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Overcoming addiction: I used to drink myself to oblivion every night

Mike Meehan had drunk 48 cans one weekend when something clicked – he was fed up of feeling hopeless and miserable.

Mike Meehan

I STARTED DRINKING at around 15 – once in a blue moon, just a few cans. By 18, I was drinking three to four times a week, often heavily.

I moved from Ireland to the US at 20, bringing $2,200 with me that I drank in less than a fortnight in the first pub I found.

I got a bartending job but served myself more often than any customer.

The bar was brand new and didn’t have much staff so I worked long hours, opening the place up at 11am and closing at 1am.

At the start, I’d wait until the evening to have a drink but I eventually began having an orange juice with vodka in the morning.

After day shifts, I’d move to the other side of the counter and drink myself stupid until the early hours of the morning before heading to a lock-in.

I could afford it, at least: I was making around $1,000 a week – a big step up from collecting €188 a week on the dole in Ireland.

For the year and a half I spent in America, I spent maybe three nights sober – and that was only because I was in hospital for a while after falling drunk and hitting my head.

As soon as I checked myself out, I went straight back to the pub.


The morning hangovers started to get worse and worse, and I began drinking once I woke just to try offset the sickness.

Soon, I was downing four to five pint glasses of rum and coke just to stop my hands from shaking the following morning.

I found a group of older Irish lads to drink with and a good few of them were basically living in pubs. I told myself that would never be me but the reality is that I was just as bad.

On my days off, a friend of mine and I would go out in the morning to the place he managed, drink while the bartender set up, then hit three to four pubs before lunchtime.

We’d head then to a local watering hole where beers were $2.50. This place let you serve yourself – you had to leave the bottle caps in front of you and then pay at the end. It was heaven.

After drinking there until late in the morning, I’d head to the bar I worked at, already absolutely out of it.

I’d often make myself throw up because in my head it meant I could drink more and carry on drinking until well after closing time.

I had some taxi driver friends who’d bring us all home dirt cheap.

One in particular, an Egyptian lad, used to carry me up the stairs and put me into bed if I’d passed out in the back of his car.

Other times, I’d wake up the next morning on the kitchen or bathroom floor, sometimes even outside our front door.


The group I hung out with started worrying about me and telling me I needed to dry out.

One friend who came to visit me asked: “Do you want to go home to your mother in a body bag?”

But sure I was only a young lad having fun. Then why didn’t it feel like fun?

I missed my family and my head was all over the place from being drunk all the time. I rarely ate because I was throwing up so often. I rarely showered. I was completely miserable.

I even took the Xanax a doctor had prescribed me with vodka.

I stopped showing up to work so I ran out of money. I couldn’t pay rent and I couldn’t afford food, but I always found ways to get drink.

One night, after already drinking the contents of my roommate’s alcohol press, I went to the kitchen and drank the cooking wine. I’ll never forget the taste of that as long as I live.

I had no desire to find another job: I felt worse and worse every day, and didn’t want to even go on at that point.

I ended up back in the hospital, where it was suggested I go to some AA meetings, but not long after I packed my bags and got on a flight back to Ireland.

Coming home

I arrived home, went back on the dole and drank it away. I wasn’t able to afford to go out very often, but I’d drink in friends’ places maybe two nights during the week.

On the weekends, I’d go out, get drunk and go looking for fights. I usually ended up in one.

I was arrested one night and summoned to appear in court, where a judge called me a thug, fined me and told me I’d face jail time if he ever saw me again. At 22, that was a wake-up call.

Soon after, I found out that my liver was showing signs of damage – my body was a disaster inside and out.

I moved to Galway, in with the friend who had visited me in America, and continued to drink.

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There’s this haunting video from the night of my 23rd birthday that shows me being carried into the house from a taxi and hitting the floor. I get up, barely able to walk and take a swing at one of the lads who lived in the house.

For a while, I stopped drinking and started to feel healthy again, but it wasn’t long until I was back to binging.

One Friday, my other roommate left two slabs of cider and a bottle of rum in the house and said he’d be back on Sunday night to drink with me.

When he came back, he found 48 empty cans and the bottle of rum finished.

That weekend was probably the worst of my life. The thoughts that ran through my head scared me: I felt that this was going be my life forever.

I had distanced myself from all of my friends and felt there was no hope of me ever leading a normal life, let alone succeeding in anything.

Seeking help

At the start, being drunk helped me overcome my anxiety but now it was something that had complete control over my life – it was only going to end up in jail, sickness or death.

I was as low and as lonely as I’d ever felt that Saturday night when, for some reason, I reached out to a friend for help.

I woke up the following morning and something had just clicked in my head. That was it: I had had enough of feeling depressed, drinking my life away and feeling hopeless and miserable.

I moved back in with my parents, started eating healthily, going to the gym and taking care of myself.

My mood improved, my skin looked better and I saved up some money, moved back to the US, got myself a job and met a wonderful, smart, beautiful woman who has helped me focus on what I really want in life.

She and her daughter are now my family, and we are expecting our first child together.

I’m off drink now for three years. I’ve dropped from 17 to 12 stone, and I’m planning to start my own business.

I used to think there was nothing worth sticking around for – that I’d never be happy or succeed. Now, I can say something I once thought would never be possible: I’m excited for the future.

Mike Meehan, from Ennis, lives in Connecticut, USA. A longer version of this post can be read on his blog here

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Mike Meehan

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