Mark Life Without Alcohol Does Continue
Hello, “I am an alcoholic”… those are the most difficult 4 words I have ever had to say. My name is Mark Bonney, born on Wednesday, May 30, 1956, re-born on Monday morning January 5th, 2009—the morning of the day I woke up having managed not to have a drink the previous day. I had made a decision rather than a New Year’s resolution quit booze. Now that I am well into my journey of sobriety, I choose to say “I am a recovering alcoholic.” It is an illness that I will never be free from.
Relaxation was a state I could not find or be in, but I found it with Reiki, and decided to move forward and qualify as a Reiki Practitioner to help others for whom relaxation was non-existent. The 3 C’s is a guide phrase: “Cause, Consequence, Cure.” Oftentimes I hear this in the meetings I attend with HARCAS (Hambleton and Richmondshire Community Addiction Service). Most of it I can and do relate to.
My aim is to highlight the dangers young people may face when alcohol is introduced into their lives, either as a user of alcohol or as a partner or family member of someone involved in alcohol abuse. Above all, I want to help prevent our young people from making wrong decisions now that will affect the rest of their lives—and also those more mature of us who need help in achieving their journey toward sobriety. So, how did I get to where I am now?
On a certain day in 2005, I got my blood pressure checked and it was high. I was aware of an “elevated” status after a previous wellness check at work; well, this test was an eye opener! After the doctor’s appointment, I had week of wearing a monitor to keep track of my blood pressure, and as the week progressed, a gradual reduction took place. I returned the monitor and the record of readings to the doctor. We had a discussion about a healthy life style, stress, work, alcohol consumption, etc. I needed to implement some serious life style changes!!
The doctor told me to start writing a “drinks diary.” I had seen an advertisement in the waiting area about HARCAS. On returning home, I took brave steps to the phone and admitted, “I HAVE A PROBLEM.” But there was a long waiting list for appointments, and that felt like a massive step back after I had just admitted my problem and was taking the steps to ask for HELP! HARCAS was planning group sessions, and wives, partners, parents, sons, daughters, friends would all be welcome to join the group for support. I was very interested, so I gave details and the wait began. After the phone call, I was so angry because I’d asked for help and admitted I WANTED & NEEDED it, and yet I had to wait.
The first meeting would be a turnaround for me and further education for Jan, my wife of 36 years. We finally drove to HARCAS. We took the few steps to the front door, and for me it seemed like the steepest set of stairs I’d ever climbed (made me think of Rolf Harris and “Stairway to Heaven”)! Then on ringing the bell, my heart started pounding even more than if I had ascended the highest steps. When the door opened, Margaret (the HARCAS administration lady I’ve now come to know quite well) asked who we were and invited us in. Phew! We’d made it! We were offered a reassuring welcome from Jen and Julie, the lasses who ran the groups in the early days. Well this was it, we had sat down in the room and more folks were arriving; now the further education and learning began both for Jan and I! We listened and learned from the other brave folks attending. Well, two hours of the meeting flew by at a super accelerated pace! The time was very well spent, as we all listened and talked about our problems. HARCAS became a real catalyst to me and the decision to quit alcohol use. It all had to be down to ME and ME ALONE, and then calling upon those close that had stuck with me: my wife Jan and the kids, Jemma and Darren, both grown and married with families of their own.
Still at this stage could and would not call myself an “alcoholic,” as I did not match my picture of one. I had my own pre-conceptions of “alchies,” and no way did I fit them in the early days before the grim realisation that I was “an alcoholic.” Mind you, only starting in 2011 have I been able to say it out loud and to folks I discuss it with, or if the topic crops up, or I need a defence mechanism when confronted.
