“I LOST EVERYTHING except the ability to breathe,” a recovering alcoholic and formerly homeless Southwater man said as he recalled that his years of drinking had ‘cost more than money’.
Rob Roberts was 28 when he knew he had a life-threatening alcohol problem causing him to suffer paranoia, hallucinations and uncontrollable fits.
“Part of my job involved entertaining and being entertained. You had cocktails and beers and gradually it just grew and although I didn’t fully understand or accept it, I was full of fear and insecurity.
“So I started to run away. I did something known as geographing - going somewhere else hoping it would be different. But the problem was I brought myself.”
Now 68, Rob has had a high-flying job as a marketing services manager based on the border of Scotland. To his company he was viewed as a ‘superstar’, but when they asked him to move to America Rob says ‘internally I was a wreck’.
“I had a lack of confidence, I was insecure, fearful, and the only way I could cope was to take alcohol. And the consumption increased.”
Rob was made redundant in the early 90s for reasons not relating to alcohol abuse, but advised by his company to seek help for his condition.
Years passed with a steady downward spiral as Rob’s drinking became more severe - at his worst he was consuming around 12 cans of high alcohol beer a day.
After failing rehabilitation in Northern Ireland, the then desperate alcohol abuser returned to West Sussex, declared himself homeless and sought refuge in a Storrington shelter.
“That’s where I lost everything except the ability to breathe,” he continued. “I should have died before then, and on my knees I cried out in desperation.
“It was a strange feeling, I felt that there was something that would look after me, and that’s when I found my faith.”
Rob now ‘depends on a higher power’ instead of alcohol in a bid to change from a ‘taker to a giver’ and ‘from one who hurts to one who serves’.
The years of abuse have left Rob brain damaged - suffering from Korsakoff’s Syndrome - a disorder and form of dementia often linked to heavy drinking.
His recovery has been slow, but is now making good progress, attending Southwater Leisure Centre Gym, a self-help group, Southwater Community Methodist Church and volunteering for conservation work at the Horsham Green Gym.
Part of the recovery included a ten kilometre run hosted by Mel’s Milers running club in which he finished in 54 minutes and 38 seconds earlier this month.
Rob hopes heavy drinkers will learn from his story. He said: “It took me losing everything but my life to realise that it’s not all about me. I had become selfish and full of pride.
“If you suspect that they may have a problem, check it out immediately because it’s possible to stop at a high rock bottom rather than a low rock bottom.
“When alcohol costs more than money I would plead with people to seriously think about getting help.”
Rob added he is looking forward to taking on the Barns Green half marathon later this year.