Sonia Randev: “I’d get up at 7 in the morning and quite happily pour myself a glass of wine.“
“It’s July 15th 2012. I am tired, broke, angry and enough is enough. The shop keeper is looking at me funny as I purchase two bottles of white wine at 10 in the morning. I’m wondering where can I go to get some peace and quiet. The park.
“As I find a place to sit, I look over at the kids playing on the swings and for a split second it’s the 1980s and I’m playing bull-dog at the top of my road. Young, carefree and innocent. Oblivious to what life had in store for me later down the line.
“I open the bottle of wine and take a large swig. Phone in hand, I get ready to send a text to all the people that matter to me, that have played a significant part in my life up until then. The text was very simple. I cannot go on like this and I don’t see any way out of this. I’m sorry.”
Thankfully Sonia Randev is still here, still fighting her addictions. But the words above bring home the despair and pain of alcoholism. Just one more drink, what harm can it do, not realising the harm it does, or in many cases not caring.
‘If I can’t have a drink, I have nothing, what’s the point of living.’ Not the words of Randev, but they could have been.
As with any mental illness or addiction, for much of the time, there is only one season. The darkness of a winters mind, won’t allow the sun to shine. The life of an alcoholic can be one of never-ending darkness, not caring what it is doing to themselves or those closest to them. The contents of the bottle wiping away normal common sense thoughts or emotions.
Life was good for Randev, she was 23 and looking forward to her career in journalism, happy in her relationship. But life can bite back, the relationship ended, and as one love affair finished, another started. Seeking solace in a bottle, the downward spiral began:
“I initially thought I was just letting off some steam, people probably just thought it was normal for someone who was coming off a break-up, she’s upset, she’s depressed. But then I was thinking nothing much has changed since I first started drinking but then I realised this is just getting worse I kind of realised deep down I had a problem but I just didn’t want to do anything about it.”
Before the heartbreak hit, Randev had never had a drink in her life. She worked in a pub, enjoyed the social side but hating the smell of alcohol:
“I used to think how can people drink this it stinks. I really used to hate that smell so I used to just drink coke or pineapple juice and go clubbing and raving and be the last one off the dance floor. So I think people were really surprised that it happened to me and that I was the one who became addicted to alcohol.”
Like any addiction, alcoholism becomes the normal, it forms the daily routine. The more time in the day the more time to drink. The greater the amount consumed, the greater the haze, time lost which can never be retrieved:
“I’d get up at 7 in the morning and quite happily pour myself a glass of wine. I could drink all day and not have a hangover because I was just topping myself up, it was like a daily routine for me. I was in my early twenties when I started drinking, and I spent much of that decade oblivious to what was happening because I was drunk all the time.”
Addiction comes at a price, the obvious health issues as a result, some plain to see many more hidden:
“I was a girl who was out all the time, very bubbly, didn’t need to drink. I studied really hard, I got a First in my degree in journalism, I became a sports journalist at that time but because of the drink, I had to walk away from it. My speech got really bad I had to go the speech therapy so it was having a profound effect on me physically and emotionally.”
Excess alcohol changes people and not for the better. Placid often turns to anger, friends go elsewhere, and what is felt deep inside is brought out to the surface:
“It affected my personal life massively. My friends used to say you are a bit of a handful when you have been drinking, you need to calm it down. I used to say I am just having a laugh but the problem with me was the more I drank the more angry I got. I was just having arguments with people when there was no need to have arguments. But there was just so much anger in me that had been building up over the years, so every time I had a drink it just came out.”
Despite somehow managing to keep a job through her problems, Randev lost her passion for what initially set her out on that chosen career path:
“I started drinking when I was 23 and continued until I was 30. That was a life-changing year for me, I was kind of still working, but I just couldn’t be a sports journalist anymore. I think I had kind of lost my passion for it and I had no motivation to get back into it. I worked at the Daily Mirror then so it wasn’t that I didn’t have a great job and I worked with some great people. I have been involved in the media industry for a very long time, doing sports promotions and advertising. So I was kind of lucky I had always been in sports but not really the writing side of it which is how I started my career.”
