details and weave little parts of their journeys into mine. Their paths have driven my hunger for deep and continual growth. I can visualise a bright future ahead for my family, one of our own beautiful design and intent!

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  • Beautiful story and very relatable

    By Chris Dalia
    |
    March 17, 2021
  • Inspiring and courageous. Well done!

    By Harry
    |
    March 18, 2021
  • Wonderful uplifting story.
    Many parts really resonated with me.
    Thank you very much for sharing.

    By John
    |
    March 18, 2021
  • Awesome work! And it IS work! I’m so happy for you!! Gail

    By Gail Boserio
    |
    March 18, 2021
  • Fantastic share… A couple of points resonate with me too.. The bit about blokes and not getting pissed together, that is hard one to square off (I am not an Aussie but come from a Northern working class hard drinking background) and the kindness of strangers. I am about to hit 3 years sober and the journey has been made significantly easier by people I either didn’t know or have never met, just helping… Thanks for sharing, hopefully it will help people like me that needed to know that I wasn’t alone in what I 2ws facing.

    By Will Gordon
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • Awesome Will. So happy you could relate. Especially as I am not a ‘blokey bloke’.. where exactly does someone fit? After feigning for so long! That was tough. Keep up your awesome work. Strangers are amazing!

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Well don and very best wishes for the future.xx

    By Clare Felton
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • A very inspiring story, much of which resonates with me. Thank you for sharing.

      By Tiffany
      |
      March 23, 2021
      • Glad you could understand some of it Tiffany. All the very best to you!

        By James Brett
        |
        April 4, 2021
    • Appreciate your comment Clare. Best wishes to you, too!

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Thankyou for your beautiful honest authentic story of redemption James. You are brave beyond belief. As someone who is also many years sober I can truly say that ‘the best is yet to come’.

    Today is the first day of the rest of our lives and the rest of our lives CAN be much greater than the past.
    ‘One day at a time’.
    Wishing you your greatest days ever ahead
    Kerrie 🙋‍♀️😊👏

    By Kerrie Atherton
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • 🙌🙏 Kerrie!

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Wow. Thank you for sharing and being so honest. A cautionary tale of how alcohol can take on a life of its own and take over the life of a mere mortal. Many workplaces known to me historically have a lot to answer for and I hope they are different now. Shareholders must have funded a lot of trips down a lot of rabbit holes. Such a tragic waste of money, and lives left in ruins.

    By Maureen
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • Maureen, I am lucky to be alive and well, it could have easily taken a different path. Hence wanting to share and help. Thanks for your comments! It’s very appreciated. James

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Inspiring, you should be very proud of yourself.

    By Jodie Butler
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • Very proud, just behind fatherhood. BUT, want to put the energy to good use! Thanks for reading, Jodie! James

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Thank you so much for sharing. I know where you have got to; I want to be, and relate very much to the situation which led to chaos in your life . I will keep this blog for inspiration and hope one day I can truly say 11 years free

    By Annaliese
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • Hey Annaliese, please let me be the first one to congratulate you when you hit 10 years. Let me know. I will be so happy for you! It’s magic. James

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing your story. Sober life really does = our best life! 🙂 Congratulations on 11 years of sobriety.

    By Elyse
    |
    March 18, 2021
  • I have read your inspiring story of complete distraction to a beginning of a new constructive life, full of endless possibilities and blessings for you,your family and loved ones.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

    By Yvonne
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • Hey Yvonne, thanks for reading. It’s not easy for me to admit, in my situation, but it’s time to share and hopefully help mend others’ where possible. Truly thank you for reading. James

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • congratulations 👌 I’m just going on my struggle with alcohol To try and stop, Thx for your inspiration and heart felt story

    By Lorrette
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • Lorette, keep learning and growing and I’m proof it’s possible. Accept all the help, and all the best in your journey – Hello Sunday Morning (Daybreak app) would have been amazing for me 11 years ago! James

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • What a great story of strength. I think you are amazing.

    By MJ
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • MJ – many thanks. Nice you think I’m amazing.. it’s a rough ride, not all fun, but soooooo privileged to be still on the ride – learning and growing 🙏

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Kindness and giving….winning

    By Jan
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • Yep! James

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Wow, thanks for sharing your story, which resonates on so many levels for me! I wish you all the best in your recovery, as I am also in recovery.

    Cheers

    By Craig Jensen
    |
    March 18, 2021
    • I am sending this on to someone that means the world to me hoping they will be inspired by your story. I hope they seek help again as they have stumbled & can’t see it for themselves. I am so scared for him & his family. God bless you, & I hope you stay strong.

      By Robert & Kay Walkley
      |
      March 20, 2021
      • Robert and Kay, I am wishing the absolute best to your close person – may they be safe. 🙏

        By James Brett
        |
        April 4, 2021
    • Awesome Craig! Amazing stuff and keep up your great work too!

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • I love this story. Thanks- it shows that even people who do not have specific trauma can be trapped by this powerful substance and can, not only escape, but love a joyful life of purpose. I’m going to share this. I wish these kind of services were available to people who don’t have private cover, many Australians rely on public health care and there’s not much available, especially in rural and remote areas.

    By Katie
    |
    March 20, 2021
    • Help should be available to all. It is time for the alcohol venders to fund the detox and rehab facilities.

      By Vicki
      |
      March 25, 2021
      • Just imagine that!!

        By James Brett
        |
        April 4, 2021
    • Hey Katie – you are not wrong. Circumstances for me mean I am one of the lucky ones, for so many reasons. You highlight very important health issues, thank you. Alcohol (and Mental Health) related individual and community impact is not reducing – and will not unless more is done. Thank you. James

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • A great story highlighting that alcohol addiction can affect anyone! It doesn’t matter if you are intelligent or a high performer, sometimes this can make you more prone to addictive behaviours. I could 100% relate to this. Thanks for sharing James and congratulations on 11 years!

    By Sarah
    |
    March 21, 2021
    • You got it, Sarah! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. All the very best to you. James

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Awesome read. Good on you for not giving up. Keep up the good work ok.

    By Mary-Therese Gilbert
    |
    March 23, 2021
    • Many thanks 🙏. James

      By James Brett
      |
      April 4, 2021
  • Brilliant!

    By Aaron Johnston
    |
    March 27, 2021
    • Thanks 👍

      By James
      |
      March 30, 2021
  • Banking and finance has a shocking drinking culture. I’m also into year 11 of Recovery. It does get easier but people don’t understand that it doesn’t go away.

    By Leanne
    |
    April 3, 2021
  • Thank you Chris – some courage needed 🙌

    By James Brett
    |
    April 4, 2021
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