When we first started going to HARCAS meetings, our kids kept on and on asking, “Where are you and Mum off to on Wednesday nights?” They played guessing games with us; all the time we would neither agree nor disagree with their many guesses, all of them well off the mark! Ballroom dancing? Learning Russian? Spanish? Marriage guidance? Jan and I had decided NOT to say, as it was up to ME to say when I was well and ready for disclosure. In December of 2008 I had my first diabetic clinic appointment, which gave me grim news of what being diabetic really did and does mean. I saw the doctor, and he said to keep up good work on sharing my “drinks diary.” December 17th was my last HARCAS meeting before the first Christmas of my new regimen of drink reduction; how was I going to cope?? No more meetings until next year; what was I to do? Over the Christmas leave period, there was too much to cope with!
Well, on the evening of Saturday, January 3rd, 2009, I decided not to quit drinking as a New Year’s Resolution (I could never keep them), but as a permanent life decision. On that day I put down my last drink from then until NOW.
On Sunday I had “A PLAN”: We’d go over the road to my daughter Jemma’s and have a late New Year’s and Christmas meal as we could not be together over Christmas since they were away and Glenn (her hubby) was on duty as a London firefighter. Well, we wandered over the road to their house, and again my heart was doing 90 to the dozen! I had a plan, and excuse, a solution! Or did I? While we were there, Jemma asked, “A beer, Dad?” Took a bit of time to process as my mind was a flurry of “what to say”… My reply was, “Have you any fizzy water, love?” She said, “No, are you sure you don’t want a beer, Dad?” I said, “YES, I have had more than enough thanks; I’ll have a Diet Coke or something like that, please, love.” That was the start of the rest of my non-alcohol drinking to date.
Looking back I did not really realise just how dangerous a practice this was, as in those early days I was not well-armed with a stock of excuses, reasons to NOT drink. I didn’t always know how to cope when confronted with opportunities to consume alcohol. My tools, strategies and coping mechanisms became the ability to dig deep into the experiences (positive and negative) shared by others, knowledge shared, their strengths and weaknesses shared via tears of joy and sadness.
I had a lot of medical tests to check my health and how I was doing with my diabetes, and meanwhile I was going through a lot of stressful situations at work. On top of all this, after 18 months of “re-structure” consultations at work, I managed to secure a new role: time to celebrate! More fizzy water.
On August 19th, 2009, I met Joanita Musisi from BBC Radio York to do an outside broadcast. I was working in Ripon carrying out an Observation of Teaching and Learning (OTL), so started my evangelical work for HARCAS over the local air waves. In October of 2009, I appeared on Radio York for Alcohol Week. Christmas of 2009 through the New Year of 2010 passed. It was hard work to have my first year off the booze: another HUGE challenge was over, and I was still dry.
On Sunday, January 3rd, 2010, it was time to celebrate my first sober year. I had a late Christmas lunch with colleagues at the Station Hotel Pub— I had dinner fine, but I was not too happy about paying over 2 quid for a pint of lime and soda! All was fine…..Then one of my colleagues had two bottles of Becks in a tall glass poured over ice!! I started to get the smell of it, then the taste, then I had to leave. My colleagues knew I had a bother with booze, as I felt it best to “come out” with them because it would save awkward moments, etc.
During that year I had many more medical tests to check my health. After one appointment, the doctor said I was doing good. I asked him to explain “good.” He said, “Well Mr. Bonney, it means your levels are almost back to normal; however,” (wagging his finger) “it does not mean you can start ‘kicking the arse out of alcohol’ again” (my phrase).
Before I knew it, it was time to celebrate my second sober year. It was another major hurdle completed, and on New Year’s Eve I was sober again. But I had bad news from work: we were now undergoing a FULL SERVICE review, so now everyone started “twitching,” as all jobs were on the line. On top of this, I was sick with an infection, I had more time off work, and more stress, more worries.
All this and I still managing to stay off the booze. I had come out as “alcohol dependent,” but I still had difficulties calling myself an “alcoholic.” I was getting there, as I now knew via the education I received in the HARCAS meetings that I really did display all the traits, signs and signals of “an alcoholic.” I guess what I was trying to agree with were the the pre-suppositions and pictures I had of an “alcoholic,” and that I really did need to concentrate on “education” as a way forward.
