“I got a good life after all!”

Meru was an active alcoholic for more than 20 years of her adult life. The sickness left her penniless, nearly took her life and broke relations to other people. Now, at the brink of retirement, Meru’s life is in better shape than ever.

The turning point came when Meru understood to look for help. Peer support broke the addiction and helps her stay sober.

“My childhood home offered me a good starting point in life, but because of some sense of inferiority, I never got an education. Working in the restaurant business became lucrative very quickly, which created a favourable breeding ground for my illness.”

Alcoholism is an illness involving secrets and cover-ups, which finally leads to total destruction.

Kuvituskuva juttuun Toivuin sittenkin hyvään elämään

Little is never enough – only too much will do

“I would say ‘no’ to a drink at a family event, coming up with all kinds of excuses. In reality, I couldn’t wait to get a drink,” Meru sneers.

She does not blame others or circumstances for her illness taking a turn to the worse. The irregular working hours in the restaurant field made her turn her drinking into some kind of a social game.

“When, as a waitress, I had watched others relax, I had to quickly find relaxation myself after my shift at work ended, in some restaurant that was still open.”

Meru emphasizes that many of the employees in the restaurant business are meticulous and great people, but for her, it was not the best working environment.

“The good tips I received were like an extra income, which I blew on drinking. When the tips weren’t enough, I used my credit cards.”

Found help after hitting rock bottom

The happy and affluent 80s finally drew Meru in debt.

“I could barely keep up appearances, and I had been given a last warning at work. I cried alone in my flat,” Meru recalls.

The many severe accidents she suffered in her drunken state left her with minor physical injuries. Health care professionals patched them up, but Meru would have liked them to tend to more than that.

“In addition to taking care of my physical injuries, I wish the nurses and doctors would have talked to me about the real reason behind my illness. I believe I would have listened to them then.”

The helpline finally led her to peer support, which she says is her medication, friend and sustaining force for the rest of her life.

Kuvituskuva juttuun Toivuin sittenkin hyvaan elämään

Peer support to her workmates

For quite a while now, via occupational health care, Meru has offered peer support to people at her workplace suffering from the same illness. There is help to be found for the secrecy and loneliness that makes alcoholism worse.

A few years after becoming sober and as middle-aged, Meru dared change her profession. About that time, an old friend asked her: “What has happened to make you so happy?”

“Could it be that I have been sober for two years?” Meru replied.

Background: The threshold to offering peer support has been lowered through anonymity. The principle is unbreakable. Therefore we have used Meru’s peer support name in this article. The anonymous peer support, first introduced in the treatment of alcoholism, is also applied to the treatment of other addictions.

Facts:

  • Every third drinks too much
    More than 90 per cent of the working population in Finland consumes alcohol. Every third drinks so much that their health is at risk. Drug and medical abuse is on the increase.
  • Pay attention to your own health in time
    If your working capacity has been reduced, remember to seek help in time. You can discuss your coping with daily life and health with, for example, the occupational health care at your workplace. See also: Back to Work Through Rehabilitation

Photos: Karoliina Paatos

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