My name is Will and I am 37 years old. I grew up in a lovely little village in Wiltshire and my childhood was very lovely. We lived in the middle of nowhere – it was all about climbing trees and helping Dad on the farm. My parents were not wealthy but they did the best for me.
Then I started school. I didn’t really enjoy school or connect with people and the trends like having the best trainers and things like that. Through my childhood and early teens, I had no major trauma – nothing nasty happened to me to make me start drinking heavily. It was all good really. Then in my early teens I became a quite a good competitive dinghy sailor. I started racing and competing nationally and then competed in the worldwide championships in August 2001 in the US. I did quite well and it was a real highlight of my early sailing career. It was amazing, it was wonderful…
Through my childhood and early teens, I had no major trauma – nothing nasty happened to me to make me start drinking heavily.
I took a gap year and moved to Australia. It was a lot of work and play. I was drinking but it wasn’t a problem, just a few cold beers socially. There were no cravings or anything like that. Then I went to university. That involved quite a lot of binge drinking – ten pound all you could drink nights and the hangovers started to get worse. I was sleeping all day and partying at night. At this stage, I was not really dependent but it was definitely heavy drinking.
I came back from university and taught sailing and worked on yachts. Then the drinking really became a part of my lifestyle. I was living in the Mediterranean. The guests where coming out on holiday. I was getting a lot of drinks bought for me. I remember returning home in 2007 and sitting round the table thinking ‘I really need a drink’. By that time I was back in the UK doing dead end jobs and just going to the pub and thinking about my next drink by about ten in the morning and looking forward to going to the pub and having a pint.
I decided to get a job in Weymouth – the Olympics was happening down there and I was teaching sailing at the Olympic site. I did the job for two months. It was all going really well. I was going out a lot partying and one day I drove into Weymouth under the influence and got caught drink driving. The job offered to keep me on – it was good of them but not feasible, so I had to return to my parents with a one and a half year driving ban. So on my bike I got and I started teaching sailing in the Cotswolds Water Park. It was great; I didn’t have to think about driving. I would cycle to work, cycle to the pub and then cycle home. It was just beers in the evening and it became routine.
I drove home drunk and lost my driving licence for the second time.
A year and half later I got my driving licence back and I got a really good job selling speedboats with a company truck. I went out and celebrated quite hard when I got the job. I drove home drunk and lost my driving licence for the second time. It was a four year ban – which was a long time. I had my wings clipped and was back working dead end jobs. It was just a case of earning the money to spend on drink. I didn’t do any sailing and was very rarely out with friends. At this point from 2008-2009 I was drinking on my own. It was a really dark time. I didn’t know myself and was really numb. I was just a parasite, a living creature that didn’t have any goals or future. Relations with my parents became difficult. I was pissing the bed a lot, going to work hungover, my skin looked horrible, and my general health was deteriorating quickly. I then had a chat with my cousin who ran a circus at the time. He said to me ‘come and work for me we will get you sorted out’. So that opportunity came up and he took me under his wing. I was still drinking and my behaviour continued. My drinking and behaviour were not acceptable to society basically. I was getting violent, I was being rude, and I was upsetting people. One day he asked me to pack my bags and took me back to my parents – he told me I needed to get some help.
In 2014, I went to a rehab clinic for the first time. I think that was a turning point for me and when I started this journey. I did a 28 detox programme with some therapy. They introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and told me to get myself to a meeting. They put me on a detox which completely knocked me sideways. I went home and stayed sober for three or four weeks and then relapsed.
Things then started to get really bad… I was gambling and drinking and spending thousands of pounds.
For that relapse I was in a local pub. My uncle was there and told me that I was a disgrace to the family. It really hurt. I saw red and basically gave him what I was thinking at the time, which was not pleasant. It was threatening and I frightened him and his wife. Things then started to get really bad. I went back to a treatment centre and did a 28 day programme again. I came out, did a month and then relapsed again. At this point, my parents took control of my finances. I was gambling and drinking and spending thousands of pounds. I took a £15,000 loan and spent it in eight months on gambling and drinking. My parents said this couldn’t go on. They drip fed me cash and said if you drink you are out. Then I drank, I was out. I came back one night in a drunk state and when I got home, there was a bag with my stuff in. My mum gave me my debit card, my passport and said see you later.
