Today I have the pleasure of speaking to Peter Reading who is using his historical struggle with alcoholism to help other people to overcome their own struggles.
Read his story below and listen to the podcast that we recorded together:
As a kid I grew up in a happy household. My family are nice people and always cared for me and supported me. From my first day at school until my last day I absolutely hated it. I didn’t feel I was particularly smart and I certainly didn’t feel that I fitted in with the other kids. I was bullied for a lot of my school years and became very isolated because of it.
When I was fourteen I discovered alcohol. It gave me a super power that I didn’t know existed….. confidence. With a few drinks in me I wasn’t afraid any more. No one could bully me any more because I could stand up for myself. I could talk to people. I was ten feet tall and bullet proof. Around this time I started smoking weed as well. It was another form of what I thought was a buzz but in reality I was escaping from myself and hiding behind my superpower. I moved on to abusing solvents for a while. I really didn’t realise at the time what the mind altering experiences of solvent abuse can do to a person. Hallucinations were a daily occurrence and it was hard to differentiate between that and reality!
I got the chance to leave school at the age of fifteen and start an apprenticeship at a local blacksmiths company and I grabbed it with both hands as it got me away from school which I’d hated so much since my first day. My weekend started on a Thursday night as that was payday and and I’d be out drinking until a Sunday night. I played for a pool team on a Tuesday night as well which, as much as I love a game of pool, was just another excuse to get drunk. Not that I need any excuses!
I experimented with drugs and in particular I liked the effects of LSD and amphetamines. LSD put me in a completely different reality and again my trips were full of hallucinations. It was another way of escaping myself. I was taking LSD on a regular basis until I had a bad trip that so very nearly ended in tragedy. I thought I was gone never to return again on that trip and I’ve never touched it again since. I was 19 at the time. Amphetamines gave me unlimited confidence and energy. I could work like a horse and I could socialise with absolutely anyone. Not to mention how much I could drink on it! Taking amphetamines I could go days or even weeks without food or sleep but inevitably I’d always hit the wall, blackout, collapse and then sleep for days.
Gradually, as I progressed through my career, bigger and better jobs with bigger and better pay were presenting themselves to me. The problem with these jobs was that they all implemented random drug testing. I felt that getting high wasn’t worth losing the money I was earning so again I turned to my old friend alcohol. We knew each other pretty well and got on like a house on fire. At least I thought we did. It didn’t seem to matter to me that I was losing jobs left right and centre because of my lifestyle and my behaviour. Alcohol is legal and I wasn’t losing jobs through failed drugs tests so clearly the companies that were sacking me were in the wrong.
This pattern continued for a number of years until I got my dream job. Working abroad. What a gig that was. From the moment I left my house until the moment I returned it was party time. In fact it wasn’t party time at all, it was complete carnage. I’d always find myself in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. Clearly it was whatever country I was in that was at fault and not me. Inevitably this job came to an abrupt end when I was admitted to a detox unit in a foreign hospital. I found myself broke and living alone. My relationships had all broken down. I’d become unemployable. I hated myself but I was the only company that I had other than my old friend alcohol who I’d become completely inseparable from. The abnormal had become completely normal. As soon as my eyes were open I was staring straight into a bottle and the last thing I’d see before passing out would be a bottle. I literally couldn’t function without it.
I had numerous stays in detox units. Some were more successful than others but I’d always end up relapsing. I’ve been arrested. I’ve slept rough. I’ve been beat up. I’ve gotten into fights and the truth is I absolutely hate fighting. I’ve had failed suicide attempts which completely devastated me at the time that I wasn’t successful in managing to achieve what I thought was my only way out. Anyone who says suicide is a cowards way out hasn’t the slightest clue of what they are talking about!
The early days of sobriety were some of the hardest days of my life. I’d resorted back to the mindset I had as a kid in that I didn’t belong, I didn’t fit in, my confidence was gone, I was just a scared and lonely little boy again. The feeling of being ten feet tall and bullet proof was just a distant memory. I felt sick to my stomach that I had wasted thirty three years of my life that were gone forever and they all meant nothing and there was nothing I could do about it…… or was there? The answer was yes, in fact there was a lot I could do about it. Through sharing my story I can let others see that things are never as hopeless as they seem. If sharing my story helps just one person, just one, then the thirty three years I thought I had wasted are instead a complete success. What I went through has shaped me into who I am today and there isn’t a thing that I’d now change about my past.
I’d like to point out two things here. Firstly, the realisation that it wasn’t in fact the companies or the countries I worked in that were at fault, it was me that was at fault was hard to take at first. I’ve cut myself some slack on that as I know now I had lost my way or more to the point, I didn’t know my way in the first place. Secondly, thinking that alcohol and substances gave me the superpower of confidence was completely wrong. It gave me false confidence. I’ve always had confidence, I just didn’t know how to use it. I don’t think it’s my superpower any more. My superpower is being me. Everyone has that superpower.
My life was a horror show before but I put the emphasis on the word WAS. Nowadays I love my life. I spend as much time as possible outdoors. Walking, hiking, camping, wild swimming, lying in the grass watching the clouds go by or anything at all that gives me the connection to nature that I didn’t know was what I needed all along. I’ve discovered that making true genuine connections with true genuine people is so easy as what you put out there comes back to you. I’ve learned to give myself a break. I’ve done a lot of wrong things in my life but they don’t define who I am. What I do today is all that’s important. What ANYONE does today is all that’s important. Living in the present moment is where it all happens.
Walking with a reason came into existence purely because I wanted to go on a long walk, it’s just as simple as that. Having discovered not just my passion for being outdoors but the benefits as well, both physical and mental, I quickly realised its what I need and want to be doing. I also realised very quickly that I want to encourage as many people as I can to experience it for themselves. We all go outdoors but when do we really pay attention to what we are looking at? When do we pay attention to the fact that nature isn’t just all around us but we are actually a part of it. When do we put everything aside that can be plugged into the mains and just be? The sense of freedom from something as simple as not needing to know the time is incredible. That can be achieved on a simple short walk. For myself when I go hiking for days on end I don’t know what the time is. I don’t know how far I’ll walk that particular day. I don’t know where I’ll pitch my tent. All I know is that none of it matters. That sense of freedom is priceless yet is absolutely free. Walking with a reason is my way of sharing this with everyone. I try as hard as I can to help people and to make a difference. After all, I now know that is my purpose.
I’ve found a great deal of satisfaction in helping other people but I don’t think they realise that in return they are helping me just as much. After 47 years on this planet I have found my purpose. No longer do I feel ten feet tall, I feel twelve feet tall.
For the rest of my life I’ll be Walking With A Reason.
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