The narrative that is often fed is that women are open about what they are feeling and men are the ones who bottle up their emotions. But that is a misleading, dangerous even, one-dimensional viewpoint, it is the person involved, not if they are male or female:
“There is always this talk about how men don’t really talk or speak about their emotions, but I think I fall into that category because I never spoke about my feelings. I hid everything there was this mask on all the time and it got tiring. Even though my work colleagues made comments about my drinking I was still doing my job so I was a functioning alcoholic if that makes sense. I could get myself out of bed and do my job. Don’t get me wrong there were times I couldn’t get out of bed because I was down and depressed. I used to hide my feelings and there is not enough talk that there are a lot of women like that, and there is not enough emphasis put on that. I think it is very important for me to say because people think women are always in touch with their feelings. The only emotion I would show is anger, you would never see my cry.”
Thoughts of the worse in her head, a life not worth living or fighting for. The voices of friendship saved Randev. They made her realise her life is important and still worth living and how devastating it would be for people who cared about her. Thoughts of ending it all surfaced, but friendship and that inner drive to change for herself saved her. Waking up one morning saying she will beat this, the definitive moment in her life:
“2012 was literally life-changing for me I got to a point where I had enough. But I was very lucky that when I reached that point where I didn’t want to carry on, I had my friends and work colleagues that saved me and I always pay credit to them and will always be grateful for them for that.”
A recovering alcoholic fights the demons every single day of their lives, victory is never claimed. As she has said herself in the past, alcohol has controlled a large part of her life. There has been shame, embarrassment, ridicule and it has taken many things from her. From sleeping rough, not caring about her appearance, clothes never changed, who she was before the drink nowhere in sight. But Randev is now fighting back:
“I stayed sober for 3 years without a single relapse then my mother got ill with cancer, so there was a lot of pressure dealing with that. It all got a bit too much which is common with anyone who is in recovery and it got a bit out of hand again. Then in 2018, I attempted to go sober again, it lasted about 5 months, and then Christmas came and I got in that mood, like congratulating myself for being sober for 5 months, it was just ridiculous. But in 2019 I wanted to push it and see how far I can go and if I can control the drink and it started to get a bit better. But then a couple of pressures from 2019 kind of pushed me back into the dark side again, it was a very difficult year probably one of my hardest years, how I got through it I don’t know.”
Randev has chosen probably the most difficult route to a healthier and happier life. Rather than making a clean break from drinking, Randev has decided on controlling her addiction. From someone who hasn’t experienced the same kind of problems, looking at it from the outside, this would seem a far from ideal scenario. But Randev thinks there is no one solution, it is about finding something that works for the individual:
“November will always be a difficult time for me because of personal stuff but the difference between how I felt last year and how I feel now I am incredibly proud how I have dealt with things in 2020. I have worked very hard on my personal growth and mind, I’ve changed my mindset and been really strict on myself. It is the self-control I have learned this year. It is not something I would recommend to everyone who is fighting an addiction, you have to find what is right and what works for you.”
The scars of addiction are deep and lasting and despite being very much on the road to recovery, Randev carries plenty around with her. It is not just about the temptation, the life of an addict isn’t one of simplicity or normality:
“I don’t believe in marriage and the reason why I haven’t really thought about kids is because there has been so much talk about addiction being genetic. Thankfully no one in my family has a history of addiction apart from me but my biggest fear of having children is if they suffer from addiction, I would blame myself and I don’t think I would be able to forgive myself.”
Randev has a daily fight, one that is never really won, the finishing line in sight but never reached. But she is winning, her career back on track and hopefully, the worst is over. A freelance sports reporter across many sports including contributing articles in the past for Boxing Monthly, and currently, FourFourTwo the long-running football magazine. Randev is also a sports agent heavily involved in promoting women’s boxing, and was the first British Asian women to become a sports editor a regional paper.
When once it was about survival, it is now about the future, including working in an industry that Randev believes has played a pivotal role in where she is today:
“Sport doesn’t just save athletes, it saves the people that work in the industry. I feel it has saved me to a certain degree.”