PENUMBRA client Nick McGill, as interviewed by the charity’s Dan Mushens.

“WHEN my dad passed away in the 1990s after living a life of alcoholism, I felt as if he deserved to die and I’ve still not shed a tear for him. He was a violent man who abused his family verbally, mentally and physically.

“When my younger brother passed away after his own struggle with alcoholism, I was devastated and I blamed my dad for passing his addiction onto my innocent brother.

“My brother’s death and the grief that followed led to my own alcohol misuse spiralling further out of control. I was past the point of being considered a functioning alcoholic, I was clinging to life by a thread. I’d have what I then called blackouts and I’d collapse in a heap, injuring myself and needing hospital treatment. Now I know these were alcohol-induced epileptic seizures and to this day I have lasting damage to my brain.

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“When I was at my worst, I wouldn’t eat for days, I thought vodka would fulfil my needs. If I fell and hurt myself, I thought lager would heal me, and if I was unable to physically stand up due to being drunk, I thought cider would make my legs stronger. I lived in a drunken haze and I thought I’d lost my mind, and to a certain degree I was right. My daily default position was drunkenness. When I was sober I felt terrible.

“I now have what the doctors call alcohol related brain damage (ARBD) which means I have problems with my memory and my brain function. Abstinence helps to stop any further damage, and after some spells in hospital detox wards and supported accommodation over recent years, I’ve been able to stay off the booze for many months at a time.

“I’ve recently relapsed after six weeks of sobriety but I’m living my life as well as I can in my own wee flat. Support staff visit me six times a week to help me with day to day tasks.

“To help me keep my tenancy and live as safely as possible, Penumbra have helped in ways I’d never had even considered. I have broadband now which allows me to subscribe to Netflix. It fills my time and stops me feeling bored. When I’m at a loose end and have nothing to do, sometimes boredom triggers those unwanted thoughts about buying alcohol.

“Until a couple of years ago, I’d never had a mobile phone because I didn’t think I could use one, so I was encouraged to buy one then taught how to use it. I can’t send text messages yet but I can now make and receive phone calls.

“When I collapsed in the street and broke my wrist last year after a period of alcohol use, I was able to use my phone to call for help. Without the phone, I might have been lying there for hours. Passers-by were just walking past me, ignoring me.

“The latest investment I’ve made is my smart speaker. I can ask Alexa to remind me about appointments that I have coming up and she even reminds me to take my medication every day.

“These types of technology that other people might take for granted help to keep me safe and comfortable in my own home.

“I think I’m the kind of person who’ll never be able to fully live without alcohol. Periods of abstinence are followed by episodes of binge drinking and vice versa. It’s like a merry-go-round.”