‘I drank every day for 44 years, burying and struggling with my emotions. But thanks to NewLink Wales I now have a future.’

Meirion’s life has been battle against loss, circumstance, and the long-term alcohol misuse he turned to in order to cope. Today, he’s working with us to build his recovery – and finding that he can enjoy life.

Here’s his story:

Meirion, 60, is the youngest of 7 children. ‘Two of my brothers were in the Navy and whenever they came home, it was always party time,’ he told us. ‘I was always allowed a glass of beer and the first time I got drunk, I was 8 years old.

 ‘When I was around 11-12, I discovered you could buy take out flagons from the local pub with no questions asked, so I was then able to buy it for myself.’ 

Devastating loss

The family was hit bit an enormous tragedy when both parents died within a month of each other. Meirion was just 14.

 ‘We were a close family, not touchy feely, but close, but we just didn’t talk about it. We went from a normal family to having no parents practically overnight. 

I went to school the day after my dad died and I have no memory of my mum’s funeral or much of the time afterwards. I can’t even remember going to school.’

Meirion’s drinking increased.  ‘I tried blaming everything on alcohol, but I was enjoying it, it was still a grown up thing to do.  I started going to pubs and sitting in the back room out of the way. I would go during break time in school and may or may not go back. I joined my sisters’ boyfriends’ crowd so no one questioned my age.

 Drinking and going to the pub became my life.  Even my brother dying of sclerosis didn’t stop me.’

‘Emotion equalled pain’

At 28, Meirion met his wife, and they had two children. 

‘I didn’t feel married,’ he recalls. ‘I was still going to the pub after work and I’d still go out on my own. We rarely went out together unless it was for an event. It dawned on me that I didn’t know how to be a husband, or a father and I felt guilty about that. 

I would drink to help with the guilt, but that made me feel guilty, so then I’d drink more, and feel more guilty!’

Meirion had pushed his emotions down so far he could no longer feel anything. ‘To me, emotion equalled pain. I loved my family, but I couldn’t show it. I was afraid if I loved them, I’d get hurt, so I pushed them away.’ 

Eventually, Meirion’s marriage broke down.

‘I had to drink every day to function’

Meirion’s drinking continued.

‘I was working in the Parks Department with the Council, so I was outdoors most of the time. I’d always drunk considerably, but I was careful not to show it. It was normal for me to drink 8 pints and no one would notice.  That was how much I had to drink every day to function, to be me.’

Meirion met someone else. ‘It seemed perfect!  She drank too which meant I could drink with her, but I still felt guilty and it became nonstop. I would have to have alcohol in the house for the morning and panic if we didn’t have any.’ 

It wasn’t long before this relationship, too, broke down.

Fresh start

Meirion was keen to make a fresh start. He moved to Cardiff, but the change of scene didn’t help him combat his drinking.

‘It just meant drinking in different pubs! I would drink constantly, not eating at all.  I’d lost my confidence, my self esteem. I wasn’t seeing my family.

I couldn’t work if I hadn’t had a drink, so I would go sick. Money was running out, so I got a part time job, but travelling from one job to another, I’d drink four cans on the way, go to the pub after work and the off-license on the way home to buy more for the morning.’

With money problems growing, Meirion got a weekend job. ‘I still couldn’t see I had a problem.  I had a home and money for drink, which was all I needed.’

‘Structure and purpose’: finding Footsteps to Recovery

Meirion’s health began to concern him and he was diagnosed with COP: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease. ‘I’d lived not caring if I lived or died, but this opened my eyes and I admitted to my GP that I had a problem. She actually said to me that she’d been waiting for me to tell her!’

Meirion’s GP referred him to TAITH, a drug and alcohol referral service. ‘Within two weeks I was seen by TAITH, two weeks later I was in the Community Addiction Unit and four weeks later detoxing in Llandough.

‘This was my first time trying to stop drinking. I was really worried. For the first week I couldn’t do anything.  I couldn’t eat and was checked on constantly. The second week I started therapy.’

After two weeks in Llandough, Meirion was discharged.

 ‘Now I was really scared!  I went to Recovery Cymru even though didn’t think it was for me.  But I stayed and I’m really glad I did, they were a wonderful help. The Footsteps to Recovery course was starting and this gave me eight weeks of structure and purpose. Without this course, I probably would have started drinking again thinking I could handle it, but I know now I wouldn’t have been able to.’

‘I’d spent years telling myself I was a failure’

‘This was my first time sober in 44 years, but I was beginning to feel stuck and wondering “is this recovery?”   A Recovery Cymru volunteer signed me up for the NewLink Wales Wellbeing course and the first I knew about it was when I received a letter with the dates!

I didn’t know who NewLink Wales were or anything about them! I really enjoyed the course though and from there I signed up to MILE.’

MILE became the focal point of Meirion’s recovery. ‘It showed me what I can do,’ he explains.  ‘It’s difficult to put into words, but all the different parts of it, from beekeeping, which helped with my confidence and self esteem, to just being there. 

The course gave me purpose and the staff helped me to reflect on all the hard work I’d done.  I couldn’t see it myself, I’d spent years telling myself I was a failure and didn’t deserve a future, but I was shown and learnt that yes, I do, I’ve worked hard for this.’

‘I feel so proud’

‘I tell people I’m in my “enjoyable recovery”. With NewLink Wales, it’s not all about urges, triggers and cravings, it’s about life after your problem and that there is life after which I’d never believed possible. You can’t turn your back on what you’ve done, but you don’t have to be that way anymore.’

With a future now firmly ahead of him, Meirion wants to help people who’ve faced the same challenges he’s known.

 ‘I already volunteer with Green Days helping people with learning difficulties, I’m a recovery buddy and I’m hoping to volunteer in Llandough to talk to patients on the detox ward about recovery and NewLink Wales. 

‘My daughter has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list and told me she “had her dad back”. I feel so proud of her and myself for being sober and able to appreciate it.”

‘I drank every day for 44 years, burying and struggling with my emotions. But thanks to NewLink Wales I now have a future.’