Preferred Name: Luke
Luke is single, lives with friends in a share house and works full-time in retail. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’: he was born in Australia and his parents were born in South Africa.
Luke started drinking socially in his late teens and continued through his twenties. In his early thirties, while working in a ‘high pressure’ job, he began drinking every day as a ‘release’ and a way to ‘block’ feelings of depression and anxiety. In his mid-thirties he lost his job and continued to drink regularly. A few years later he stopped for a short period but resumed after developing nerve pain. Luke later underwent surgery and suffered complications which he says were related to his heavy drinking, and he had to undergo significant physical rehabilitation. He resumed drinking when the rehabilitation program ended but has since reduced his alcohol consumption to a few days a week. He now attends counselling and a self-help group, and plans to stop drinking altogether.
Over the next few years Luke began to feel ‘really depressed’. He began to have anxiety attacks (brief periods of intense anxiety), drinking to ‘suppress’ and ‘block’ these feelings. After a period of heavy drinking, however, he felt ‘ten times worse’ and started taking days off work. Concerned about his health, he consulted a doctor who prescribed antidepressant medication, which Luke found helped to relieve some of his anxiety but didn’t reduce his drinking. Eventually he stopped taking the medication.
In his late thirties he lost his job as a result of his frequent absences from work. Unemployed and experiencing anxiety, his drinking increased and he started taking Mersyndol® (a painkiller containing paracetamol, codeine and an antihistamine), prescribed to his ex-girlfriend, in an effort to manage his anxiety. Around a year later he started his own business, and stopped drinking and taking painkillers. He later developed sciatica (pressure on the sciatic nerve causing pain in the leg) and began drinking again.
Later hospitalised for surgery on a perforated stomach ulcer, Luke suffered severe complications which he says were related to heavy drinking. As he explains, ‘Because I’d been drinking so much, when they did the operation my whole body shut down […and] I stopped breathing’. He was placed in an induced coma for several weeks and then, because he’d spent a long time in a coma and was bed-ridden for a few months afterwards, his sciatica worsened and he had to undergo physical rehabilitation to learn to walk again. While he recovered Luke went to live with his father and resumed drinking as he says he had little else to do. Several months later he got a new job but says that due to his continuing sciatica he fell into a ‘vicious circle’ of taking painkillers, drinking heavily and taking days off work. Eventually he decided to resign from his job.
A few months before the interview Luke moved to a coastal town to live with friends and found a new job. He started attending alcohol and other drug counselling and a Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART) support group. He now manages his drinking by keeping busy. To relieve his sciatica, he exercises and stretches regularly. He drinks a few times a week and plans to reduce his drinking further with a view to stopping altogether. He also hopes to find a less stressful job and continue improving his health and well-being.
Luke (M, 44, works in retail, alcohol) began drinking daily when working in ‘high pressure’ marketing jobs as he says it was accepted to drink at meetings and after work.
All of a sudden when I started to get into work and I was working in high pressure [marketing and advertising jobs…] I started drinking a lot more then because […we] worked really hard and then everyone would go out for a drink afterwards. And […] then I started to drink every night and that’s when it started to turn into a real problem […] If I was stressed out, I would drink […] It was almost self-medicating really […] I liked my job but I couldn’t deal with the stress of it […] Most [people would] go to the pub after work and it was kind of like a release and [a way to] forget about how […] hard your day was.
It was like the job and the people, the whole atmosphere and the dynamics, like drinking and the job was kind of related. Because you are in […] marketing and advertising, when you go for a meeting or go for a lunch, it’s all alcohol related […] so you just kind of couldn’t get away from it.
I actually quit my first job when I started to realise, but […] I think I’d already hit that routine, so yeah, it just started to get worse and worse.
Luke says he consumed alcohol to ‘suppress feelings’ but it ended up making his anxiety ‘ten times worse’.
Initially, when I was younger, it was fun going out [drinking…But then] I was starting to get […] a lot of anxiety and depression and stuff like that, and [… I] started to become a little bit more sheltered and [was] staying at home [more] and drinking to sort of suppress feelings. But then […when I woke] up the next day, all that suppression [had] just exploded again. It [was] about ten times worse than […] it was initially. So [drinking is] like a double-edged sword […] it ends up being worse to drink […] I realise now [that I was having anxiety attacks] because I was drinking too much.
Luke underwent surgery for a perforated stomach ulcer that may have been related to his heavy drinking. He says his ‘body shut down’ during surgery.
I had an ulcer that perforated and then I was in hospital […] Because I’d been drinking so much, when they did the operation my whole body shut down. So my lungs collapsed, got pneumonia, stopped breathing. So then they had to put me in an induced coma for three weeks […] and then in hospital for about three months. Had to learn how to walk again […After being discharged from hospital] I was staying […] at my dad’s place. I was pretty much in bed or on the couch for about another three or four months, so I was doing nothing. Just eating, trying to put weight on, because I’d lost about 16 kilos or something.
Luke attends counselling at his local AOD service and values his counsellor’s non-judgemental, caring approach.
Well [my local AOD service] has been really, really good. The person I speak to is super nice, non-judgmental. It’s not confrontational. It’s kind of like counselling but more psychology in there. Asking you how you feel and that sort of stuff. But really super nice. Like I’ll get texts through the week, like, ‘How you feeling? Are you still coming next week?’ […] which is nice.
Luke takes part in a SMART Recovery group that is supportive and non-judgmental, offering members the chance to learn from each other.
SMART Recovery is amazing […] It’s just a really, really chilled out group […] The only rule is you’re not allowed to turn up intoxicated. But everyone can ask questions and they feed off each other and say, ‘Well, how do you deal with this? How do you deal with that?’ And no one tells each other what their addiction is or anything like that. It’s just really, really chilled out and […] everyone [gives advice saying] ‘Well, I’ve done this and you might be able to do that’ […] And you feel kind of nice when you come out of there […] In SMART Recovery, you can sit there and say nothing […] You don’t have to do anything […] It’s totally how you are, whether you want to not drink, whether you want to cut down. But in the end it’s like people who might just […] want to cut down but then they realise after maybe a week or two […] they’re going, ‘Ooh, I think I might need to stop completely’ [But…] no one’s judgmental. You’re not allowed to be judgmental with anyone […] Yeah, it’s nice.