Depressed and anxious, Sam turned to alcohol to help him face the world. Instead, it brought him to the brink of losing everything. Now, after turning his life around, he helps those facing similar battles
As I lay on the pavement at 4am on a freezing night in February 2019, with a ripped shirt, no wallet, no phone, an empty can of cider, and covered in snow, I thought: “If I just lie here long enough, then hopefully I won’t wake up.”
I knew that I was out of ideas, with all self-respect gone, anxiety at an all-time high, and feeling so depressed that I couldn’t even face my own children. I wanted to die because I couldn’t do it anymore. But at the same time, I wanted to live, because of my family. Something had to change, I couldn’t carry on like this…
Looking back, I had a perfectly normal and loving upbringing, did reasonably well at school, and was successful at sport, so I can’t blame anything in particular for what happened to me.
Approaching my late teens, I remember starting to feel disconnected. I began to push close friends away, reduced how much sport I played, and eventually felt very isolated and alone.
I will always remember my first trip to the pub. It was 1 September 2001, and England were playing Germany at football. England won that game 5-1, but I remember feeling happy for a very different reason. I had discovered alcohol that night. It was the beginning of the end for me – a fuse was lit – because I thought I’d found a solution to how I was feeling.
From that day on alcohol was my medicine, and when I started my working career it was like a ticking time bomb. My first job, as an apprentice at a well-known car manufacturer, ended as quickly as it started. I couldn’t handle the pressures of deadlines or other people, and could never understand why everyone else always seemed so happy. I just thought I was a bit grumpy. I didn’t associate me, a 20-year-old man, with the tag of depression.
Instead, I started on a pursuit of happiness, filling my life with different jobs, cars, clothes, and every activity I could imagine. It was like having a New Year resolution every month. I thought filling my world with external fixes would change me. Ultimately it didn’t. Nothing changed the way I was feeling inside.
My mood fell lower, anxiety was getting higher, panic attacks where becoming bigger – essentially my mental health was collapsing. To top it all, at 22 I was now a heavy drinker.
In my quest to change the way I felt, I decided to travel the world. I can remember feeling excited, but it was short-lived. It turned into three and half months of uninterrupted daily drinking, at all hours and to the extreme. Nothing, or no one, was going to stop me.
I remember being in some of the most beautiful places on earth, with everything to look forward to, but still feeling desperately unhappy, continuously on edge, wondering what people were thinking of me, and completely exhausted by my own mind.
In 2014 I was blessed with my first child, a beautiful little girl called Eva. The feeling of becoming a dad was amazing. Holding a baby you had helped to create, and seeing yourself in another form, was beautiful.
No one should struggle with their mental health, no one should have to suffer alone, and no one should be deprived of the knowledge to help them get better
For six months I tried connecting to Eva, but I just couldn’t. I loved her with every fibre in my body, but just couldn’t connect. Night after night I would ask myself: “What is wrong with me?” Today, I know that I had undiagnosed postnatal depression.
By 2015, my drinking was out of control, and so were the lies. I was looking for shelter from everything, and being sober didn’t give me the protection I needed. Naturally, I would spend a lot of my time alone, depressed and drunk.
Every morning I would wake and wonder how it had happened again. Why could I never go for one drink with family, friends, or work colleagues, without ending up out of control, alone, and hungover.
So, the next two years fell into a pattern. I would wake up with a hangover, go to work, come home, say goodnight to Eva, and then drink for the rest of the evening until I fell asleep. I became irrational over simple decisions, I gave up on my physical appearance, and just accepted I was going to be this way for the rest of my life – unhappy, isolated, living in fear, and depressed.
Then 2018 brought me another gift – a second little girl. Just as beautiful as my first, Ada was my little bundle of joy and she brought so much happiness to me and my family. She was perfect.
And she brought me some hope. I mean, how could a man with a good job, a family, and two beautiful little girls, live like this? That was why something happened to me on that freezing night in February 2019, as I lay in the snow, wanting to die. To this day, I struggle to explain what happened. It was a feeling that I was going to change, and that this time I truly meant it.
Two days later, I went to see my GP, but a different doctor was standing in. She didn’t ask me the usual questions, instead she just simply said: “Sam, you are an alcoholic, and you have been drinking to help your poor state of mental health.”
Four hours later I was in recovery, and the journey to change my life had begun. Within weeks, after speaking with people, and being honest with how I felt, I could notice the difference. I stopped drinking, the cravings went, and my mind started to clear. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I haven’t looked back since, and my life just keeps getting better. What saved my life was being given the knowledge about poor mental health, the knowledge to change, and the support of people around me.
So today, I now give this knowledge away. I am a co-founder of a company called Mentality, which is there to help people like me. We provide the tools needed to live a happier and healthier life, for free.
No one should struggle with their mental health, no one should have to suffer alone, and no one should be deprived of the knowledge to help them get better.
Hold on to whatever hope you have, because change is possible. You can get better, and you will live the life you have always wanted. Your next decision could be the one that changes your life around. Be brave and go for it.
After all, we all deserve to live our best life.
Rav Sekhon | BA MA MBACP (Accred), says:
Sam’s inspirational story highlights the damaging impact that alcohol can have on our lives. However, even more so, it evidences the wonderful power of the mind. Sam was struggling for many years, using alcohol to cope with difficult emotions – a cycle that many of us fall into. With strong will, determination and good advice, Sam was able to break the cycle and live a life that he values.