Alcohol use disorder: “Quitting alcohol allowed me to rebuild my life!”
Published Mar 2, 2022 • By Candice Salomé
Ledalle, a member of Carenity France, has struggled with alcohol use disorder for over 20 years. At first it was a recreational, social drink... until it became a real addiction. He fought his way out and now knows he will never touch a drop of alcohol again.
Discover his story below!
Hello Ledalle, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us on Carenity.
First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a 66 year old man. I am a fishing enthusiast. I am also a civil servant for my local municipality, I am married and father of 4 children and grandfather of 5 grandchildren.
Photo courtesy of Ledalle
You dealt with alcohol use disorder for many years. Could you tell us about how it came into your life? When did you start drinking and what was the context? How long did you drink?
Alcoholism entered my life in a stealthy way without me realizing it - I kept on drinking more and more and enjoyed it each time.
I first started drinking alcohol when I was 21, so I was legally considered an adult. At that time the drinking age was 21 in France.
We thought we were superheroes and we liked to show off to our friends! So, at the beginning, I would mainly drink when I went to clubs. Then, it was drinks in the café in the evening, after work, and games of cards and pétanque, with the bottle always near us!
Then, in the morning, we had a coffee with cognac before going to work to warm up.
Then, when I got married, there was always an excuse to have a drink or invite people over. We spent evenings playing games and drinking with endless aperitifs...
In short, everything revolved around alcohol! I drank from the age of 21 until I was 44!
At what point did you realize that your drinking wasn't just recreational but part of an addiction? What did you do? How did you feel?
I started having tremors in my hands. I talked to my doctor about it and he told me not to drink anymore but I didn't want to believe him! I thought I could stop whenever I wanted! My doctor then said to me: "If you can manage not to drink a single glass for a whole week, then you can say that you are not addicted. Give it a try and we'll see each other afterwards to discuss it!"
I couldn't even do without it for more than two days! That's when my wife and I tried to do it by buying non-alcoholic drinks. And it was worse, I was craving but I didn't understand! I thought that I could manage with remedies or shortcuts like that. I went back to my doctor for help.
Remedies calm the anxiety, but the withdrawal is stronger! My alcohol intakes were becoming more and more frequent. I would start at 6 AM and drink until the evening. I always needed my little dose to keep me going... And the worst thing was that I was never drunk, I remained lucid but I was always shaking.
Nevertheless, I was was feeling miserable about it and about myself... I made everyone around me suffer, I wanted it to stop but I couldn't and no one understood me.
I was an alcoholic, period! And I couldn't see a way out...
What was the trigger that led you to stop drinking alcohol? What did you do to stop? Did you get help? How hard was it for you to stop drinking?
Seeing my wife cry... I was scaring her! I couldn't control my hands, I was shaking all the time.
I asked to see an addiction specialist who saw me and asked me to take it upon myself to learn to fight, to be ready to stop drinking for 5 weeks.
He gave me some remedies to help me and asked me to note the time of all my alcohol cravings and how long I managed to resist.
Each time I wanted to drink, it was really hard... He gave me an appointment 1 month later with my notes.
He only took the most motivated patients in the treatment center because there was only room for 15 people each week! And so, for the success of the program, they only took those who were the most willing...
I felt lost... So I asked my doctor to help me and to get me into the addiction clinic of the hospital in my town for a medical detox. It was very hard, I was cold under the covers, I was shaking, I was in withdrawal... My wife cried to see me like that, but it gave me the strength to do it!
Each day became harder and harder, I begged to leave for rehab and after 15 days, the hospital released me... That was a mistake because, at home, I had bought Pacific (a non-alcoholic, anise-flavored apéritif), to replace pastis (a French, anise-flavored spirit) and aniseed syrups.
I was looking for that pastis taste in everything! I stopped eating, I just drank... Then I started drinking again, but in secret, at home, so as not to worry my wife. I drank 180 proof (90% ABV) alcohol that I mixed with a little water and mint syrup. It was madness!
I called the clinic back and asked them to have me committed again. I had to wait and show some willpower. So I went back to the hospital to wait for a detox and it was the right time. A spot became available and I went by ambulance, from the hospital to the clinic, I felt saved because I knew I would be helped. I couldn't do it on my own!
How has alcohol and alcohol use disorder affected your personal and professional life? How did you friends and family view your addiction? Did they support you when you quit? Was it or is it still a taboo subject?
I had no problem with my work, I ran a fish farm, a job that was a real passion, and as long as I was working, I could hold on! The fish forced me to be fit, for the sake of the fish farm.
But at home, I saw my wife crying a lot... That's what gave me the energy to do it! In addition, my daughter was 4 years old and I could see that she too was asking questions. I was hurting everyone around me!
Not to mention the money that was going into alcohol!
But my wife helped me to hold on. We talked a lot even though she couldn't do anything for me, she listened to me and had confidence in me! That's why I hung in there. However, she was always afraid I wouldn't make it.
I didn't behave badly when I drank, I laughed, I only thought of good things...
And yes, in those days, we didn't talk about alcohol addiction being a disease. They said: "You're an alcoholic, a drunk..." People are cruel when you drink, they don't try to understand, you are pigeonholed!
Do you still have cravings or feel drawn to drink? How has stopping drinking changed your social dynamics? Do you allow yourself a drink from time to time?
No, I'm afraid of alcohol, I think about what I've been through, the suffering. I watch what I buy: pastries, ready-made meals, chocolate... I look at every ingredient to make sure they don't contain alcohol!
Since then, I have always warned people at work and in my family that I don't drink alcohol and that they shouldn't try to push me to drink!
I can smell alcohol at 20 paces! I run away from alcohol, I can't stand it anymore!
Since then, I am no longer afraid to get out and about, to see people, to be in society or at a family meal, even if people drink an aperitif or wine while eating, it doesn't bother me any more, and it doesn't make me want to! When I see alcohol, I see the miseries of my life and, believe me, it is not to be relived!
I will never touch a glass of alcohol again and I don't blame anyone who does drink because no one is equal when it comes to alcohol! That's how it is, we are all different when it comes to alcohol!
What has stopping drinking changed in your life? What were your plans once you started your recovery?
Stopping drinking allowed me to rebuild my life, especially with my family!
We started going for walks again, we went on holiday, we were together. We had a great time! And I was happy without alcohol.
I managed to join my local council and I managed to become a council member.
I'm retiring on February 1, 2022 and I'm happy to have had a good career. I wouldn't have been able to do it if I had continued to drink.
In your opinion, do people remain "addicts" for life? If so, what strategies can be put in place to maintain one's sobriety?
One slip... and all is lost! You should never forget it! You must always remember the difficult moments with alcohol, the harm it has done to you, my wife's tears..
If you make a mistake, you should immediately go to the clinic or see your sponsor (if you're part of a program like that) to understand why you made this mistake. You mustn't keep it to yourself but talk about it...
Finally, what advice would you give to other Carenity members also faced with alcohol use disorder?
People who doubt their alcohol dependence should do a simple test: try to go one week without drinking a single drop of alcohol!
And if this is not possible, you should recognize that you are ill and addicted to alcohol and seek help from an addiction specialist before the alcohol takes control of you!
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