After a chance meeting with Russell Brand, Josh Stedman, who works in the Bupa UK Insurance operations team, was inspired to seek help with alcohol addiction. One year on, Josh is taking on the Movember challenge and sharing his story this Alcohol Awareness Week to raise awareness about mental health.
“My name is Joshua and I am an addict.
Accepting that I am an addict was a big step. I had preconceptions that addicts were non-functioning members of society who drank or used 24/7. I have a job and didn’t drink every day, so how could I be an addict?
A bit about me
I had a great upbringing and was cared for and loved. There was no trauma or drama during my childhood. Despite this, I always felt a bit disconnected from people in social situations. While on the surface I may have looked happy, this was far from the case.
I started drinking in my late teens/early 20s on weekends, at parties and celebrations, like most people in my social group. As I continued with this lifestyle I started to ‘pre-drink’ and would never refuse an after-party. Before I knew it most weekends or spare time would revolve around drinking, often to excess and normally in a bid to change how I felt.
In my mid to late 20s I would have mood swings and go thorough phases of feeling great and low. I would want to enjoy feeling good by having a drink and if I did not feel good, a drink would always help. I considered that maybe I had a drink problem, but because I enjoyed it I didn’t see it as a problem.
When did I realise I am an addict?
By chance, I was in New York when Russell Brand was promoting his book ‘Recovery – Freedom From our Addictions’. I’ve always been interested in his work, so I jumped at the chance to join a live Q&A with him. I had a couple of hours spare before the event and I found myself in a bar having a drink, one led to two, two led to three and so on until I had sufficient ‘Dutch courage’.
In my slightly blurred state of mind during the Q&A I started to wonder what made me need the ‘Dutch courage’, I’d had a great day with family and had things to look forward to, but something drew me to a bar. I also thought about when or why my drinking went from celebrations, to drinking just because there was some spare time in the day. I started reading the book and it highlighted some similarities that I felt I needed to explore.
The road to recovery
I went to my first meeting a month after the Q&A. The suggested programme of personal recovery I followed is the Twelve Steps. Russell’s book translates the steps into modern day culture. Each step is designed to re-instil in you the person you can be and the good that you do. A lot of it is about accepting responsibility for your actions.
Meetings are a chance to share experiences and be with like-minded people. If I’m ever finding things difficult I have 30-40 numbers I can call, and I know that at the drop of a hat they’d be available for me and I’d do the same for them.
Support at work
Initially I only told my manager who has been a huge support. I was able to leave early and meet with my sponsor every Monday, providing I made up the hours.
During the first month I decided to tell my colleagues in a team meeting. The response was very positive and supportive which has given me the confidence to believe that I can do it.
When I tell people at meetings that I’ve got this kind of support at work they’re quite shocked because a lot of them haven’t broached the topic with the people they work with.
Bupa as a company is very open and aware of mental health issues and the ease with which my colleagues have accepted and supported me is incredible.
The people I’ve met in my fellowship are truly incredible and have inspired me to want to never be in a hopeless state of mind again.
We’re now looking at starting a five-a-side football league. A lot of us used to play football but it always came with the drinking culture, so we want to set the same thing up just without the drinking.
I’ve also been a guest speaker at two institutions and three prisons, and over Christmas I did some outreach work at homeless shelter, Crisis, to help promote recovery.
What would you say to anyone experiencing addiction?
It’s that cliché saying of you have to be the first to admit you’ve got the problem – someone else can’t do it for you.
I would urge people to ask themselves; ‘do I fixate on something that has an unhealthy impact on my lifestyle?’ and ‘is it destructive or does it have the potential to be destructive?’
I would suggest going to a meeting. Worst case is that you might waste 90 minutes of your life, best case you could have a new life that you never knew could exist.”