The alcoholic child's story
The Guardian, Saturday 25 July 2009
"I got my first taste of alcohol when I was a tot – my mum used to give me whisky in warm milk to help me sleep. She was a big drinker, a binge drinker. At the age of 11 I had my first proper drink. I found a bottle of advocat in the bathroom cupboard, and I had some. I was incredibly ill, but I guess I must have liked the sensation because after that, I went on looking for more.
"I had a difficult childhood. My mum was on her own, but then when I was nine she remarried. It was an abusive relationship and I was abused, too. I desperately wanted to be normal and to cope, despite everything that was happening to me. Alcohol helped. I'd steal money from my mum's purse, and borrow from friends, to buy booze.
"At 15, I remember thinking for the first time that I really needed a drink. I was up against it and alcohol calmed me. I felt I couldn't get through the day without it. I remember searching for 10ps down the sofa so I could buy sherry. And I turned to spirits, because I got my hit faster.
"After school I got a job in a department store, but I was coming in with a hangover then drinking at work, so I got sacked. I've had jobs since, but I've often only barely managed to function.
"Eventually I got so bad that I'd be sleeping in pubs, not cleaning my teeth, plastering make-up on over make-up I'd put on yesterday … I was going downhill fast. I'd tried Alcoholics Anonymous before, and at 31 I tried it again. It was a struggle but it's now eight years since I had a drink. The legacy of my drinking years is that I've got a terrible memory and nerve damage in one hand, but it could be so much worse.
"I've gone back to university now, and it's strange being with all these young people who drink themselves silly. Sometimes I wonder if I should say something, but I never do. People have to make their own mistakes. The trouble is when you drink you're only thinking of now, never the long term."
"Sarah" is a pseudonym