I hit my rock bottom in Sydney, Australia. Finally, my years of addiction had caught up with me. I still don’t quite know how I managed to get on the plane back to London. In fact, I very nearly didn’t. My hands were shaking so much when I checked in for my flight that I had to ask the check-in assistant to help me complete the departure immigration form. How small those boxes on the form seemed for my trembling fingers. It was all I could do to scrawl a signature once the kindly face behind the desk had filled it all in for me. I told her I had a muscle disease. It was only by downing a few glasses of champagne in the lounge that I was able to feel steady enough to board my plane. Looking back, I can see the total insanity that my life had become. Two weeks earlier I had found myself in a workshop in Asia, unable to stand up to give a presentation. I had to ask a colleague to do it for me with seconds to go. Thank goodness he was there. A combination of anxiety, DTs (which I had put down to panic attacks but which I now know were withdrawal related), and jet lag made it simply impossible for me to stand up. I was rooted to my chair, unable to move.

 

It was not long after I somehow arrived back in London that I arrived for 12 weeks of primary care at Broadway Lodge. I had made all the arguments to myself and others against going. ‘My business will collapse; they can’t cope without me’ was a firm favourite. The truth is that had I not entered treatment by now I would have no business at all. Instead, several months on, my reality is so, so different.

 

This morning I returned from my second long-haul trip to Asia in sobriety. What a difference! To fly in business class and not drink. Impossible, I’d have said. I now see how ridiculous that was. The first time I braved the trip, last October, the weirdest thing I noticed when lunch was served was that no one else was drinking anyway. And why would they be? It was 11 in the morning. Only addicts think boarding a flight is a great excuse to start drinking, cocooned safely away from prying eyes and interfering emails. ‘I’m getting on Asia time’, I’d tell myself. What a delusion.

 

In sobriety, I have been tested for all the triggers that might lead me to be tempted back to my old ways. Nights alone with jet lag. In my old life that would be a perfect excuse to go back down to the bar for a couple more whiskeys. Conference drinks parties. Dinner with clients or colleagues in glamorous tropical locations. Long delays in a business class lounge. Stressful work situations. And emotional triggers from the past. I have relapsed on none of it. By putting my recovery first, and being grateful for all I have, I have found a new way of living.

 

I am of course a thousand times more productive at work than I was before. Last night, the last thing I did in Asia was I attended an AA meeting on my way to the airport. It was absolutely lovely – just ten people, all exactly like me of course. This morning when I landed back in the UK I went straight to a meeting. These are the top ups I need, to remind myself of where I was, and where I am now. Without the treatment, understanding, care, and at times very tough words I heard from counsellors and peers at Broadway, none of this would have been possible. I used to wake up in the morning feeling I had been sentenced to another day of life. Now I wake up full of anticipation at the opportunities that lie ahead. My greatest pleasure on this last trip was the meeting with people who simply ‘understand’ last night. We laughed and shared our experiences of the hopelessness that left us shaking on the floor to the joy of recovery. A room full of strangers in a busy Chinese market, simply checking in. They did not feel like strangers to me.

 

I have a bracelet from Broadway Lodge that has not left my wrist since I left. It is with me when I stand up to make a speech, chair a conference, board a flight, or in the long nights of sleeplessness when I’m in the wrong time zone. It reminds me of how much better life is, and how if I put my recovery first, literally anything is possible. There was a time in treatment when I thought I might have to give up my job, the travel, the responsibility and the stress of it all. Now I have given up alcohol and worked hard on myself instead. And all my work and travel is basically free of stress. And when the going gets a bit tough, I have all the tools I need not just to manage, but to be grateful for all I have, and to plan my next adventure.