Warren, aged 53, from North London knew he ‘didn’t drink like normal people’ from an early age. Growing up in a physically abusive household, he drank to escape the memories of humiliation and brutality. As a teenager, with his spirit crushed, he found that alcohol could help him with his extreme shyness, especially around women. It gave him the temporary self-esteem and confidence he didn’t possess. He drank for 25 years and at the end of his drinking he found himself on a park bench. Homeless and an itinerant drunk, he begged, borrowed and stole to fund his habit.
At the end of his tether, Warren in desperation attended his first 12 step meeting. Throwing himself into the programme, he went to a meeting everyday for the first four years. Now a man with a faith, Warren is active in the Buddhist community and is married and a father to stepson James. He is also an enthusiastic comedian on the stand up circuit.
“As a sober man today my life is fantastic, every aspect of my life has improved. I quite literally have a life beyond my wildest dreams. I never dreamt I’d have these wonderful conditions I have today. It’s changed in every single way, its changed materially, even on a very base level, the shoes I put on my feet, the shirt I put on my back, the roof over my head, the food I put in my belly. I can do all these things today. I have integrity and that is the greatest gift, it’s what I always wanted, my life has changed in wonderful ways.”
Warren was 13 years sober at the time of filming.
Katie, aged 39 from Lancashire, was told by her doctor in her teens that she had organic liver disease that wasn’t related to alcohol consumption. But she couldn’t stop drinking. She drank to cope with extreme social anxiety and depression. It became her medication, her answer to mental suffering. For Katie, addiction and mental health go hand in hand. When she ended up in rehab she wasn’t aware she was an alcoholic. Suicidal, agoraphobic and desperate, she was put on antidepressants, valium and sleeping pills. She had tried CBT but it hadn’t worked. At rehab she learnt a lot about addiction and ‘dual diagnosis’. She started attending recovery groups and built up a network of peer support; people who were going through similar things. She achieved four years sober. With relapse a common part of addiction, Katie finally relapsed after a mental health crisis precipitated by multiple bereavements.
She now takes her recovery a day at a time, uses meditation and relies on her support groups and network to maintain her sobriety.
Katie is a talented singer songwriter who has learned to perform without alcohol despite suffering with anxiety. She has been singing professionally in function bands since the age of 19. She started writing her own songs as an outlet for her suffering, a practice that has proved cathartic. Her creativity continues to inspire and encourage her recovery journey:
“The advice I would give to somebody who wanted to get sober is to ask for help because I could not have done this on my own. I was so lost and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. The best thing that I did was just keep asking for help and when I found support groups of people who were suffering from the same thing as me – that’s where the magic happened. That’s what recovery is all about, the unity of everyone helping each other and sharing common difficulties and overcoming them and living life. Living and thriving without having to use alcohol.”
Katie was 4 months sober at the time of filming.