An Australian woman who started drinking when she was in her early teens has revealed how she fell into the grips of a severe alcohol addiction that lasted for a staggering nine years.
Samantha Hoult, 32, from Cairns, Queensland, started drinking as a 14-year-old and by the time she was 18 she was addicted to alcohol and drinking on a daily basis.
Now four years sober, it took a harrowing warning from doctors when she was 27 to spark her recovery.
‘My liver was giving up and the doctors said I was lucky to be alive. They said if I had one more drink I would be dead.’
By 27 years old, Ms Hoult (pictured) said she was told by doctors if she had another drink she would wind up dead
The recovered alcoholic, said that as a 14-year-old drinking became a way to deal with issues and emotional problems she struggled to face.
‘Because I started so young, I didn’t actually learn how to deal with issues without alcohol,’ Ms Hoult told FEMAIL.
She said that although she and her friends started drinking together, the difference between her and others around her was that they knew when to stop.
Life after the bottle: Samantha Hoult has now been sober for four years, an achievement that has allowed her live life to the fullest
The life and soul of the party: Ms Hoult explains that unlike her peers who knew when to stop, once she started she needed to keep going
‘I was always the last one at the party, the one who wanted to keep drinking. Everyone else seemed to know when enough was enough,’ she recalled.
It didn’t take long for ‘alcohol to become number one’ and once she’d start drinking, she simply couldn’t, and wouldn’t, stop.
The doctor said I had 30 minutes to get to the emergency department of my local hospital.
Although Ms Hoult found a way to complete her last year at school and go on to start a nursing degree, her drinking caused her to drop out after her first year.
Once 18, alcohol started to affect every area of her life and there was nothing she could do to stop the nightmare that had become her world.
‘I lost multiple jobs due to always calling in sick and I went bankrupt after I stopped paying my bills to fund my drinking habit,’ she said.
At her worst, Ms Hoult would drink a dozen beers and a 1.25L bottle of vodka. She was also spending upwards of $150 a day.
Ms Hoult says she started drinking as a 14-year-old as a way to deal with issues and emotional problems she struggled to face
At her worst she would drink a dozen beers and a 1.25L bottle of vodka and would spend in the vicinity of $150 a day
‘I suffered multiple injuries from drunken falls, I lost my drivers’ licence, I lost relationships with family and friends. All of my romantic relationships ended due to alcohol,’ she said.
‘It got to the point where I was drinking from the minute I woke up. Otherwise, I would get the delirium tremens [severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms].’
When she was 27, Ms Hoult said her body was starting to pay the price for her drinking in a terrifying way.
She explained the turning point, one that saw her give up alcohol for good, came after a particularly boozy weekend – a bender that left her feeling sick for days.
‘I put it down to alcohol poisoning, however, when I was still unwell a few days later I went to see the doctor,’ she said.
Ms Hoult said it took being hospitalised with alcohol-induced hepatitis and warning she could die in order for her to turn her life around
‘He did some blood tests and rang me the next morning to tell me I had 30 minutes to get to the emergency department of my local hospital.’
The results were shocking: her liver enzyme count was 14,380 and a healthy count is between 0 – 45.
I had to learn how to do everything sober again including eating, sleeping, socialising and dating.
‘I arrived at the hospital in a haze of terror and I was rushed straight in and immediately put on a drip to try and clear my liver of toxins,’ Ms Hoult said.
Ms Hoult was diagnosed with alcohol-induced hepatitis and would spend the next week suffering from withdrawals including delirium tremens, migraines, nausea, vomiting, insomnia and fevers.
‘After a week I was sent home to continue my recovery, she said, ‘but not before I was told the words I really needed to hear: “If you have one more drink, you will die”.’
The wake-up call was enough for the 27-year-old to decide she would turn away from alcohol for good but she admits her early days of sobriety weren’t easy.
Ms Hoult (pictured right, with her mother pictured left) said her addiction cost her so much include her relationships with her family
While support workers, including a psychologist from a community health organisation, helped her understand why she drank, Ms Hoult said learning how to live life sober was ‘incredibly difficult’.
‘I had to learn how to do everything sober again including eating, sleeping, socialising and dating.
‘And I suffered from migraines, nausea and insomnia for months.’
She said that throwing herself into work, university and volunteering with State Emergency Services (SES) not only kept her busy but also gave her a purpose and helped rebuild her shattered life.
Turning away from drinking meant discovering how to live life without alcohol as a crutch, something Ms Hoult said was extremely difficult in the beginning
She revealed throwing herself into work, university and volunteering with State Emergency Services (SES) not only kept her busy but also gave her a purpose
Young Australians and alcohol: the stats
Most drug related deaths of young Australians are due to alcohol
58 per cent of the time alcohol is the drug involved for substance related admission into hospitals for 15-34 year olds.
Just under 70 per cent of teenagers between 14-17 get alcohol from friends or relatives.
Just under 50 per cent of girls and 44 per cent of boys buy alcohol from shops.
30 per cent of 13-17 year olds participated in unsupervised drinking at a sports club and 71% of these had never been asked for proof of age.
Source: Salvation Army
Now Ms Hoult can proudly say she has been sober for four years.
In that time has managed to complete her nursing degree – although this isn’t a profession she has returned to.
Instead, she now heads up an online clothing business, a venture that sees her manage a team of 12,000 sales representatives.
Then there is her ongoing volunteer work with SES and she also plays competitive eight ball.
‘I’m debt free, I have my licence and a car, have a great circle of friends. I have rebuilt relationships with family members and I’m in a loving relationship with an amazingly supportive man,’ Ms Hoult said.
The now 32-year-old believes by sharing her story it might be possible to also help others who may be battling a serious drinking problem at a young age.
Although chocolate and tea have replaced beer and vodka, Ms Hoult declares life sober couldn’t be more worthwhile
‘My life started when I put down the bottle; I have achieved more in my four years and three months of sobriety than I did in the whole 14 years I was drinking.
‘Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself and I can honestly say I do not miss my old life at all.
‘To those that are struggling, please know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope. Life is so much better sober, and if I can do it, so can you!’
Where to get help: Alcoholics Anonymous, contact: 1300 222 222 or visit aa.org.au
Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about support options available for you.