The human cost of alcohol: “Either I was just going to kill myself or I was going to get better”

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Today we focus on the human cost of alcoholism with the story of one man’s decades-long battle with booze, from drunken teenager to hitting rock bottom and wanting to die.

Rod Anderson was a successful car salesman, who worked his way up to becoming a regional manager with an automotive giant. His story is one of working round the country, staying in hotels and running up an expense account while his wife stayed at home and brought up their young children.

The latest feature in Scotland's relationship with drink. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The latest feature in Scotland's relationship with drink. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Money was never an issue for Rod as he earned enough to fund his drunken lifestyle. Rather, his problem was staying one step ahead of suspicious employers and family as his life spiralled into a web of deceit and misery.

Rod, aged 47, is a father-of-two, originally from the village of Drummore in Dumfries and Galloway. Here is his story.

“My relationship with alcohol started when I was about 17 out drinking at the weekend.

“I enjoyed the feeling, it gave me more confidence and made me feel better about things.

Rod Anderson with Nicola Sturgeon

Rod Anderson with Nicola Sturgeon

“I just loved doing it and it became a regular thing for me, drinking every weekend and it became a little bit more regular.

“My drinking wasn’t a problem but there was an obsession creeping in. If you asked me to take my turn at driving I would find any reason not to do that. I’d just pay for a taxi so I didn’t have to drive and could drink.

“I left home to live and work in Edinburgh.

“In my twenties I was drinking most evenings but not to excess.

A survey has shown that Scots pint drinkers are being served shorter measures than those down south

A survey has shown that Scots pint drinkers are being served shorter measures than those down south

“I was just having a sociable drink, wine with my evening meal, I would maybe go out for a couple of pints. I thought everybody did that and I was normal.

“There was the odd comment from people about me being a party animal and always wanting to get drunk. It came to define me – I thought it was funny.

“I worked in the automotive industry as a car salesman.

“It was a hard-drinking culture.

“By the time I was 30 I had worked my way up into a management role.

“I had plenty of money and I was married and I had a little boy.

“I was drinking heavily – half a bottle of whisky a day and wine at dinner.

“I wasn’t dependent on alcohol in a physical sense but I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without it.

“I convinced myself ‘well I can’t sleep if I don’t have a drink’ but a lot of that, I now know, was me justifying my behaviour.

“I used to think people who didn’t drink were boring.

“I was a regional manager which meant I covered the whole of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“The significant thing for me was that I was living in hotels.

“I didn’t have anybody monitoring my behaviour or the amount I was drinking. I had an expense account – entertaining was part of my job.

“When I got home I had to hide my drinking as it was becoming a problem in my marriage.

“It was a relief when I left home on a Monday morning and I wouldn’t be back until Friday night.

“It snowballs then, I’ve still got this good job which I’m managing to hold down but my behaviour had been noted. I got drunk at events and that was now getting mentioned on a regular basis.

“By the time I get to 40 my drinking was out of control – my hangovers were unmanageable.

“I was getting up at 4am and drinking in the mornings. Very quickly everything went pear shaped – I started on 24-hour drinking.

“Physically I was really ill and mentally I was all over the place.

“I was having withdrawal symptoms if I didn’t get enough drink – shaking, sweating and being sick.

“I couldn’t hide it any longer from anybody of course.

“I reached out to get help at that point to Addaction, a large drug and alcohol charity.

“They recommended I have a detox, so I approached my employer. I was open with them and said ‘look this is really what’s going on’.

“I had hit rock bottom, my marriage was nearly over because my wife was so fed up with me. I knew I had to stop drinking.

“I broke down when I told my line manager what was really happening because I’d been lying for some time.

“I said ‘look I’m an alcoholic and I’m dependent on alcohol but I have made these arrangements to sort it all out’.

“They were initially supportive and gave me time off, so I was able to go through the five-day home detox process.

“They give you medication so you don’t have seizures, you don’t start fitting which is what happens to alcoholics when they stop drinking – you can have a seizure and die.

“I was elated because I thought I was free from the shackles of alcohol – this is what AA call the ‘pink cloud’.

“I thought I’ll just get back to work and that will be fine but while I’d been off they decided they wanted to dismiss me and I was fired.

“At that point, I’ve got no job, I was sober for a couple of weeks and I started drinking again.

“At the end of 2012 – I ended up in hospital because I thought I was dying. I thought I was having a heart attack and my wife phoned an ambulance.

“I got rushed in and they said ‘actually Mr Anderson you’re not dying – you’re having a panic attack’.

“While I was in I got an emergency detox and started taking my recovery seriously.

“I was going to peer support groups and I was sober for 18 months when I started my own little garden business.

“Foolishly, because the work I was doing was seasonal, I took a job back in the automotive industry when it came to winter time because I needed money.

“The job involved staying away from home but I convinced myself this would be OK and I wouldn’t misbehave.

“But of course I’d also convinced myself that I might be able to drink again safely.

“To cut a long story short I wasn’t able to do that. So I left that job and ended up back in treatment at the end of 2013.

“I had hit rock bottom – I was mentally very ill. “I was still with my wife who was massively supportive to me and at that point I didn’t want to keep living. I’d had enough.

“However, I did decide that I had a decision to make – either I was just going to kill myself or I was going to get better.

“I started engaging with Addaction and at this point in my recovery it wasn’t really to do with alcohol – it was to do with my mental health. It took me a long time to start feeling mentally OK but after six months I started volunteering for Addaction.

“After a few months of volunteering I got a job working for Addaction as a part time project worker then I went full time with them.

“I started a little recovery charity with other people and we have a cafe every Thursday night where people can come and socialise in a safe environment away from drugs and alcohol.

“I was fortunate to be recognised by local politicians and I was given a Local Hero award last year for my recovery activities which I received from Nicola Sturgeon and the Queen.”