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Hi, my name is Darran and I’m an alcoholic. I was born in 1973 in Lanark; I was the firstborn child of parents who had plans of having a big family. When I was four years old my mother was expecting again but she suffered an ectopic pregnancy which meant she couldn’t have any more kids. I grew up in a home where the only time I saw alcohol was at Christmas, New Year and family gatherings. My parents just didn’t drink in the house. My parents were very caring and gave me what I wanted and my grandparents too. I was a spoilt child which I loved but I didn’t have any siblings and at times would feel very lonely, craving attention.
In school I was always being told off for misbehaving and nearly all of my report cards would say ‘can do better’, ‘must try harder’ and ‘daydreamer’ but I didn’t care. I just wanted a laugh and it made me feel great when I would do daft things and the class would laugh. Unfortunately I never grew out of that and in later life with alcohol thrown into the mix it landed me in some serious trouble with the law, relationships and jobs.
I grew up in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire where my childhood consisted of playing football, riding my bike and playing hide and seek. I loved bird-nesting too which was collecting birds eggs. Me and my mates would walk for miles and miles and climb any tree that had a nest in it just to get an egg. Although I loved playing football I was never really good at it. I used to look at the boys who were good and it made me feel like I didn’t belong. When I got picked for the team one night I panicked and didn’t do well and I remember going home feeling gutted. I think I was about nine years old then and I never played for that team again.
I had my first drink when I was 14 years old. It was a half-bottle of Buckfast and the feeling I got was that I had arrived and I loved it. It gave me confidence and a new, fresh outlook on life that I loved. This is what I had been waiting for. I never looked back from that night and at school all we spoke about was the weekend and what we would be drinking, what girls would be there and how much of a laugh it was going to be and I knew that as soon as that wine was in my system I would have the confidence to be one of the team. Out of the four years I spent in high school I was suspended 11 times for no other reason than I just didn’t care and the sad thing is I was more than capable of doing the work. I wasn’t mentally challenged so to speak although I was called 'mental' on a few occasions.
There was never any honeymoon period with my drinking. From day one I drank for effect. I drank to get drunk, that was normal to me. I would get drunk really fast and not once did I ever think “I’ve had enough”. As long as the night was young there was always room for more and I would just keep drinking. It soon became the norm for my mates to talk about the things I got up to and we would all laugh but more often than not I couldn’t remember doing any of the things they were talking about and sometimes they would tell me stuff so extreme that I honestly thought they had made it up. But the truth is I was an alcoholic having blackouts not knowing what a blackout was. To me all that was just part of drinking and it was something I just accepted.
My parents noticed from a young age that I had a drinking problem and my mum would always say "You’re gonna end up like yer papa.” She was referring to my dad’s dad who also had this illness but I always used to shrug it off. I was never going to be that bad, not me; I was only having a drink with my mates.
I started work when I was 16. It was a YTS training scheme and I thought I had made it because I was now out of school for good and working, earning my own money so now I could do what the hell I wanted. I was a grown man and had it all worked out. I earned about £24 a week on the YTS and I gave my mum £10 out of that. We got paid on the Thursday and by Friday morning I was skint, tapping my mum and that went on for years and through every job. I’ve always worked since back then but every job I had I lost through drinking because once I took the first drink I was out of control and would take days and weeks off work.
I first got arrested when I was 16 for breach of the peace and I ended up with a £50 fine. Because I had been arrested it made me feel like a big man. Out for a drink with the boys I boasted about what I was shouting at the police from my cell. It was all lies of course; I was a scared daft wee boy needing help. It wasn’t long after I was arrested again for nothing more than being a drunken fool and that continued throughout my drinking career but the most serious arrest came in 1992 when my cousin’s son was born and we all gathered to wet the baby’s head at his house. The drink dried up after only a few hours and nobody had any money so I decided it would be a good idea to get a toy pistol that I had and a rubber mask and it wouldn’t be a problem to just walk into my local shop and hold it up for drink. This was normal thinking for me and it landed me with a charge of attempted armed robbery which brought shame to my family but still didn’t stop me drinking.
I knew by now I had a drink problem but kept telling myself that as long as I stuck to beer or spirits I would be fine but I never was fine. I even got work in Holland, Gran Canaria and Cyprus thinking that it was this place that made me behave the way I did but of course those jobs didn’t last long as all I did was get drunk and soon I was on my way home with my tail between my legs and all the excuses under the sun.
I had met my wife in 1994 on a weekend trip down south and although we planned to keep in touch we didn’t. Eleven years later through an internet site we found each other and became good friends which in turn led to a relationship and she moved to Scotland in 2005. We bought a house together and not long after decided to get married even though my drinking was getting worse. I kept promising to calm it down but I didn’t. I’m surprised she’s still with me but she is. We have two kids together today and I have a daughter to a past relationship who is very much part of my life.
It’s been just over 10 months since I last had a drink, a day at a time. AA was a last resort for me as I had tried before to stop myself. In fact it had come to a point where I didn’t want to drink ever again, I hated the stuff and I hated what it did to me and my family. I was full of fear and insecurity and was suffering from depression. My first meeting was Hamilton Wednesday night at St John’s Church five days after I last had a drink and I really didn’t know what to expect but I remember the welcome I received and how smart and clean everyone looked and I just knew at last I truly had arrived. I knew I had a chance in here and today, by doing what’s suggested and not lifting the first drink, I have a great chance of never lifting another drink.
There is a lot of laughter in my home today and my wife and kids have peace in their lives. My kids cuddle me and tell me they love me every time I leave for a meeting or to go to work or to put them to bed and that is amazing because when I drank they would be away out of my way. I love my family with all my heart and today I’m learning the true value of that and to think I nearly lost it all for a lousy drink.
No thanks, I’ll stick with the winners.
Hamilton Central Friday Night