A recovering alcoholic who overcame years of addiction, lying and stealing will represent Cotswold Sailing Club at a national competition next month.
Will Gifford, 37, from Minety, near Malmesbury, was arrested multiple times and lost his driving licence on two occasions during the 13 years he spent dependent on alcohol.
After a 14-week stint on remand in prison last year for stealing a bottle of wine from his neighbour’s house, Will said enough was enough and fought to beat the illness which was ruining his friendships and family life.
“A day in a life of active addiction is horrendous. You beg, borrow or steal to get your next drink,” said Will, who will compete at the Rs Aero National Championships in Hayling Island in August.
“I look back on it and I think that was really sad and I was a sick person, I was poorly and it’s a killer disease. Addiction wants us dead.
“I have a relationship with my parents now which is wonderful: it’s full of joy, full of laughter, full of trust. Whereas before it was full of anger, no trust and I let the family down.”
Will’s addiction began in 2007 when he returned to Minety after working as a sailing instructor in Europe and Australia.
He said it was a “nightmare” for his family, and his friends found it difficult to spend time with him. His dependence was complicated further when he was diagnosed with Aspergers in 2014, a syndrome which caused him anxiety and for which he would use alcohol to “self-medicate.”
Soon he was drinking alone and spending work hours thinking about his next bottle. He lost his driving licence for a total of six years and his parents took control of his finances, so Will resorted to lying and, on three occasions, stealing to fuel his addiction.
“When it got really bad I was going around asking people in the village for drink and making up stories – saying ‘I’m having some friends over, any chance I could borrow a bottle of wine’ – and in the next five minutes I was necking it walking home.
“Today I don’t have to do that,” added Will, describing the importance of his family, Alcoholics Anonymous, Turning Point and the Wiltshire Police Offender Management programme to his recovery.
“I want people to know that with addiction, there is a way out, there is a solution and there is help out there.
“I want this to help other people.”
Will has gone from receving a two year suspended prison sentence in September to helping mentor newcomers at AA, earning a qualification in canine behavioural therapy and competing nationally between August 18 – 22 for Cotswold Sailing Club.
“I thank my family, my parents and my sister for the amazing support and safety net that they have given me because it would have been very difficult to do it without that,” he said, adding that he wanted to apologise to anyone he had upset.
“They trust me to go away now and not worry that I’m going to come back a drunken state which is fantastic.
“I love racing because it’s my substance of choice now and it’s good for me.
“I get the same buzz that I did from drinking without the hangover.”
If you or someone you know is seeking help for an alcohol addiction, you can call the national AA helpline on 0800 9177 650 or find a local AA meeting on their website.
You can find help for a wide range of health and wellbeing services at Turning Point.