By Karl Gallagher.
So it’s 07/08/2021 and I am Karl. To protect my friends memory in my story, he will be called Jeff.
I was never confident in school, a bit of a loner. I had one friend who was a good friend we did everything together, then one day “ you’re moving school next week” the new school came along and there were so many faces I didn’t know. In the last school they weren’t my friends but at least I knew who they all were.
I meet a lad called Jeff he asks me if I’m related to Noel and Liam as Oasis were getting bigger and bigger and we shared the same last name. I saw Jeff a lot but wouldn’t say we were best mates. I see another lad limping so go over to see if he’s ok, he replies “ Hi I’m Alan, I have a false leg and I’m ok” we become really good mates, even going to each other’s houses after school or at weekends and we form a bigger group of friends with people he knew. We've become 'the geeks'.
The GCSE’s are here, I am taken away from the exam hall and taken to a class room because I had trouble concentrating on things and was a little behind in class so was segregated to make things easier. I fail most of my exams even failed food tech. It’s the penultimate day in school and our year is told you can start your life’s as young adults as from now your dismissed from school good bye and good luck. Of course me and Alan are the only ones to return in full uniform the next day. We’re told to go home.
I look at college, I see become a chef, I enrolled and got in. Again new faces but this time young people and older adults. I was so nervous and scared, anxiety kicks in, I was glued to chef for a week or maybe more, so I felt safe. About six months in I make some friends and learn the basics in cookery. This guy -Cheesy his nick name was - says 'get a job mate for the experience I know a place desperately looking for chefs'.
After college that day I phoned the restaurant he had suggested and was invited to an interview and got the job. When I came to start I was introduced to the head chef and it was Jeff from school only this time we were mates going out after work I think I was there for two years and left. I moved up over the years and became 2nd Chef then took my first role as Head in a different restaurant. One day someone came up to me as I was at the bar and told me Jeff had taken his own life.
I was gutted, I’d not seen him for years but still it gutted me. A few weeks after his passing I went to see him in the chapel of rest to pay my respects and say a final farewell. I remember the funeral and sitting outside the pub at the wake just crying thinking why didn’t I see him, why didn’t I ever try and phone him, why, why, why.
I’m jumping forward 5 years I’ve been drinking with friends from work every night “this is great, I’m finishing work and having drinks with mates”. 2012 I win £10,000 on a radio competition me and my girlfriend put a deposit down on our first house, we get engaged then married. We have a little girl, I start moving to different jobs because it’s all too much, let’s find an easier job. The easy jobs become overwhelming and stressful “what’s wrong with me?”
I start becoming incredibly tired during the day. I’m still drinking after work and at home. It’s my birthday I get gifts, one of which is a little box of three whiskeys they’re nice I’ll get a bottle of that and just have a bit a night. Then wine. Beer, wine and whiskey every night. It became normal. 2017 comes.
I’m at work and my manager comes to me and asks if I’m ok? I told her with tears in my eyes I can’t get happy. The next day I phone the doctor and tell my symptoms from severe anxiety, fatigue, dark harmful thoughts, loss of any emotion and so on, he diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I’m on Sertraline for two years I think, going up to 150mg per day.
2019 my son is born I feel no emotion at his birth but didn’t realise, I’m still drinking but now cider has come into the mix.
2020 pandemic hits, were spending time together as a family, birthdays, Easter, Christmas, new year, birthdays again.
May 2021 time to back to work, it’s great I’m back at work, a few weeks down the line and hang on a minute, everyone is watching me, in the shop “ why is everyone watching me?” I became very paranoid, I can feel something isn’t right but it’s not my depression because it’s not the same as last time.
I remember a boat mooring up on the water outside our house, I know now it was a man coming to spend time with his family but at the time in my head they were there to watch me. I became obsessed with it asking why is it there? What does it want with ME? Then I couldn’t leave the house. I go to work to count the stocks and have a meltdown.
I phone the doctors and I’m to take two weeks off, work arranges fully funded counselling for me. I’ve attended a couple of council sessions now, I’ve learned thought leads to feeling which leads to behaviour which has been a great way to think.
I’ve been helped to cut myself in half, half me and half the depression which we called IT!
I’ve put all my cards on the table and spilled my guts to a stranger which was amazing, it makes you feel better to talk.
I took a leap of faith with my counsellor, I was asked do I think I could pour away the half bottle of whiskey when I got home? I said yes I would and I did. Then I said to my wife on the next Monday I’m not going to drink. I didn’t and on the Tuesday morning it was the best morning ever, clear head not tired and no watery eyes, just a brilliant day.
I like that feeling so much I’ve decided it’s a better feeling than drinking and I’m about to finish my first week sober after what feels like a lifetime, and I’m so proud of myself! If I do get the thought I want a drink I tell myself that’s IT messing with me but I’m stronger than IT!!! Now I just say 'IT FUCK OFF' and immediately feel better knowing I’m on the mend. I hope some of what I have said can inspire someone and help just a little bit, to take the biggest first step and ask for help!! STAY SAFE EVERYONE.
If you would like to talk to someone about your alcohol consumption, your GP or healthcare provider is a good place to start. Or you can use the numbers below for free advice.
Drinkline national UK alcohol helpline on 0300 123 1110
Alcoholics Anonymous helpline on 0800 9177 650
Al-Anon Family Groups helpline on 0800 0086 811
https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US For Alcoholics Anonymous in USA or CANADA
If you need to talk to someone about your mental health you can text BURNTCHEF to 85258 free and confidentially 24/7
(UK) or HOME to 741741 (USA / CANADA).