On the surface, celebrity agent Craig Johnson-Pass looked like he had his life under control. Business was thriving, his roster of stars were busy working and on a personal level he appeared to be loving life. But beneath this seemingly happy exterior, Craig was battling severe alcoholism, a 12 year fight that he was starting to lose.
Here, in an astonishingly frank and honest interview, 29 year old Craig opens up about why he couldn’t leave the house without having a drink, how he binged on booze until he blacked out and what it was that made him finally see the light.
How did you start drinking?
I started drinking when I was in my late teens. It wasn’t ‘bam, here’s a drink, I am an alcoholic.’ It was gradual. I started binge drinking at a young age. I didn’t know then what I know now – that my body doesn’t process alcohol like “normal” people. I would go out at the weekend and drink myself into oblivion which at that age I suppose is exceptable but looking back I always drank faster than others and the consequences were always a bit worse!
Were you social drinking to start with?
It was completely social. My parents never drank at home. When I moved out I realised you could have a drink in the evening at home to relax at home. They didn’t do that kind of thing.
When did it start to become a problem?
It was always a problem. For some reason, I always had to push the boundries. I always had to drink more than others. I always drank faster than other people. But when it really became a problem was when I lived on my own. I realised people couldn’t see my drinking and therefore couldn’t say to me ‘haven’t you had enough’. That gave me a free pass to drink what I liked and when I wanted to! Also a friend told me I could drink in the morning’s after a heavy night to take the edge of the hangover so I rolled with that.
Was anyone encouraging you to lead this excessive life?
I didn’t need ANY encouragement. I was an alcoholic in full flight alcoholism. Of course I gravitated towards people who drank like I did so it didn’t make me feel bad about my actions. But no one ever held a drink to my mouth and said have it!
How often were you drinking?
At one stage, it was every day. It wasn’t a choice. I had to do that to survive. I couldn’t leave the house without having a drink as I was full of fear and anxiety to face the outside world. I hated myself for it but I couldn’t see a way out. I was so ashamed and knew it was wrong but I just couldn’t bear the fear and sheer panic of day to day life. I was also racked with so much guilt and my head was so full of horrible feelings that I had to self medicate to get rid of them.
Did you wake up needing a drink?
At points, yes. But every alcoholic is different. No one’s story is the same. Every alcoholic is different but the main thing is that we have no control over drinking and it is having a serious effect on our lives.
Were you drinking for any reason? Did you want to get drunk for fun or did you want block anything out.
In the 2 years before I gave up alcohol there was zero fun in it. It was the worst time in my life. I still cannot believe it was me. Its like looking at a different person. But I can never forget that person or the things that happened as I need to remember how bad my life was to appreciate how good it is now. The reason it is so good now is that I don’t drink and am in Alcoholic Anonymous. I feel like a person again someone my family can look at and be proud. Someone who I enjoy seeing in the mirror every morning and not a person who I am ashamed to see staring back at me.
Did the drink help you feel more confident?
Of course it did, but I can honestly say I am more confident now as I am not riddled with shame and guilt or full of fear that once consumed me.
How did this effect friendships?
My friends were so concerned. I was slowly killing myself in front of them. I didn’t have a lot of friends by the end of my drinking but the ones who were around me tried their best to help me realise I had a problem. But that fell on deaf ears. Any addict or alcoholic cannot geet help if they don’t feel they have a problem. They had to sit back and hope that nothing bad would happen to me and that one day I may get sober.
Did it effect relationships?
I didn’t have relationships as I hated myself.
How did it effect your work?
I was a functioning alcoholic who did the best I could. But it took a massive toll on my job and my reputation was not in a good way.
Describe a day of drinking? How would an evening end?
The main aim for me every day was to black out so I didn’t have to be with myself or my thoughts. I drank to change the way I felt. To be numb to the world.
Were you ever a danger to yourself.
Of course I was. Some of the situations I ended up in were very dangerous. I am not sure if I would have died from liver problems but the consequences of when I drank. When you drink to blackout you have no idea what you are doing or saying which is so dangerous and I appreciate I am lucky to be alive. I have had to learn to forgive myself for some of the awful places I took myself to.
Did you end up lying to your friends and family?
Of course but most of all I was in complete denial with myself. I was so scared to ever admit there was a problem.
Did you carry a drink around with you all of the time?
At some points yes. I am not ashamed to admit that. I couldn’t cope with life. I couldn’t even get on public transport by the end of my drinking as I would have severe panic attacks.
