Aspies are known for their honesty. So I'm going to be honest.
I drink too much. And if I carry on as I am, it'll catch up with me very soon.
I think of myself as having a drink problem. I think that it's something I can manage. But being honest again - I'm actually a functioning alcoholic.
It's been hard for me to accept this. I've been in denial for a long time. The main reason is that, throughout my teens and 20s, I hardly drank at all. An occasional can of beer - or a few more at a special celebration. I was too committed to personal fitness - distance running, cycling, swimming - and alcohol didn't fit into that. When I was in training for a marathon, say, I'd even regard an occasional pint of shandy as detrimental to my regime.
Things began to change when I got married at 40, in 2000. It was the first time I'd cohabited, and I found it difficult. Alcohol took the anxiety away and made it bearable. Even so, I wasn't drinking abnormally. But more than I'd drunk before.
After my divorce, when I got back to living alone again, it settled down. I got back to just drinking occasionally. I didn't really need it.
Then I started a new and stressful job, in my mid-40s, and started to drink a little more again. Then a little more. I went through a period of counselling to help me with my mental health problems at the time, and was referred to an alcohol unit. There, I started mixing with hardened alcoholics. People who'd drunk litres of hard booze a day for years. People way, way out of my league. It made me realise that I didn't have a problem at all... and that perhaps I could allow myself to loosen up a bit.
In 2013, I started my last cohabiting relationship, during which - because of the difficulties I had once again with living with another person - my drinking escalated. Two bottles of wine a day, sometimes - even though I was continuing to keep fit with healthy eating, running, cycling and swimming. Then, after that relationship was over, I had the next issue of my mother's rapidly deteriorating health. In October 2016, I gave up work to care for her full-time. It was hugely stressful for me in emotional and psychological terms - knowing I was losing the only person on earth who really meant anything to me, and having to be on the ball 24/7. During that time, I was a highly-functioning drinker. I needed it to take the edge off of what I was going through, and what was happening. My daily intake, during those 7 months, averaged 12 units of alcohol.
Fast-forward to now. Since my mother passed away, I've continued to function well. I hold down a job. I still do lots of physical exercise, and am - as my GP has told me - fitter than many men half my age. At almost 60, I can cycle 10 miles in 35 minutes. I regularly swim. I can run up four flights of stairs without getting out of breath.
But my drinking is getting the better of me. It's self-medication. It kills my anxiety - at the same time as exacerbating my day-after depression. I wake in the mornings thinking 'Never again'... only to end up going out for a bottle of wine. Then, later, maybe another.
I've been on annual leave from work for the last 2 weeks. I drank quite a bit during most of the first week, because I was under stress over issues at work and with an new job offer I was undecided about. Then, I stopped... and I didn't drink at all for a week. And now, since my relapse last Wednesday, I've averaged 15 units a day. Yesterday, I drank 27 units of alcohol - and woke up this morning feeling none the worse (if ever a warning sign was needed). Today I decided not to touch a drop. But I've just finished my first bottle of red wine (9.8 units) and am off out for more.
I'm worried about it, of course. At the same time... it's one of the few things I do that makes life seem bearable.
I'm sure there are others of you out there with the same struggles.
I'm trying hard to stop. But there's a part of me that says 'What the f**k? Does it matter that much? Carry on. When it kills you, your pain will be over - and at least you'll die happy.'
I've just watched this, because I'm trying to watch things that will make me sit up sharply and take notice, and do something about my drinking.
I don't like the emphasis on how much problem drinking is costing the taxpayer, because I think that's entirely the wrong way to approach it. But it's worth watching if you're going through what I'm going through at the moment.
Thanks for reading.
Contact your local Drug and Alcohol service as soon as you can. They may have an 'out of hours' person to talk to. If not either ring them up in the morning or present yourself to them. There will be one which serves your area.
Unfortunately they are in all probability not run by the NHS, as they are commissioned by the local public health department, but they should have the time to speak to you and arrange for you to have proper counselling. Many people do not realise that alcohol causes more problems to a greater number of people than illicit drugs.
And once you have contacted your local drug and alcohol service, stick with it, attend the appointments however much you think they are a bunch of wazzocks. It will be a long journey but I have seen many people in a position such as yours pull themselves round. There may be setbacks, but no one will judge you.
You make very valuable contributions to this forum and I am sure your work with other autistic people is also well respected. Just try to see that there is something that can be done to help you.
By the way, I work in a drug and alcohol service and despite my issues with the management I know that all the workers are very dedicated. The emphasis of the service is different these days than in the past so your local service may surprise you at how much it may have changed, and in all likelihood is run by another provider than it was a few years ago, which will hopefully suit you better. There is far more emphasis on problems drinkers face than there has been in the past.
Thanks, Trainspotter. In my last encounter with local 'drug and alcohol' services, all I was offered were 'mindfulness' sessions or 'work-oriented' workshops. It was all about performance. So, the more desperately sick alcoholics they could push into unsuitable jobs, the better it looked in the official statistics.