CASE STUDY: Claire in Herefordshire
What price are you willing to pay to get your ‘fix’? No, we’re not talking about recreational drugs in tablet or powder form, or injected using a syringe; we mean another potentially lethal substance* that can be as addictive as ecstasy, cannabis, cocaine and heroin, and which can lead people to taking astonishing risks: the drug we’re referring to here is of course alcohol.
* A Governmental research report in 2006 classified various drugs according to their health and social risks. Heroin and cocaine are the most dangerous two drugs, with alcohol being the fifth most dangerous and tobacco the ninth.
When drinking stops being funny
If you abuse alcohol, the enjoyment you get from it probably outweighs (in your mind) the potential health risks that heavy drinking poses. You choose to ignore the dangers, simply because drinking makes you feel so good, it’s your escape, your way of coping, of ‘getting through’.
Usually, alcohol abuse is considered ‘serious’ when it endangers the health (both physical and/or mental) of the drinker. But what about the impact alcohol misuse can have on others: people around the drinker who, through no fault of their own, suddenly find themselves in a potentially fatal situation – all because of someone else’s addiction?
This is exactly the position Claire in Herefordshire found herself in last summer (remember the heatwave when it seemed like those long blisteringly hot days would never end?), when her life changed irrevocably:
“I lost the sight in one eye as a result of someone else’s drink driving. Since the assault (I refuse to call it an ‘accident’ as that is in no way correct), so many of my family and friends have asked me if I feel I could ever find it in my heart to forgive Shane: my former army comrade who was driving the Land Rover Discovery on the night I sat beside him in the passenger seat, not fully realising just how much he’d had to drink before getting behind the wheel.
We’d all been to a barbecue and had a great time, although I was personally growing tired of the summer’s soaring temperatures by then. It wasn’t a ‘classic car crash’ situation that cost me my sight that night. The reason for me being permanently blinded in my left eye was bizarre: it was because of the airbag in front of me – an incar device that was supposed to keep me safe. How ironic is that?”
When Shane crashed the Land Rover into a tree after mounting the kerb at, what we now know was a ridiculous 60 miles-per-hour in a built-up area, both the driver and passenger airbags inflated. I was blinded while Shane walked away without a scratch. He’ll have to live with what he did to me for the rest of his days, though, I suppose.”
Are you endangering others?
Could you live with yourself if you badly injured someone through drink driving? How often do you get behind the wheel of your car when over the drinking and driving limit?
Your alcohol abuse might not ‘only’ be putting you at an increased risk of an alarmingly extensive range of physical and mental health conditions (impaired brain function, liver cirrhosis, heart disease, and cancer, to name just a few). The way you are living your life may devastate someone else’s one day.
Note: All names have been changed