National judo champion Stuart Pascoe thought his sports career was over as his alcohol use spiralled. But with help from Addaction the 46-year-old has gone on to beat competitors half his age, as well as volunteering with the charity to help people experiencing similar problems.
I started drinking excessively after my divorce. I tried to run away from what was happening and travelled around working, living out of a suitcase. But I should’ve stayed and dealt with things. I’ve always been a reward drinker, so throwing myself into work and achieving gave me the perfect opportunity to drink every night. But that gradually became drinking in the morning and going home at lunchtime to drink.
All those years ago I didn’t realise that places like Addaction existed. I can remember my mum coming with me to my first meeting because I was shaking with nerves. Looking around the room I realised this illness doesn’t discriminate – there were people from all walks of life, and of all ages. I never imagined meeting a group of like-minded, supportive people I would go on to call friends.
I went to Addaction Chy, the charity’s rehabilitation centre in Truro, but I wasn’t ready and got very complacent. I thought I was fixed after five months and that I could jump back into my old life. I told myself I could manage it, that the old me was back and I was where I wanted to be. I was so wrong. It went downhill in months and within a year I was out of work. The loneliness started creeping in, I stopped seeing family or doing judo, and I isolated myself with nowhere to go.
At the worst point I was drinking about 1.5 litres of vodka a day and not leaving the room I was staying in. I’d send a taxi to the shop to get a bottle and lock myself away all day. I didn’t eat when I was drinking, I was so alone, and nobody saw me for about six months.
I was up and down all the time, crying one minute, laughing the next, hallucinating and having vivid dreams. My body was failing and I was being sick all the time. Friends and family can only do so much, and I had pushed them all away so many times.
My wake-up call was a visit from the doctor who told me I would be dead in six to eight weeks and wouldn’t see Christmas if I carried on. I knew this was it, but if I was going to change I didn’t have time to wait around. So I did a detox in hospital and luckily Addaction Chy was able to get me in quickly.
This time I stayed 12 weeks in the main house and then did three months in the move-on flats, rather than jumping back into the community. I focused on getting things back in my life that were healthy and not worrying about work. Judo had been part of my life for 40 years and I wanted to get back into it. I’d won a couple of national championships before, but retired in 2003. I decided to set myself the goal of winning the British championships and started training that September.
Nine weeks later I won the open-age category, competing against people half my age – the guy on the silver podium said his dad was younger than me. It was the first competitive judo I’d done in 14 years and it put me among the oldest champions ever. I’d had aspirations to go back into it before, but the alcohol got in the way.
Now I’m eligible to train with the national squad and the British masters squad. The rest of the time I train locally at Redruth Judo Club where people have been really supportive, and sometimes at Helston and Plymouth. Next I’m planning to compete in the British Judo Council open nationals.
Volunteering with Addaction and judo are my life now. I run some of the charity’s mutual aid groups, prep for treatment groups and am a mentor to new clients. I’m also volunteering at Chy, running the introductions group for people who are in their first four weeks of rehab.
My life is a dream now. This afternoon I will go and mentor clients before going to work tonight, then my weekend will be filled with catching up with friends and watching some judo. It’s been a hard journey, but thanks to Addaction I made it to the other side and now I want to spend my time helping others do the same.