We now know that our early life experiences can have a profound effect on what happens to us in later life, in relation to our physical, psychological and relational wellbeing as an adult. These adverse childhood experiences needn’t be major, like serious physical violence. They can be more subtle, but be repeated time after time, like those described by David McCartney in the first film below.
The development of such anxiety and fear can lead to a person using substances, such as alcohol, in later life to alleviate these adverse feelings. The long-term use of these substances can then lead to a further set of problems.
Let’s listen to David talk about these matters. He went on to develop a serious drinking problem, before finding recovery and then setting up a recovery community, LEAP (Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme).
David describes how alcohol problems ran through his family for generations. These problems led to uncertainties and unpredictabilities in his childhood which left him feeling anxious and fearful. He developed a hyper-vigilance and would go into survival mode. Rather than ask for help, he internalised everything. Asking for help felt shameful.
When David first tried alcohol aged 17, he found it soothed his anxiety and helped him feel confident socially. However, he did not drink regularly at this stage of his life. He increased his anxiety levels by deciding to go to medical school. None of his family had been to university and the achievements of pupils from his comprehensive school were modest.
After achieving good grades at school, David found himself pretty average at medical school. He had to work very hard to keep his head above water. Whilst he was from a working class background, most of his classmates were from a privileged background. This all added to David’s anxiety, which he found could be soothed by alcohol.
When he started doing odd shifts in the hospital, David had trouble sleeping. He soon found that having a drink at 4.00pm before going to bed helped him sleep and be better prepared for a midnight shift.