On January 27, 2011, Séamus Fox took his last drink – a can of Guinness Extra Stout. Through sobriety, he eventually started to meet other alcoholics and began to understand that he wasn’t in it alone.

For this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week, Séamus is sharing some of the things he has noticed since becoming sober.

“I drank very heavily for more than 20 years and for the last six or seven years of that I was drinking alcoholically. Alcohol nearly killed me, it did kill my sister, it killed friends of mine and it made many people I knew very ill.

When I got sober, I met a lot of alcoholics and through them I heard hundreds of stories. From this, my understanding of the condition has grown based not only on first-hand experience but also observational and research-based knowledge.

Alcoholism is progressive so it gets gradually worse over time. When people continue drinking heavily for long periods, the amounts they need will increase and thus their dependence will grow until they might have difficulty stopping.

Because this can be over decades, some people don’t notice it and because denial is at the core of the whole addiction process people are more likely to ignore problems when they do arise.

Alcohol is an extremely powerful substance. Some people think that they’re only having a harmless few sociables at the weekend but doing that two or three days a week every week could eventually lead to dependence.

Alcohol is destructive and I’ve experienced and heard stories of it causing depression and anxiety.  It can begin to make life more complicated but denial can then stop people from fully realising where exactly the problem is coming from even though it is very obvious to everyone else. Some people might wonder why they don’t feel good, or wonder why things aren’t going well, but alcohol won’t be blamed because they would have convinced themselves that it is harmless and that it is helping them to relax. The link between depression and alcoholism can be a very vicious cause and effect cycle, so people will use alcohol to make themselves feel better without realising that it is in fact causing their depression to begin with.

I have now been sober for nearly nine years and my life is so much easier and more fulfilling than it was when I was drinking. I am in control of mind and my emotions now. I have not been anxious or depressed for many years and I rarely get physically ill. I am much happier and better equipped to deal with life.

If you are drinking, please be mindful of the progressive nature of alcohol. Alcohol is a destructive and insidious substance and it is very dangerous.”

If you are worried you are drinking too much, there is support available at www.alcoholchange.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help-now.