I felt the full force of the danger of alcohol

Suffering from anxiety, DANIEL O’SULLIVAN used alcohol as a crutch. In day two of our series on addiction, he talks about his spiral into drink during his college years — and how he finally found the help he needed
I felt the full force of the danger of alcohol
Daniel O'Sullivan

MY addiction was to a drug that nowadays is sometimes dismissed as being labelled as a drug. This is the demon that is alcohol and I definitely felt the full force of how dangerously addictive it has the potential to be.

You never ever for one second think that something like substance addiction can happen to you. I am currently 30 years of age. I was raised by my two wonderful parents in a place called Portmagee in south-west Kerry.

My three brothers, sister and I were all close in age. We had five first cousins who were also of similar age living right beside us and it was like having five more brothers and another set of parents.

My anxiety/addiction really began while lying in bed in college and I got what I later found out was an anxiety attack. It just came out of nowhere. My chest seized up and I couldn’t breathe. This had nothing to do with alcohol but would play a key role in my dependency to drink in the years to follow.

Fast forward a few years of college and a few panic attacks later it was having a negative impact on my life. Alcohol really made things worse but I really enjoyed going out in college and I wanted nothing or no one to take that away from me.

Anxiety for me was a secret. I didn’t want anyone worrying about me or thinking of me any differently. I blocked it out... As my therapist said a few years later “anxiety is like being in a field and there is a raging bull behind you, but the thing is the bull really isn’t there” and it really summed it up.

I graduated from UCC in October 2011 and while delighted with this I had definitely noticed I had been drinking more. I had never spoken to anyone about my anxiety and when my parents asked me I would say “ya Im fine”. It wasn’t until I went back and made an effort at a postgraduate program in UCC that my drinking really took hold. I missed the first three weeks of college as I drank for 11 days straight. This would have been the usual pattern for the next seven to eight months. All money saved was drank, money for paying the first instalment of fees was drank and gambled, college attendance was non existent, and rent – well we won’t even go there that’s a story for another day!

My feeling at the time was I was in too deep with lies that I had to keep going through the year and was too embarrassed to come home and admit what I had been doing.

While drunk I had some laugh with my friends but I couldn’t stop and they could. It was either stop and face the unrelentless doom of a panic attack or keep going. I always had to have five or six pints of Guinness to ween myself off the drink. If I didn’t do this I would not sleep or stay still and I would be in an unbelievably anxious/ distressed state for the night.

I would describe the withdrawals and anxiousness as the closest thing to being in hell.. Throughout this time and until I stopped, not once did I go cold turkey.

I ended up rock bottom that summer when I had been drinking the weekend before an important final for our junior team and this carried on right through the week until I eventually I turned up to the final after eight pints on that Friday. I even made it to training that week but had to have a few scoops of whiskey before it . I was constantly trying to bate down the the feeling of anxiousness that was just firmly attached to me by now.

SEEKING OUT HELP

I went to my GP. Even at that I had to have six pints to build up the courage and to just be anxiety free when talking to her. This woman played a huge hand in getting me on the right track. I told her everything I was up to the year prior and from there she pointed me in the right direction towards therapy.

I was put on medication an ssri called lexapro. SSRI stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. They are a drug used to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. After a few months they definitely gave me the crutch I needed to get through this rocky period.

I put my head down and faced my anxieties. With the combination of my body getting a break from alcohol, hard work, exercise, journaling, meditation, unbelievable family support, support from my cousin who was a psychiatric nurse, my GAA teammates and management team whom are like my other family, my wonderful doctor and my amazing girlfriend at the time, I got control back in my life.

My own father passed away three years ago and for him to witness me alcohol free and back leading a normal life is something I really cherish. He was a true leader and role model in my life and my family and I miss him dearly everyday but his wonderful advice and guidance has and never will be forgotten. He was a best friend as well as a father. Without him and my mother I definitely wouldn’t be here writing this article.

Special mention to my GAA Club Skellig Rangers. Being a part of that dressing room has played a huge part in mending me back together. People always ask in Cork why does football and your club mean so much to you that you travel down mid week and weekends to train. Well there is your answer! Even when my playing career ends which I hope isn’t for a long time I will continue giving back to the GAA for as long as I can.

This year I will be five years alcohol free! I have been a personal trainer since 2017 and it is been one beautiful journey to finally finding something I love doing as a job which ultimately is excercising and helping people take control and build mental resilience through exercise.

Most recently since Covid-19 I have began online coaching and hope to continue this as it has been some buzz. I am also a personal trainer in Flyefit, Cork City. You can find me on instagram: @danielosullivanfitness or my facebook page: Daniel O Sullivan

TOMORROW: Drugs are not just a city problem. Irene Bermingham, says we need to talk about the common, but complex issues of mental health and drug addiction that exist in every farming community and rural townland across Ireland.

More in this section

Sponsored Content