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Rishton man opens up about his alcohol addiction

Nov 17, 2021

It’s Alcoholic’s Awareness Week and an East Lancashire man has opened up about his own experience with recovery from alcohol addiction.

Dan, from Rishton, said his life has drastically improved since he started attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings.

He is now a Public Information Liaison Officer for AA and he is encouraging anyone who thinks they might have an alcohol addiction to attend a meeting.

Lancashire Telegraph: An Alcoholics Anonymous poster An Alcoholics Anonymous poster

Dan even opened up about how his work with the organization’s marketing strategy helped British television presenter, Adrian Chiles, consider his own drinking habits.

Dan, who wishes to remain anonymous, said his problem with alcohol addiction stemmed back to his teenage years.

He said: “My problems with alcohol first started as a teenager. I had an abnormal reaction to alcohol and I automatically wanted another one when I took that first drink.

“I would drink heavily and started to produce my own alcohol at around the age of 14.

“It’s when I started suffering from blackouts and I remember collapsing at the age of 16 and the police had to pick me up.”

In the years that followed, alcohol began to impact many aspects of Dan’s life.

He explained: “I would cheat on my girlfriend and then drink to avoid the guilt.

“I thought it was alright to go to work under to influence.

“I would finish work, then I would get the train home but I would be drinking in the toilets of the train and I thought that was normal back then... I probably felt very ashamed to be doing it."

In 2001, his partner left him just months before they were due to get married and she listed his drinking as a key reason.

He said: “I came home from work one day and I had a strange feeling inside that something wasn’t quite right – and there was a letter waiting for me.

“The letter said she had left me, and the main reason was for my drinking. She wrote ‘I told you to go to AA and you have just ignored what I said.’

“I remember reading this letter, totally in denial, thinking I didn’t have a problem with alcohol.

“But five minutes later I was running off to the shop to escape the situation that I was in.”

In 2005 he decided to move to Greece but brought his drinking problems with him.

Dan explained: “I thought ‘I’ve had enough of life in East Lancashire. I’m gonna go to Greece and drink like the Greeks do’.

“The time that I needed a drink got sooner and sooner. I always said to myself that if I drank before midday I was an alcoholic, totally disregarding the fact that I would be drinking until the early hours of the morning.

“These were some of the stereotypical ideas I had about what an alcoholic is.”

Dan’s moment of clarity came when his father suffered a heart attack from his home in Italy.

He explained: “My dad had a heart attack in Italy and this was his second one.

“I felt completely powerless over his situation and of my own and I ended up breaking down and crying out for help on my knees for the first time in my life.”

Unable to commute to an AA meeting in Athens, Dan decided to come back to the UK for help.

Lancashire Telegraph: The van Dan drove home in from Greece The van Dan drove home in from Greece

“I had a spiritual awakening,” he explained. “The last thing I wanted to do was leave a beautiful island and come back to a rainy Rishton.

“But I had a complete change inside myself and knew I had to do something about my alcohol addiction.

"Luckily, I had met a group of lads from London who were on holiday there and one of them told me his life story of how stopping drinking had changed his life and suggested I got to AA if I needed help."

Lancashire Telegraph: Dan in Poros, Greece Dan in Poros, Greece

Dan spent four-and-a-half days getting home while driving which Dan describes as the “longest and hardest journey” of his life.

At 29-years-old, he had his first AA meeting that week in 2005 with stereotypical preconceptions that it was filled with “misery” and “down and outs”.

He explained: “Once I walked into that room it was completely the opposite. It was filled with smartly dressed people chatting and having a laugh.”

“I took a lot of hope away from that first meeting.”

“AA has changed my life completely. My luck has changed an awful lot since I’ve been coming to meetings.”

Since then, Dan has been working closely with AA working on information and marketing campaigns in an attempt to reach as many people as possible.

According to Dan, one of his proudest moments was when he discovered that one of the billboard posters he had worked on reached a famous presenter - Adrian Chiles.

Dan actually met Adrian in 2013 after winning a trip to see a football game in Prague, unaware that his work with AA would reach Adrian years later.

Lancashire Telegraph: Dan with Adrian Chiles in Prague Dan with Adrian Chiles in Prague

Adrian Chiles, who has been open about his alcohol addiction, said one of the AA’s posters truly made him question his relationship with alcohol.

Dan explained: “In around 2017 I put an idea on the table about doing a big publicity campaign with big billboard posters which we put around major train stations in the North West – which was a dream of mine as it would help many people.

“One of them was at Manchester Piccadilly and Adrian Chiles said he saw the poster and it made him think about his own alcohol problems.”

Speaking on Good Morning Britain in 2018 while promoting his documentary ‘Drinkers Like Me, Chiles said: “I saw a poster arriving at Manchester one Sunday evening and it was for AA.

“It was a picture of a park bench and it said ‘just because you don’t sleep on one of these doesn’t mean you’re not an alcoholic’ and I think that was a good point well made.”

Lancashire Telegraph: The Manchester Picadilly AA poster that Dan worked on The Manchester Picadilly AA poster that Dan worked on

Dan would like people to consider their own relationship with alcohol and seek free help with AA if they think alcohol is costing them more than money.

He explained: “Since going to AA meetings,my mental health is much better, I’ve stopped smoking using the AA 12 step program of recovery… my life is a million times better.

“I’ve been able to sort out a lot of anger I had and a lot of fears – especially fears around responsibility and having children. Today I am a proud father of a 9-year-old son”

Six local AA members will be appearing on Garry Scott’s Radio Lancashire show on Thursday (18 November) to tell their story.

How to reach out to Alcoholics Anonymous

If you think you have a drinking problem there are many ways to reach out for help with Alcoholic Anonymous (AA).

The organisation is solely concerned with personal recovery from alcohol addiction and the continued sobriety of individual alcoholics who turn to the Fellowship for help.

As the title suggests, members can choose their own level of anonymity and what is said in meetings is kept confidential. No sign up or commitment to AA is ever required and nobody is ever forced to speak at a meeting.

Call or email

If you need help with a drinking problem either phone the local help line on 0161 839 2881 between 11am to 10pm 365 days a year or contact them by email:  help@aamail.org .

If any organisation would like free literature, posters, videos or information sessions on AA, please contact the East Lancashire Intergroup via email eastlancsaa@gmail.com.

Online chat

If you need immediate help and want to speak to someone instantly, they also have a chat function on their website which you can use to speak to an AA volunteer.

If this function doesn’t work or you are disconnected, feel free to call: 0800 9177 650.

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