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MY NAME IS [REDACTED] AND I’M AN ALCOHOLIC

Our writer has spent over 20 years in the industry with a stellar CV under his belt, working most recently as a successful General Manager at one of London’s most prestigious hospitality groups. He approached us to share his story in the hope that his journey would resonate with others.

“Right everybody. You’re taking next Tuesday off. It’ll be a paid working day. It’s been a tough year and I’m taking you all out to get smashed.”

The rest of the management team cheered. My stomach filled with butterflies. I knew it’d be a good night out. But I didn’t know how far I’d take it. Should I try and slide off early; say I wasn’t “in the mood”? But even I knew any attempt to get away would be half-hearted. In my line manager’s words: “You’re not going anywhere. You add good value to a night out.” And it was those words that kept me there. Those words that referred back to our previous management night out were at 8 pm, whilst everyone else was enjoying their mains, I was dancing on the table, a white napkin reconfigured as a bandana around my head. Of course, everyone found this entertaining… Only in hospitality.

 

I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been sober for the last 4 years. I’ve never said this publicly and only revealed this “secret” about myself to my closest family. For 4 years I’ve simply said “I don’t drink” and answered any queries with a shrug and a change of conversation, allowing them to make their own assumptions about me. But it’s true. I don’t drink because I am an alcoholic.

My boozing story started out when I was about 16. That feeling of elation of finally being old enough to go out with friends; hit the pub, and go to a nightclub. I had no curfew. I felt grown-up. Looking back on it, the tell-tale signs of my alcoholism started there. Each Saturday I’d push myself to be the drunkest, slyly nipping to the bar to buy 2 or 3 double vodkas and lemonade to push me further ahead in my own little race to be the drunkest guy of the night. Why? Because as a shy teenager, I loved my drunken alter-ego. I became a joker, finding the confidence to chat-up girls and on a Sunday morning, nursing a horrific hangover, I took comfort and pride in the various phone calls from buddies checking if I made it home okay and congratulating me on my drunken endeavours. “Oi Jim, you were funny as fuck last night.”

 

At 17, having always performed very averagely at school, I stumbled into hospitality, getting a job with a well-known 4-star hotel. I loved everything about it. By 23, I was running one of Glasgow’s most prestigious cocktail bar and restaurants. It was a lot of hard work. 80-hour weeks, but for as hard as I worked, I partied equally as hard:

MONDAY | 9 am – 6 pm | 2 pints after work; home; cook dinner and share a bottle of wine with my girlfriend; cheeky whisky digestif.

Units consumed 12.5

 

TUESDAY | Day off | Pop into a pub on my own at around 5 pm for a couple of pints; buy some beers and a bottle of wine for dinner; cheeky large whisky as a digestif

Units consumed 12.5

 

WEDNESDAY |Day off (kind of) | Attend meetings at work before leaving at 5 pm to meet my non-hospitality friends for a few pints and dinner. Potential to end as a messy night out with several sly double vodkas and coke in a nightclub…

Units consumed between 12.5 – 25

 

THURSDAY | 11 am – 11 pm | Long day. Sink a few pints after work. I deserve it.

Units consumed 12

 

FRIDAY | 11 am – 1 am | Another long day, rewarded by 3-4 beers while cashing up. Meet the rest of the team at a local bar, boozing until 3 am. Don’t know when I’d get home.

Units Consumed between 12 – 25                                                                                                       

SATURDAY | Exactly the same as Friday

 

SUNDAY | 9 am – 6 pm | Lunch service on a hangover. Finish at 6 pm and reward myself with a few pints after feeling the Sunday rage. Buy a bottle of wine on the way home to share with my girlfriend.

Units Consumed 12

 

Total Units Per Week (roughly) 100-120+

I was working and drinking in this pattern for roughly 3 years when it suddenly dawned upon me that I had a problem. I had an evening to myself one night, with no plans to meet my buddies. At home, I realised I hadn’t been to the pub and had no booze in the house. I had been looking forward to a night in with pizza and a film, but I was restless. I tried to ignore the urge but I couldn’t. I popped out to the shops and bought some beers, happy for an evening, fighting the knowledge bubbling away under the surface that I had a problem.

 

Fast forward 10 years and I was married with two young kids; running now some of London’s coolest bars, restaurants, hotels and members’ clubs. On the outside all was grand. Except I was still working and drinking as before. If anything, I’d picked up an additional 10 – 15 units a week, the mid-shift sneaky pints at local pubs adding 15-18kg to my weight, leaving me tired, burnt out, and lying to my doctor about how much I drunk. But even as he told me to try to cut down on my “14 units a week”, he didn’t see it. No one, in fact, knew quite how much I was drinking and no one (to my knowledge), knew that I had a problem. Not my nearest and dearest family, nor my closest buddies and work colleagues. I could hold a good 5 pints without anyone knowing I’d had a drink and I’d become a master of working to a high capacity whilst nursing horrific hangovers.

 

Until that night happened. The “I’m taking you all out to get smashed” night. I wake up at 11 am in my hotel room, fully clothed with no recollection of anything post 8 pm. I know we had a 3-course dinner, but I can’t remember a single thing about what we ate, or who I sat next to.  All I remember is a vague recollection of walking around the hotel lobby at around 5 am in my bare feet, red-wine-stained-lips asking the staff if they know where I can get some gear from… I had been due to start work at 9 am.

 

Of course, I didn’t show. Instead, I retreated home to lie on my couch in a quivering mess: paranoid about the gossip I’d subjected myself to, paranoid about letting my fellow workers down, paranoid about what I’d tell my wife about being AWOL for the last 12-14 hours, paranoid about the fact that I was still drinking and behaving as I was a teenager… And what was worst is I knew that this wasn’t a one-off. It had happened before. And it would happen again. Unless I got some help.

*Names and places have been changed in this article to protect the identity of the author.

 

The second instalment of this article will explore the ways in which the writer began their road to recovery and the ways they were able to seek help.

If you, or anyone you know, is currently suffering from addiction or emotional distress and would like to seek help, we have a list here of organisations who can provide support, some which are hospitality-specific.

If you would like to reach out to the author, please get in touch with them via our resident mental health expert Merly at askmerly@countertalk.co.uk, who will put you in touch. Your correspondence is completely confidential and kept 100% anonymous, now and always.

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