Preferred Name: Fozz
Fozz works in the employment services sector, is single and lives on his own. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’: he was born in England, as were his parents.
Fozz began drinking in his early twenties at university and over the years his alcohol consumption increased to the point where he says he ‘couldn’t structure a day without having alcohol in there somewhere’. He’s been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and has attempted suicide twice. After the second attempt, he made a commitment to himself to stop drinking and has kept that commitment. He’s now on antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication, and no longer drinks.
Fozz started drinking in his early twenties at university and his alcohol consumption increased over the years. As he puts it, ‘[Alcohol] became more and more necessary’ as he ‘couldn’t structure a day without having alcohol in there somewhere’. He’d plan his alcohol consumption meticulously, recording his drinks in a ‘drinks diary’ and scheduling the time between one drink and the next. During this time he was working full time and as the amount and frequency of his drinking increased, he started to be absent from work several days a week. His boss raised the issue of his frequent absences and after some discussion, Fozz decided to resign from his job.
About four years before the interview, Fozz had to move from the flat where he had been living for many years to a new place, to which he ‘never ever adjusted’. Shortly before the move he lost his two pets. He recalls the profound impact that the move and the loss of his pets had on him: ‘At some point after losing the [pets] and the flat I just disappeared […] I had no contact with reality at all’. Having cut contact with his immediate family and with few close friends, he felt very isolated. He planned to commit suicide and a concerned family member alerted the Crisis Assessment and Treatment (CAT) team, a 24-hour outreach service for people in crisis experiencing mental health problems. The CAT team assessed him and admitted him to hospital and then to an acute inpatient service. The service had an open door policy so one day Fozz left the service and attempted suicide. Seriously ill, he was re-admitted to hospital and underwent surgery.
When he had recovered from the surgery, Fozz left the hospital and booked into a hotel, where he again attempted suicide and was re-admitted to hospital. It was at this point that he made a ‘commitment to [him]self not to drink’ and he’s kept this commitment. According to him, this has involved ‘redeploy[ing] learnt behaviours’, such as avoiding self-harm and going through a ‘series of injunctions to maintain [his] hold on sanity’. He also began receiving psychotherapy which he describes as somewhat helpful but as having a ‘limited tenure’ for him. After nine months he decided to stop attending therapy. Diagnosed with depression some time after being hospitalised, Fozz now takes an antidepressant and an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety medication), both of which he finds effective in managing depression and anxiety.
At the time of the interview, he was working two jobs and saving his income to travel. He had also recently regained contact with his father whom he now sees occasionally. In the future he plans to travel and do more voluntary work.
Fozz (M, 59, works in employment services, alcohol) says that drinking helped him to cope with social isolation but his isolation also contributed to his ‘addiction to alcohol’.
I’m not married. I don’t have relationships […] so it facilitated my increasing addiction to alcohol, because I had actually started to radically delimit my contact with people. Even though I was working full time […] I didn’t associate with anyone I worked with.
I think the alcohol was an attempt to ameliorate a profound sense of alienation that I’ve had since I was a little boy. And that’s tied up with my family. And the alcohol somehow obviated the fact that I was extraordinarily lonely. So the more […] I self-medicated, the less lonely I was, and I could then suppress those feelings.
Fozz says that while working in an ‘uncongenial […] environment’ his drinking ‘escalated’, but his co-workers made ‘jokes’ about him rather than offering help.
It became worse for me because […] I was in a totally uncongenial environment. There’s me, in a work environment which is all blokes and blokey groups and, you know, Australian maleness is something unless you’re born into it, you really don’t get it […] So the work environment became increasingly uncongenial as well, so my drinking escalated and […] then I started taking lots of time off. And that’s when I became aware that, you know, I was getting really ill.
I think most people pretend it’s not happening […] I know when I was […] at my worst, I’d turn up to work and, you know, I’d been drinking four days in a row and I’d reek of alcohol […] and yet jokes were made about it, you know. I’m the person with the ‘personality disorder’ and I’m a drunk, those sort of jokes, but no one really said anything because they all drank.
While Fozz found psychotherapy helpful, he eventually stopped going because he didn’t feel the psychoanalytic approach he was given suited him.
The [doctors at the hospital] recommended that I go into psychoanalysis. They did twig that maybe I’d be a good fit given my skills […] And funny enough I was given a highly, highly qualified […] professor of psychiatry. And he was my analyst until I ended it. We lasted about nine months […] And the test for me in it was, you know, not to play games with him. But just to see if […] I could actually still move in this […] highly structured, highly probing, highly charged human interaction. Was I able to be human in it? And I was. So I was able to miss appointments, I was able to tell him off.
It was [a helpful experience] but again [it had] a limited tenure for someone like me. I think I’m not in any way psychologically structured to be cooperative.
Fozz is now focused on self-improvement and using his skills to be ‘of service’ to the community.
I’m trying to remodel the strengths from my dysfunctional [self], you know, my ability to know my own limitations, especially with interpersonal stuff, and I’m building all of those things into [my new self…]
Being of service [to the community is important to me…] I’ve been asked to go on […a] panel to do with […improving] services […] I’ll just do small acts of mercy […] I’ve got an enormous array of skills and I’m very highly trained. I can think, I’ve got verbal skills, I’m still employable, I’m still useful.