When did you recognise it was more than just drinking?
I think I knew for a while but was too scared to get sober. I was so dependent on alcohol that if that left me I didn’t think I could do life. The people in AA have loved me back to life and taught me I don’t need alcohol to function. I wish I could have got sober years earlier, knowing what I know now, but I had to go through all the pain and misery I did to accept my alcholism and do something about it.
Did you understand why you had turned to drink?
Because I am an alcoholic. Alcoholics drink alcohol. I don’t know why I am one but I am. I have an allergy to alcohol and that is that when I take one drink my body wants more.
So what was the one incident that made you decide enough is enough.
Believe it or not in the last six months I had started to realise there was a problem and calmed down and cut down from drinking every day to four five times a week. I knew that I was drinking enough alcohol to kill any normal person. It was then that I realised the game was up. I had done this time and time again but that day something clicked. It almost felt like I had surrendered.
What was your first step?
I rang AA which was the hardest call I had ever made. Someone asked me questions about my drinking which I answered and suggested taking me to an AA meeting. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. I was shaking and scared. It was like being a four year old again. But I knew I was going to die if I didn’t get help. That first meeting I heard people talk openly about their drinking and how they got sober which gave me hope. They all seemed happy and free and I wanted it.
Was saying ‘I am an alcoholic’ strange for you?
I was too scared to say it for a little while. But when I did the relief was immense. It was like having a dirty little secret and finally being honest and true to myself. It was the bravest thing but the most rewarding words I have ever said. I would have kept it private and kept my anonimity but my drinking and how out of control I was was public knowledge because of my job. So when I was a few months sober I told others. My thinking was everyone knew I had a drinking problem and some people used this against me so I decided to come out for the second time in my life. It was such a relief and I have gone on to help others with various addictions through being open and honest.
What work did you have to do to stay sober?
I had to admit there was a problem, speak openly and honestly about it to others. It was the hardest but most rewarding thing I have ever done. I had to look at my whole life in intricate detail and clear away the wreckage of my past to be able to move forward. It was difficult and there were a lot of tears but It’s the most freeing experience. I carrried a lot of baggage around with me and when it all went it was the best feeling in the world. Every day I look at my behavour and strive to be a better person.
They say youre an alcoholic for life. Is that the case – you don’t feed the need?
I prefer to say I’m an alcoholic in recovery. I remind myself every day that I am an alcoholic as I believe the moment I forget that I am one is the moment I am at risk of a relapse.
Did you seek medical help – what did they advise.
Like I said everyone’s journey is different. Some people have to be medically detoxed or have to go into treatment centres. I went cold turkey which was awful. The withdrawals were like nothing I can ever describe but I had people around me who had been through the same guiding me through and helping me. Their strength gave me some strength.
Was it hard being around people with drinks. Did you crave drink?
Of course it was. But I wasn’t silly enough to be in situations that I didn’t feel comfortable with. I made anyone who I was with aware that I was in early recovery from alcoholism. I also always had a get out clause. If I felt vunerable I left, went home and rang another alcoholic and was honest about how I was feeling. A problem shared is a problem halved. They would talk me through their experiences and assure me its normal to crave a drink BUT the most important thing to do is to not take that first drink. I know where a drink will take me and that is six feet under. I want to be alive, I want to have a good life and I want to be happy. Drinking will never make me happy it made my life miserable. I know everything I have in life, including my own piece of mind, is because I am sober. I can’t afford to mess with that.
Did you relapse at any point.
I have been lucky enough not to. But I work hard to stay sober. I go to a lot of AA meetings and put a lot into my recovery. One day at a time I am 14 months sober.
Hand that’s amazing. How hard has it been for you to stay away from drink when your life is all showbiz and booze.
I have a clear understanding that I am an alcoholic and I can never safely drink again. If I am at a work engagement and feel unsafe then I will leave. I have been open with everyone around me that I am an alcholic to avoid tricky situations.
You’re very open and honest about your problem.
I am because I have to be. I am in an industry where free alcohol is thrown at you and I need others to understand that alcohol has no place in my life. Also by being so open a lot of people ask my advice about addiction as they may think they have a problem or a family member does. I believe you have to help others to keep what you have been given. Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life and I am happy to give back and help others wherever I can. Also why shouldn’t I be open about it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. But I also understand that others can’t tell other people due to their work or personal circumstances and I respect that. It’s called Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason and anonymity is a personal choice.
If you have or are experiencing problems with alcohol get in touch with www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk