In this blog, Charlotte Webb opens up about her experiences of alcoholism and being trapped in toxic cycle of binge drinking and withdrawal. After realising she needed help, she reached out to Recovery Near You who supported her to give up drinking and move on with her life.
How it started
Alcohol didn’t really interest me until my early twenties. But from the age of 23, I was going out regularly, always trying to keep up with the lads I was drinking with. I would often end up getting into scrapes, arguments, walking home alone, and not remembering much the next day. A couple of times, I even ended up in A&E through injuries sustained due to being inebriated.
As I entered my early 30s, my type of drinking changed. It became more of a crutch for the work stresses I was under, including greater pressures and workplace bullying. One glass of wine turned into two, escalating to three, then a bottle which became two bottles. Eventually, at the height of my alcoholism, I was drinking in excess of three bottles of 12% wine every single night.
I would wake up in the morning with shakes, sweats, nausea, all because I was withdrawing from alcohol; my body needed it! I was still going to work but I would spend all day withdrawing. By the time I got home, I would feel awful. I’d have to drink the first bottle with a straw because I couldn’t pour it without spilling it everywhere.
Alcohol impacts the quality of your life, removing your ability to go out and live normally. It exacerbates anxiety. If you’re already a naturally anxious person, nervous about crossing busy roads, then imagine being an anxious person withdrawing from alcohol. I would feel as if oncoming buses were going to topple over and crush me. I’d be sweating, in total fear. I would hide in shop doorways with my hands over my ears to escape the chaos – I must have looked ridiculous.
I was trapped in this vicious cycle that I couldn’t get out of. I eventually lost all of my friends who felt that they could no longer help me. I still had my family, although I hid my problem from them for a long time, a common behaviour of an alcoholic: of hiding, denying and downplaying the drinking. This is why I drank alone at home rather than going out. Drinking for all the wrong reasons.
In October 2017, at the age of 35, I finally sought out the help I so desperately needed. The Recovery Near You team provided me with a fantastic support worker called Hannah. I’d see her once a week to talk through all manner of things: my drinking habits, how to change them, triggers, managing these triggers and removing obstacles from my life. The time, tools and mindset that Hannah gave me were absolutely fundamental to me eventually quitting alcohol.
To quit, you’ve got to want your life back and be committed to abstaining. It’s a bit like a toxic ex-boyfriend that you keep going back to; there will come a point where you know that the relationship is not right, and you don’t want it any longer. I didn’t want a relationship with alcohol anymore and I don’t think I’ve ever been more sure of anything in my life. But because of the amount of alcohol that I was drinking it was extremely dangerous for me to go ‘cold turkey’ – I would risk having a seizure as my brain was physically dependent upon alcohol, almost on a level with water, food, and oxygen. Recovery Near You did blood tests to check my liver function to ensure it was safe to proceed with a detox programme, whilst also assessing my mental health to confirm I was in the right headspace.
Following my successful assessment, I was put on a detox programme for 12 days. During this time, I took a prescribed medication that suppressed all of the withdrawal symptoms and eliminated the risk of seizure. It was the most amazing feeling to be free, to be able to go and see my nephew and not have to leave early because my withdrawal symptoms were getting out of control.
I consider myself an alcoholic and I consider myself to have been on the road to an early grave. If I’d have continued, there’s a very big chance that I would have started drinking first thing in the morning, potentially losing my job and becoming homeless, perhaps losing family too.
Making a change
Very early on in my recovery I started to make a number of positive changes in my life. I decided I would never work in a toxic environment ever again. I also made changes to my diet, started travelling more and decorated my home.
Whilst all of these changes were incredible for my mental health and quality of life, the big change came when I picked up a pencil and drew some flowers. This was the start of a new chapter, a new career. I had previously studied A Level Art 20 years earlier, but never really did anything with it after getting into the 9-5 routine. I started painting canvases and my partner encouraged me to do something with it. I studied a foundation year, got a fantastic score and started a degree at University of Wolverhampton, specialising in illustration.
One of my projects for this year was to create an illustrative piece based on a topic that I felt passionately about. I wanted to raise awareness of alcoholism, drawing on my own experiences and exploring the reasons people drink, as well as the long-term effects (see illustration below).
It’s been three years since I quit drinking alcohol, during which I lost three stone in weight and gained a much longer lifetime of wonderful experiences. I have also set up my business, CBW Fine Art and Illustrations, and I’ve been able to travel with family and new friends (albeit not in the last 12 months). I can honestly say my life has never been better. Everything I do now is for me and my loved ones. I genuinely don’t miss drinking and can’t stand the smell now.
My advice to anyone who thinks that they may have a problem with alcohol is talk to someone like the wonderful staff at Recovery Near You – they are there to help you, not judge you. Be prepared to make some big life changes; move away from situations that pushed you to turn to drinking in the first place so you can break the shackles of alcohol dependency and truly be free.