My wife and I began to encounter some financial strains. Bloody good job I was doing still not pouring alcohol down my system! One day in June of 2011, after a counseling session, I was at a HARCAS meeting and I came out with a golden “faux pas” by referring to the “Community Mental Health” as the “Cracker’s Clinic.” On hearing a couple of sharp intakes of breath as other folks were already “in the system,” I apologised as it was “my way” of dealing with it. This was further reinforced by one of the other group members who is in the system and moreover has a certificate to say so—that person replied, “Wow, a saviour in humour!”
Later in June at my first appointment at the “Cracker’s Clinic,” I was asked all sorts of probing questions from birth to “now” by the specialist. The specialist said that if I wanted my wife to leave at any point I could say so. But this did not happen, nor did it need to, as one thing I have learnt thus far is “Honesty and Truth.” I was asked questions throughout my timeline, then came the killer question: “Have you had thoughts of self-harm?” I opened the reply with, “This may hurt my wife, as I’ve not had courage to say anything about it, but yes, on two occasions, when I was at a low, a couple of weeks back. Stupid thing was I thought about it whilst exercising on the treadmill, thinking about doing too much to get my heart rate up and then an attack would follow. Gladly these thoughts soon passed. I then reflected on the massive hole I would leave behind me, and that is not the one in the wall where I would have ended up in!!”
Since then I’ve had more doctor’s appointments, more anti-depressants, and more time off work. Also, I’ve taken time to reflect on my life, how I got to where I am. More recently, because I have qualified as a Deeksha Oneness Blessing Giver, I’ve found solace in reflection, relaxation, and Reiki giving me permission to do nothing but “relax.” I’ve had more meetings at HARCAS and lots of discussions about my problem. I’ve been sharing it with others too, even going on the radio again; this time, it was partly about leaving the military services with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as I can attribute a lot of my drinking to a “culture” of drinking experienced and enjoyed in my 25-and-a-half year career in the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Since starting my journey, I’ve appeared on the radio a good few times, banging the drum for alcohol education, etc.; these can be heard on my webpage. I’ve also taken to contacting others with “THE PROBLEM.” In July, I met up with Tom Fitzsimons; he, too, has found it very useful to put his story to paper and on the Internet. You can read more about this inspirational man via his website. Tom and I shared experiences of our times and troubles with “THE PROBLEM.” Tom told me how it helps to get “IT” down on paper. He also inspired me to have some personal self-reflection and deep inward-looking so as to ask myself, “What do I want to get out of IT?”
Well, hopefully if you are still reading this, you may be an alcoholic, alcohol dependent, or have a relative, friend or loved one who needs help—or better still has asked for help. My story as of today continues… In the mean time, there are lots of places to go to seek help. One major message is that the wish to stop has to come from the heart and mind of the one with the problem. No amount of nagging works. Keep the mind busy; it does help! My latest quest is to study mindfulness; hopefully I’ll then be able to conquer my “Mind FULL Ness.”
Thank you for reading… today I am three years, three months and five days free of alcohol. I took redundancy in February of 2012, which was one of the best decisions I ever made, not quite on a par with the one to quit booze, but equally as life-changing. I have lost 18lbs in weight. I feel far better about myself, my life and my loved ones who support me 110% and more. I still go to HARCAS, and the people there have been and continue to be wonderful, as do the rest of the “clients” who attend. I look to them for support, give them support by being there and being dry too, as this gives them some “focus.” They can see that freedom from alcohol is achievable. I know folks further on their journey than I am; they, for me, are a source of inspiration too. Since redundancy, I’ve been out of work; I have formed my own training company. In this I see a future for my wife Jan and I. We are both Reiki practitioners and hope to help others achieve relaxation, peace and inner calm using the wonderful energies we have been blessed with. I am also building a steady client base for my training business. Both of these ventures I hope will progress our current life from a “survive” to “thrive” situation. Just like the business, I am a “work in progress.” Namaste ~ Mark