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Experiences with Alcohol

Preferred Name: George

Gender: Male

Age: 58


George has a degree in Fine Art and enjoys painting. Due to ill health, he’s on a disability support pension. He’s a widower and lives in a boarding house. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Irish’: he and his parents were born in Australia.

Brief Outline:

George started drinking after his wife died and says he thinks he has an ‘alcohol habit’. After being hospitalised for seizures, he went to a residential rehabilitation facility for ten days where he ‘dried out’. Since then, he’s reduced his alcohol consumption and now only drinks in the evenings.

George's Story:

With a degree in Fine Art, George paints and draws almost every day. In the future, he hopes to live in the country with two dogs and a pony, and continue painting.

George lives in a boarding house and describes feeling quite socially isolated. Every day he meets some of the ‘old folks’ at a nearby café for a cup of coffee and a chat. Then he visits his local primary healthcare service because it offers him ‘good company, people […to] chat with and have a cup of tea, read the newspaper, stay out of the bar’. When the service closes, he goes home, puts the radio on, has ‘a few cones’ of cannabis and does some painting or drawing. In the evening when the night stretches ahead of him, George says the ‘alcohol habit hits’ and he thinks: ‘What am I going to do tonight? I don’t watch TV, there is only so much radio you can listen to, so many drawings you can do […] And the next minute, I’m getting together seven bucks to buy a cheap bottle’. He describes the alcohol habit as a ‘daily ritual created by [his] isolation’.

Growing up he remembers feeling repelled by alcohol. Both his parents drank alcohol often but their drinking was never discussed in the family, although he remembers his father being intoxicated during the day and his mother drinking and ‘weeping night after night’.

When he was in his twenties, George began a relationship with a woman whom he later married. When she died, he started drinking and smoking cannabis every day. He then went to work on a vineyard. With large quantities of wine freely available, he started drinking every day. He then moved overseas for a year. On his return he met up with a friend and they took heroin together. He and his friend shared injecting equipment because they didn’t have access to sterile equipment. A number of years later, George tested positive for hepatitis C, which he believes he contracted when he shared injecting equipment with his friend. He says he experiences lethargy and fatigue related to hepatitis C.

He suffers from seizures and has recently started taking Dilantin® (phenytoin: a drug used to control seizures). On one occasion after experiencing multiple seizures, he was hospitalised. A medical test revealed high levels of alcohol in his blood and on the doctors’ advice, he went to a residential rehabilitation facility for ten days and ‘dried out’. While staying in the facility, he painted every day and found the time went very quickly. Soon after he left the facility, George attended a function where wine was served and he started drinking again.

In his early fifties George stopped drinking for three years and believes he might do so again. He has no plans to stop smoking cannabis but has done so many times in the past.


George (M, 58, not working due to illness, alcohol) didn’t feel he could raise his concerns about his drinking because his parents’ drinking was never discussed in the family.

When I was a teenager still, my mother used to drink heavily. She would drink whiskey and wine and she’d cry and […] I was there [as] a teenager, with my mother weeping just night after night […] And that was one of the things that really repelled me about alcohol. And my father was chronically addicted. I think he used to drink during the day too and he’d drink pure spirit. And it was never discussed. He was obviously blind drunk and my mother just pretended it wasn’t happening [So I didn’t want to discuss my experience because there was a silence about it in my family…] I mean, I could never have told my mother that my father was alcoholic. She wouldn’t hear it. She’d just change the subject.

As a widower who lives on his own, George finds that drinking helps him cope with social isolation.

[The alcohol habit] is a daily ritual, mostly created by my isolation. And so […] when six o’clock comes, I just get this feeling, like I’ve got to go to the bottle shop […] I’ll spend the whole day saying, ‘I’m not going to drink tonight’, but come six o’clock and the sun is going down, I think, ‘What am I going to do tonight? I don’t watch TV. There is only so much radio you can listen to, so many drawings you can do. What am I going to do?’ And the next minute, I’m getting together seven bucks to buy a cheap bottle [of wine].

When George was injured, he says that he couldn’t access adequate pain medication due to his ‘history of drug use’.

Once I was hospitalised. And I’d actually been attacked and had fractured my back and they sent me out of the hospital with Panadeine. I couldn’t even get [Panadeine] Forte (paracetamol and codeine) because they knew I had a past history of drug use. So they wouldn’t give me anything stronger than Panadeine. I mean it’s ridiculous. I had a fractured back.

In the future, George plans to move to the country and continue painting.

[In] my future I’m going to live in the country, get two dogs and a pony […] I’m likely to keep smoking pot. I don’t want to keep drinking but I haven’t stopped yet […] Painting [is my favourite thing to do; I do it] every day. Mostly, [my medication for seizures has] messed with my concentration so I haven’t done any since [I started taking it] I’ve done some things, but not much. So I’m just hoping that I’ll get my concentration back [so I can continue painting].