How COVID-19 Changed an Alcoholic

A near-death traumatic experience stopped a drinking habit that lasted almost two decades.

Shawn Hill with his family in Tacoma, Washington. From left to right: Georgina Hill, his wife, his daughters Aaliyah and Alisha, his son Shaun and Shawn. Photo courtesy of Georgina Hill.

An addiction can be hard to overcome. But for Shawn Hill, a virus that took over the year 2020 helped him assess his alcoholism.

The father and husband struggled with drinking for nearly 20 years.

The 50-year-old started drinking when he was a senior in high school. From what seemed fun, slowly turned into an inescapable habit.

“I just did it every now and then,” Shawn said. “That led to every weekend which turned into every week and the weekends … I just did what I saw my family members doing.”

By his early twenties, he realized there was a problem. But that didn’t stop him from grabbing his daily three cans of 25-ounce Bud Ice beer from the nearest corner store.

“I didn’t care,” Shawn said. “Deep down I knew I had a problem but I would go to the store and drink anyways … Getting that first sip, you think of no consequences and the thought goes away.”

He married  his high school sweetheart of 32 years, Georgina. His habit strained their marital life. “He wasn’t drinking at all when I first met him,”  Georgina said. “He was just focused on sports. But then it started affecting our household and kids. I was always worried about the bills.”

After having their fourth child, Georgina gave him an ultimatum to get him to stop drinking. But that led to countless disagreements between them.

“It was exhausting,” Georgina said. “Dealing with his mood swings. One minute he’s happy then the other he’s angry … it was like being on a rollercoaster.”

This habit played a role in their  children’s lives as well.

“I was physically there but I wasn’t mentally,” says Shawn. “I wouldn’t remember what I did the other day until someone would tell me and then it would start coming back to me.”

In the process of trying to stop, Shawn had a seizure while laying on the couch from what he remembers as “having a quick nap.”

“I was terrified,” Georgina said. “I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was going to lose him.”

Their kids saw the whole thing.

After spending three nights in the hospital, he came home with every ounce of alcohol out of his body.

Although it looked like it could be a fresh start for everyone, he slowly turned back into old habits. Shawn started drinking again after being sober for two weeks.

“I felt like I wasn’t ready to stop,” says Shawn. “I did it to please others and I wasn’t doing it for me … I started hiding the cans because I thought I needed to drink to have fun like everyone else.”

It wasn’t until the following year when  his addiction affected his body in a way he could never go back.

On Dec. 20, 2021, Shawn had a second seizure on their  kitchen floor. This time around, he hit his head and nose on the way down.

Waking up disoriented and with paramedics by his side, Shawn was taken to the hospital,where he spent Christmas and New Year’s day.

The same day he was admitted, doctors discovered he tested positive for COVID-19 along with having high levels of alcohol in his system.

“I hated it there,” Shawn said. “All I remember was them sticking me multiple times and them tying me down because I was trying to get out of the hospital bed.”

Not being able to visit any hospitals due to the pandemic, his family was left with only his memories and a few FaceTime calls.

“I missed him a lot and I know the kids did too,” Georgina said.

Returning home after spending six nights in St. Francis Hospital in Washington, Shawn finally felt this was the breakthrough he needed.

“I feel healthier than ever,” Shawn said. “I knew I was stopping for me and not anyone else.”

His family saw a difference in him during the first weeks of him being back at home.

This was the turning point of his life when he realized that this experience is bigger than feeling buzzed to get through the day. He said this was a decision he made for himself and family.

“It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, ‘’ Georgina said. “I think the seizure and having COVID  scared him.He saw how people were dealing with this sickness.I’m happy I have the old Shawn back.”

Now three months sober, Shawn is taking every step necessary toward a better lifestyle and taking care of his health.

“Looking back, I see that I affected not only my body but my family,”  Shawn said. “I don’t want my children to remember me as always having a beer in my hand.Everyday I’m reminded by the scar on my nose.”