By: Martin Jim McFadden
“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.” ― Irish Blessing
I was born in 1963, the youngest of five children. During that era in Co Donegal, Ireland, drinking played a significant part of the lives of most families. The pubs and the nightclub scene became our only outlets and forms of entertainment.
My brother, Edmund, was 17 years older than me and as a child, I used to be fascinated listening to stories of his many barroom brawls and fights with the authorities. He was my hero and a larger than life character. When I started out on my journey around the local bars and nightclub scene as a teenager, I suppose I was trying to follow in my brother’s footsteps and make a name for myself also.
Although Poitín or Irish Moonshine is now legally distilled, when I was younger it was illegal. However, we could buy it from a local supplier, and we got it at cheaply for £3 per bottle. Although it tasted pretty horrible, I didn’t care as all I wanted to do was get high as fast and as cheap as I could.
The local Guards or police would often raid our home trying to catch us in possession of our Poitin. We knew we could be raided, so we sometimes hid it in stacks of hay or stacks of turf. We would then forget where we had placed our bottles and could spend days searching through the hay and the turf frantically trying to be reunited with our drink.
Little did I realise that the journey ahead was going to be heartbreaking for my family, myself and my loved ones as I developed an overpowering addiction and craving for alcohol. I would walk away from someone I loved in favour of a drink.
I was 23 in 1986 and involved in an almost fatal road traffic accident. My injuries were considerable, and I spent three months in the hospital fighting for my life. My recovery was a miracle, but I just took it for granted and went straight back to my life of excessive drinking and mayhem.
In 1990 I received a substantial compensation of £90,000 and being an alcoholic, went on a continuous bender. I couldn’t settle for a relationship or even stay in the one place, as I was haunted by demons that would not let me rest. I was on the run and fueling my paranoia with alcohol.
After receiving my compensation I went back to London as I owed £400 to an old mate living there. My mate was a hard drinker and I knew the bar where I could find him. This was a bar that all the hard drinkers went to and I remembered being told it was almost impossible to get barred from this establishment.
However, the moment I walked in, the landlord told me to leave. I was shocked as I could not remember being there before and didn’t know what I had done to call for such a barring. The landlord refused to tell me why I couldn’t stay but produced a large baton he kept under the bar counter. Smacking the baton in his hand, he told me to leave without delay.
My mind was racing and being already half stoned out of my head, I thought I might as well give him some sort of reason for barring me. I looked around, found a few glass jugs, ashtrays, and bottles and started throwing them at him. My missiles were flying all around the bar, putting the other customers present at grave risk. A glass ashtray went crashing through a window onto a busy high street. The group of men playing cards at the table took grave offense when I managed to pull down a large chandelier that crashed on top of them. Unfortunately, this kind of drunken behavior became my norm. For the next three years, I continued to live life like a ‘wild man’ with hilarious but also devastating results. Alcohol controlled me, damaged me, and almost killed me like many of my friends at the time.
Although I was just a half hour away from my father, the arrest meant I could not see him before he passed. Not being there to hold my father’s hand during his passing and tell him how much I loved him was devastating and the guilt was overwhelming. But this was also my turning point. I knew then that I had to get sober and I felt eager and determined to get my life sorted out.
I have been to the depths of despair, but by the grace of God, I have managed to claw my way back to share my story with the world. Now happily married, in full-time employment, I have gone from langered to long-term recovery and finally found the joy and peace I was longing for.
I have since self-published my autobiography, Don’t Go There, and have performed this as a one-man play. It is my hope that my testimony, whether written or spoken, is an inspiration to anyone who is struggling with an addiction.
To purchase Martin Jim McFadden’s book, Don’t Go There
When He Met Liz: A song of love:
The Power of Prayer: A poem
Martin Jim McFadden is a great-grand-nephew of Cannon James McFadden who came to national prominence in 1899 when he was arrested and tried for the murder of R.I.C. District Inspector William Martin. For more information on this book: Canon James McFadden: The Patriot Priest of Gweedore
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.
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