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Meet the team – Alex’s addiction story

Port of Call is where you can seek advice and information about addiction recovery safe in the knowledge there’ll be no judgement.

Our team is able to empathise because many of them have been where you are – they’ve struggled with personal addiction and achieved recovery.

Senior Port of Call advisor Alex Molyneux, 53, was a lifelong alcoholic until his pancreas shut down when he was in his early 40s. Now he spends his days taking inquiries from addicts and their loved ones and helping them into recovery.

Alex, port of call

This is Alex’s story:

‘Lightbulb moment’ aged 10

“When I was aged about ten I broke my toe at a family barbecue and someone gave me a glass of wine and told me ‘drink it and you’ll feel better.’ It was like a lightbulb moment. I felt like Superman. All my problems had gone away and I realised ‘this works for me.’

By 14, I was syphoning mum and dad’s drink and putting it in my room and even drinking the odd glass before school. 

I was a child who struggled with quite a lot of anxiety and feeling I didn’t fit in. I always found friendships and relationships difficult and learned early on that it was all a lot easier when I had a drink inside me. For a very long time, drink was the solution, but eventually, of course, it became the problem.

By the time I was 16 or 17, going to the pub with my mates, I’d find someone to meet there early and I’d always be four or five pints ahead of everyone else. At uni I was already drinking every day. I was pretty much psychologically dependent on alcohol by then.

‘In my 20s my drinking was a joke among friends’

I found a profession in importing garments for high street retailers with a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture and in my 20s my drinking was a bit of a joke amongst friends. People would say ‘Alex will always know where the party is,’ ‘if you go to Alex’s for dinner you’ll have a good time.’ In all honesty, I had a lot of fun and some wild times. Fitting in at parties was a lot easier with vodka. Life all seemed better and more straightforward with alcohol.

My decision-making process became linked to alcohol. Access to it was always primary. If my girlfriend wanted to go on holiday, my first thought was always ‘will there be alcohol there?’ If she wanted to go to the theatre, I’d be thinking ‘I’ll need to go home first’ and there I’d drink a bottle of Scotch. 

‘I moved on to vodka’

I told myself I was under a lot of pressure at work and was entitled to a drink to ease it. Hiding three empty bottles of wine a day became difficult so I moved onto vodka and once I’d had a quarter bottle straight down, could enjoy a glass of red. I developed mental rules of never drinking before 6pm, only drinking Smirnoff vodka because ‘alcoholics drink supermarket own brand vodka’ and only wine that cost £10 or more. 

When I was 27, my girlfriend of six years left because of my drinking. When I met another girl a year later, I drank a pint of vodka straight down in front of her and said ‘this is me.’ It was as if I wanted her to know the vodka wasn’t going to stop so she knew what she was signing up for. 

As an alcoholic, you’re very manipulative. You make the people around you enablers. You’re Jekyll and Hyde – unpredictable – and they never know who is going to walk through the door so maybe they get into the habit of handing you a glass of wine when you arrive because you’re friendly and relaxed when you’ve had one. 

‘People had generally had enough of me’

At 30, I was drinking a bottle of vodka a day and set up my own business working from home. Then the drink was always there within arm’s length. I’d stopped being ‘the charming eccentric’ to friends and colleagues and the invitations to social events had started to dry up – people were bored of Alex demanding the party continued until 4am. People had generally had enough of me and I was starting to isolate myself.

I began letting people down more and more and wasn’t a productive member of my family or partnership. I babysat my sister’s children for an evening once and drank a bottle of vodka. No harm came to the children, but I still remember the look on my sister’s face when she got home. There were lots of moments like that. I may have been physically present but I wasn’t emotionally available to anyone.

For a good while, I still stuck to my rules, but might be standing over the toilet bringing up bile at 5.30pm looking at my watch thinking ‘I can’t have a drink yet.’ I always wore chinos and brogues even at home, the Merc was parked on the drive and I told myself ‘there really is no problem.’ If I had an early appointment I’d try to stop drinking earlier the evening before, but when I hit the curb on the way, I didn’t stop to pick up my wheel caps because, really, I knew I was over the limit.

‘It was a slow-motion car crash’

Between the ages of 37 and 42 things started to really go wrong. It was a fairly simple equation – if you put a gorilla in a room and feed it a litre of vodka every day you don’t need a PhD to work out it’s not going to end well. I was ill but didn’t realise it. I had switched to drinking Guinness because it was the only thing I could keep down. I was regularly bringing up dry blood like coffee granules. I couldn’t really function any more – sexually, emotionally or physically. My partner, who was on the verge of leaving me by then, came home one day and found me collapsed. My pancreas had basically given up and liver function was down to 5 per cent.

It was only in hospital, I began to accept I couldn’t carry on drinking, but without alcohol life felt difficult and painful and I didn’t know how I was supposed to do it without drinking. I spent the best part of three months in hospital and had to have an operation to remove part of my pancreas and small intestine. It was the first time I’d been without a drink.

Most people give out mentally to alcoholism at some point but I gave out physically. I didn’t hit a crisis point of losing my job or getting caught drink driving, it was a slow, progressive decline – a slow-motion car crash. 

Happier and healthier now

After that, I basically had a total emotional breakdown and it took three years to get well again. I didn’t work during that time and went to four Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week. I probably could have got better much quicker with more support but I wouldn’t accept it. Fortunately, my partner stuck with me.

Once I was ready to work again, I decided I wanted to continue my recovery in a professional capacity and do something more constructive than worrying 18 hours a day about clothing. I got the opportunity to come on board with Port of Call and the complexity of helping people in crisis ticked the boxes I was looking for.

Now, most of my close friends and the people I associate with are also in recovery. I try not to regret the years I lost or dwell on the damage I caused myself and those around me. Instead, I try to focus on the fact that I don’t think I could be as happy as I have for the past ten years if I hadn’t been so unhappy for the 20 before them. 

After all these years in recovery, I feel I’ve had a net gain. I paid a price for being an alcoholic, but I also learned a lot about life and how to operate and I think I’m in better health now than I was at 32!

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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