THE Emerald Isle is a beautiful country with breathtaking landscapes from castles, towns, cities, villages and hamlets.
And no doubt about it, our music is the best - from the tin whistle to the box and the fiddle with jigs and reels, the craic is always mighty with yarns and tales of old and jokes thrown in too.
The land we call home, boasts of myths and legends, from St Patrick, the Banshee and Pookas, Finn MacCool to pots of gold and of course a good pint of the black stuff.
From a visit to Dublin to sample the stout or a trot around the Ring of Kerry for a sniff of whisky, a social drink or two is often enjoyed by many, yet alcohol can destroy families and individuals alike.
For some that drink and do it constantly, it can cause problems. For those that do experience this horrid journey, there is a light on the other side, as one Irishman living in Birmingham explained:
My name is Charles, I come from Dungloe, in Co. Donegal and I am an alcoholic.
The wisest words I ever heard were - ‘A man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man’.
I’ve been dry for 15 years and I feel the time is right to let go and pass on what has worked for me, in the hope that this can benefit others.
I am not in the least bit ashamed to tell the world I am an alco’ because the truth sets me free.
Even now 15 years on, if the subject crops up, I tell people why I can’t drink alcohol and I have always found that people admire my honesty.
If the truth be known alcoholism touches most families; it can strike all walks of life from paupers to kings.
The AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is a wonderful organisation that helps countless people stay dry, but it will not suit everyone- sobriety boils down to you and you alone.
I fell off the wagon many times but I tried and tried again until I eventually crawled over the finish line 15 years ago.
I have no idea why some people are gripped and become alcoholics, in comparison to heavy drinkers, or social drinkers, but I can tell you the difference.
A social drinker needs no explanation, a heavy drinker can enjoy 10 pints before going home for dinner long before closing (and can cut down on consumption at any time) and an alcoholic will drink until they drop. An alcoholic will also not eat and rarely sleeps during a binge.
Alcoholism can also be hereditary - a faulty gene, it could also be that the person is allergic to alcohol…your guess is as good as mine.
I have heard many times over the years that it’s an ‘illness or disease’, from defensive and worried families, but it’s mighty strange that this spoken of sickness only strikes when alcohol is consumed.
In my experience the first move in this winnable battle is to sincerely admit there is a problem. If you aren’t honest and only speak to please others then you will fail.
You have to face the truth and be honest with yourself as realising and releasing the truth will in turn release you.
In every alcoholic’s journey there are dry periods, on a binge, most alcoholics will drink until they poison their bodies.
If you are lucky, your liver and heart don’t pack in. Some may end up in hospital to dry out of a most horrific experience and most will end up being violently sick for up to three days and even a glass of water does a U-turn.
It can take up to a week to feel close to normal again and as par course - you swear to everyone never again, but if you are in denial there will be a next time.
The trump card in this is when sober – stay sober. At this point alcohol has no grip or hold over you at all and dare anyone tell me otherwise.
The first drink is the only drink I CAN easily refuse. For an alcoholic a second is impossible to refuse.
I think it’s actually harder to lose weight, where hunger pangs never leave; a dry alco’ will get craves but these soon pass.
I have now learned from my experience that when I fell from sobriety I was ultimately being weak and selfish as I knew full well how it would end and the heartache it heaped on loved-ones.
There are two simple but important points to remember. Mentally, when dry - learn, like I did, to say no. Physically - you need a void filler.
Fifteen years ago my wife bought me an inflatable canoe for my birthday. Just to please her I tried it out on the river Avon in Evesham. I took to it like a duck to water!
Without irony, I can say that something that day just clicked and it was a turning point. There was more to life than drinking.
Soon after that I bought a wetsuit and a surfboard and I have never looked back. My new choice of activity that fills the drink void will not suit everyone but it is so important that this void is filled.
An alcoholic's family can play a crucial role, I don’t mean being his crutch to lean on.
For a family to accept an alco’ saying ‘I can’t stop drinking’ can prove fatal. When in denial, things like that can be said. I used to say that.
Tough love work best if softly softly failed in past. It shocks them in a positive way when you remove the velvet glove and show the iron fist. There’s only so many recoveries in the human body.
If you reach what’s called the ‘tipping point’ it’s all over. I simply refuse to play self-inflicted Russian roulette with my body any more. If you fail to learn from bad experiences from past then you’re doomed to repeat them.
So any dry alcoholic tempted by demon drink must dwell on the hell that will follow.
There is no magic wand in all of this but there is a magic word…NO.
What the future holds, who can tell, but what I do know and accept is that I can never touch alcohol ever again.