“What was most shocking for me is that someone can be so profoundly aware of the damage that alcohol is doing to them and the control it has over them – and yet remain completely unable to change. But that is, I suppose, the nature of addiction.”
David Hodgkinson, producer-director of the ITN documentary ‘Saving Ed Mitchell’
Before making the leap to sobriety, I read a lot of books about alcohol. The evils of alcohol, the damages it does, and how to stop drinking – written by those who successfully stopped drinking.
One that stood out for me is former high-profile TV journalist Ed Mitchell‘s harrowing journey ‘From Headlines to Hard Times‘.
Ed’s book taps into my love of autobiographies. We’re the same age. Plus, my career has included time spent in journalism, as well as the entertainment business. I related to the culture of drinking in those worlds.
Ed was an international presence on Sky, BBC and ITN for many years – but because of alcohol he lost everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. His 30-year career, his 25-year marriage, his home, and – because of gambling and credit card debt — he was left with a personal debt of £250,000. Divorced, homeless, estranged from his children and alcoholic – and about to meet his rock bottom.
His story is scary and hair-raising. A really hard boozer who kept it all propped up – or so he thought, until it all fell apart. To read about someone who so publicly hits bottom is, well, sobering.
Living on a park bench, his days centred around finding food, staying warm at night, getting enough change for drink – and sourcing a shower to retain some humanity and pride.
The stars aligned for him when he was given the luckiest break of his life. A fellow journalist produced a documentary about his fall from grace. “Saving Ed Mitchell.” First aired January 2008, it is excruciating and sad to watch. (Ed says watching it helps keep him sober.)
In a second stroke of good fortune, a former colleague watching it offered to pay for a stint at rehab if Ed got up off that park bench with the desire and will to change his life. Fortunately, Ed was ready, and crawled and clawed his way back to living in sheltered housing, and then kept going upwards. After a small relapse, he remains sober to this day. He’s repaired his relationship with his children, has happily remarried, and he is making a living working as a presenter in his field of expertise (finance).
I feel so lucky that I pulled myself up before hitting my rock bottom. I didn’t lose a job due to drinking, or have ‘eye openers’ every morning. I didn’t black out or put myself in physical danger. I never had a drink/driving conviction – or caused injury to others. My rock bottom came after two life-changing events – my mother dying, and a relationship ending around the same time. Both were drawn out deaths.
I am grateful that I wanted to change, knew I had to change, and it was my responsibility.
In the scheme of things, and the tragedies I read around alcohol abuse – I am grateful for the relatively soft landing of my rock bottom.