“Alcohol was my safety – my only friend. It was the only thing that didn’t judge me, it was there for me. I had nothing else.”
These are the words of recovering alcoholic Sarah Glasby, from Mansfield - who has decided to speak out as part of Alcohol Awareness Week (November 11-17).
She said: “I had a normal life – I got married, had a child, held down a good job with the NHS, tried to conform.
But I was a functioning alcoholic. I was drinking so I could function at work, so I wouldn’t shake. The alcohol would keep me safe.
“Looking back, I spent all my life hiding. I knew about my sexuality – that I was gay. I also struggled with dyslexia as a child. I came out when I met somebody at work. I left my marriage and my family disowned me. I started really depending on alcohol at this point.
“I moved in with this girl, but it was the wrong time for both of us. Drinking was an issue, as my partner drank as well and this didn’t help. It became a normality. I began to hide drink and I was convicted for drink driving.
"Things went from bad to worse and I split up with my partner. I felt really lonely then and lived in a rented house by myself. I would wake and get ready for work, then feel my withdrawals beginning so I would top myself up because I was scared they would get out of control at work.
I was taking time off. Alcohol was my safety – my only friend. It was the only thing that didn’t judge me, it was there for me. I had nothing else."
Sarah has decided to speak out in support Change Grow Live (CGL) – a drug and alcohol treatment and recovery service commissioned by Nottinghamshire County Council, which helped with her recovery.
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“Things started to get back on track with family and then I had the opportunity to buy my own house," she continued. "But drink was still a big issue. My family knew I was drinking, but not to what extent. If I was round their house, I would feel myself getting hot, sweaty and getting the shakes. So, I’d make an excuse to go home just so I could top up with alcohol. I didn’t have any friends – I pushed everybody away. As soon as I finished work, I walked to the station and on the way there I would get a bottle of vodka and have half on the journey home.
"If I didn’t have any on standby, I was really scared.
“At the weekends, I would work at festivals. I was an absolute mess. I would have blackouts and seizures. Sometimes I’d wake up covered in blood. I couldn’t remember how I got home. My parents found me once at home covered in cuts and bruises. I don’t know how I got in that state.
“I decided to come off alcohol on my own. I didn’t realise the implications of coming off it suddenly, even though that was my job – I worked in a mental health unit. My seizures started because I stopped drinking all of a sudden. It made me ill and I had seizures and blackouts. I lived on my own and my brother would come round and find me passed out. I really isolated myself.
“I had a seizure at a family wedding in Spain because I’d come off the alcohol too quickly. I had psychosis and they put me in a hospital in shackles. It was like being in a mental institution in the dark ages. But even that didn’t stop me drinking.
“I went back on the drink on several occasions and tried giving up again.
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“My sister in law tried to help me, but she was beside herself. She took me to the doctor and they told us about CGL. My sister in law supported me tremendously in going there. I went there and was clean for five weeks. But I got too complacent, thought I was sorted, went back to work and within four days I was back on it heavily. I was having psychosis.
“I went back to CGL. They breathalysed me and I was off the scale. My sister in law couldn’t believe I was walking straight and talking normally with so much alcohol in my system. I had a key worker who supported me and my sister in law. She got me the medication I needed for my psychosis. I was a higher level of danger at this point because I was seeing things. I kept thinking someone was in my house. It was a really difficult time.
“When my mum passed away, she left me her house. I moved in straight away. I’d cut alcohol down at this point but one afternoon, when I was being really sick, I remember looking out of the window and just thinking ‘I’ve got to stop’. That was on 17 June 2018 and I’ve been dry for 16 months now.
“I stuck with it and stuck with it and stuck with it. It was really difficult but I did it. My worker, Liz, referred me to Double Impact, a centre in Mansfield that supports people back into work. I’ve thrown myself into the courses. I’m really determined.
“I want to work in recovery. I currently volunteer with Citizens Advice Bureau as an adviser. It’s been amazing. I’ve got my confidence back, they’ve given me a chance.
“CGL will always be with me. It wasn’t all about me. They also supported my family. You don’t think about the effect it has on the people who love you.
“I’ve achieved so much in 16 months. I’ve passed my driving test again and got my licence back, I’m doing volunteer work and I’m building my relationship with my daughter. I appreciate everything so much more.
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“Alcoholism is an easy road to go down, but it’s damn hard to climb back up. I have to be self-aware and that’s what will keep me sober. It’s important to not be complacent. It’s been a gradual process, but I manage to talk myself out of trouble.
“If I was talking to someone else who was going down the same road as me, I would explain how it can take over your life and possess you. Breaking up with vodka is the worst divorce you’ll ever have. You have to grieve it. My main aim now is to work with people who are going down that road. I’m a mentor at Double Impact and I’m supporting others. That’s my passion. It’s not in my life no more.”
Amanda Fletcher, Consultant in Public Health at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “Sarah’s story shows that it can be done and that people can get their lives back with the right support. It’s fantastic that she’s now helping other people to recover.
“Many people wouldn’t consider that they’re drinking too much, so this campaign aims to give people the information they need about units of alcohol, calories and the possible effects on their health and wellbeing so they can make informed choices.”
If you have concerns about your own drinking, you can contact CGL at www.changegrowlive.org or 01158 960 798