I went and lived in a hostel in Chippenham. It was very difficult – everyone was using and drinking. I would beg. I wouldn’t have called myself the typical beggar. I was clever I would go to a wine wholesaler and pretend to be a publican and ask to try wine. Or wait in a car park and pretend I didn’t have a pound for the trolley and that kind of thing. I was really, really poorly. Then one day, I was in Chippenham, very drunk. It was a saving grace almost – I saw one of my dad’s friends. He said I looked awful and I said to him, I feel it – I need to go home. He spoke to my parents and told them I was in a bad way. My parents took me under their wing and very briefly I got sober. And then I was drinking again. At this point it was the biggest rock bottom of my life. I was knocking on doors in the rural village where my parents live, pretending I had friends coming over for lunch and asking if I could borrow a bottle of wine because my car had broken down. I would then be necking the bottle on the way home, hiding bottles around where I live, in the flower beds when I was doing gardening work and that sort of thing.
Shortly after this point, I stole alcohol from a neighbours shed. I did it twice. The second time I got reported and was arrested for burglary and breaking and entering. I was sent to prison for 12 weeks and served six. I was on a vulnerable wing – it felt like staying in a grotty hotel for six weeks. I came out and stayed sober for nine months and then relapsed again. I did the same thing again and eventually broke into a garage twice to steal alcohol. I got caught and charged with this and the other offence so it was a third strike burglary. The lady I stole from was a friend of my mother, she wrote the judge while I was on remand in prison for 14 weeks. I was on a very rough wing at prison. I was in with the big boys this time. It was horrendous, it was scary, it terrified me.
When I was in prison I wrote myself a sincere plan of where I wanted to be and where I wanted to go. The main thing on there was to stay sober.
I managed to rustle up some good character references. These helped and they sent me home on a suspended sentence with a GPS tag and some help with offender management. That second sentence was a real wakeup call – it terrified me and scared me enough never to drink again. Some of the things I saw inside were horrendous. Fighting, people making weapons – it was scary. When I was in prison I wrote myself a sincere plan of where I wanted to be and where I wanted to go. The main thing on there was to stay sober. The biggest one after that was to help other people realise there is a chance, there is a life and an opportunity to turn your life around. For me that is what it is all about now. It was something within me – the feeling that if I pick up a drink, my past will become my future. When they let me out of prison the second time I saw the sun and the grass and realised that this could be the start of the rest of my life.
Since being released from prison the second time, I have done a lot. I’ve achieved a lot. I decided I wanted another qualification. I am now a qualified pet behaviourist. I did a canine behavioural therapy course. It was actually really good for me, I learned lots about myself and my behaviour. From there, I am now racing my sailing boat competitively and am off to the national championships later this year. Racing my boat is like taking a drink for me. When I am on my boat I have the same feeling – I don’t think about anything else but racing and sailing. I go to three AA meetings a week. Two on Zoom and one in person.
I’m helping other people. I’m still in very early recovery. I’ve had a write up in a local paper about my sailing achievements, which mentioned I was going through recovery and being sober. The help is there. I am lucky to have supportive parents and this made it easier. I think I could have done it without them but it would have been a lot harder. I now work together with my dad. He trusts me and there is laughter in the house again. We talk truthfully and I live an honest life today. All the people that I stole alcohol from have understood I was ill and I had an illness. The AA fellowship is a massive help – I would say to anyone trying to get sober – get into AA. I have made some great friends through it. For me now, it is all about trying to take the stigma out of the illness. Proving that people can change and can turn their lives around.
There are people that think it is your own fault you are an alcoholic. For me it was an illness, I was very sick.
A lot of my extended family are waiting for me to have a blip and pick up a drink again. That motivates me not to. It inspires me not to. I have a nephew who I am allowed to see and that is great. I know if I was drinking, I wouldn’t be going there. There are people that think it is your own fault you are an alcoholic. For me it was an illness, I was very sick. Although our behaviours are really bad when we are drinking, we are not bad people. We are nice people. We are not unfixable.
The thing I would say to people is: if you are struggling, get yourself to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, talk to people, and talk to your doctor. If you get the opportunity to go to a treatment centre, even better. But when you come out make sure you go to meetings, ask for help. For me it had to be a rock bottom. I had to reach that scary, terrifying point that alcohol took me to never want to go back again. I know alcohol will always be there but I choose not to drink it and as a result my life is okay today – it is pretty good. I have my bad days too. I am able to do things and want to help people. I want to thank the people that have helped me, including my AA group, and tell people going through it that your past doesn’t have to be your future.