So I’m an alcoholic. Sad but true. Please do not think this is a blog about me trying to condone my drinking or for giving a reason behind it, it’s just a frank piece about my journey through alcoholism. I’m not a laying in the gutter singing to the stars homeless alcoholic nor a wake up in the morning and have vodka and orange juice alkie either, although I was for a while. No I’m the responsible functioning alcoholic that gets up, goes to work, comes home and drinks type. Not so bad you may be thinking but for the last 25 years or so there has only been two days when I didn’t drink. That’s not good.
When I was a youth I didn’t even particularly like alcohol, couldn’t even abide a sip of Shandy Bass and that was at 0.25% abv. When I hit 15 though I was invited to a friends party. He was older than me and it was his 18th and was a family thing in a rented village hall. There for the first time I got drunk, on Woodpecker cider, and I hasten to add very very sick. My parents, great as they are, looked after me that night and then remorselessly teased me during my hangover the day after. Having cooked me a large roast dinner they inquired innocently if I wasn’t feeling well, while I lay on the living room floor groaning due to a pounding headache. The memory of that hangover put me off drinking for a good while but the memory of being drunk remained. That feeling of lose optimistic fun remained so it wasn’t too long before I was sneaking drinks at home. This was in the form of two crates of sherry which were kept in the family basement and were discovered by me as I used the cellar for my hobby, painting miniatures for table top battles. Tentatively at first I opened one bottle and sipped some then hastily would put it back, at the rear of the bottom crate and put the full crate on top of that. It was a guilty pleasure, a thrill that I was getting away with something literally right under my parents noses that added to the enjoyment of it all. I made my way through those two crates in little under a couple of months and then I was stumped as no longer had easy access to booze anymore.
Several months passed without an odd occasion to drink and for a while I forgot about the heady joys until I got myself a paper round which gave me access to money and shortly after a shop that wasn’t too bothered about what age I was. Then it was my friends and I and Thunderbirds or MD 20/20 all the way. School ended, college began and my drinking continued at a steady pace, not on a day-to-day basis but certainly on a weekly one. During my first year of college I made friends and then a series of calamities struck and I lost three people who were close to me and hit the bottle hard as a form of escapism from the pain. I didn’t want to acknowledge their passing or my grief. Shortly after I was kicked out of college for lack of attendance and not doing any work, so it goes.
Unemployed and bored but able to sign on for money combined with a few of my friends, who were also on the dole and living in a house opposite my parents led to more drinking but still at this stage, age 17, I wasn’t an everyday drinker. That happened the following year when I went off to Butlins to work. My neglect at dealing with my losses and failing to come to terms with my grief, the loneliness of being isolated from everyone I knew started me drinking everyday. That and the cheap cider on offer in the staff bar and a pub that provided a pound a pint 4 days a week is what started me off drinking daily. And with all poisons the more you take the greater the tolerance so the more I took to help me escape from the situation I was in. Don’t get me wrong, I was still functioning, smiling, making friends but the booze was in my blood and it wasn’t going anywhere.
After a while I went home again, crashed at my parents house. Found my old friends, started experimenting with soft drugs. LSD, Ecstasy, dope. Got a job window cleaning cash in hand and started drinking stronger and stronger alcohol. At one point, for a couple of months, it was a litre bottle of cheap whiskey a night. Not good and even I could tell. I settled for four cans of Super Skol a night and did that for several years during which time I fell in love, moved out and had a child. Lost my love because of drink. I was uncommunicative, uncaring, unloving and failed to see the signs until crushingly one night she told me that she hadn’t loved me for a year and it was time to break up. Break I did. Moved out a month later and lived with my younger brother. Managed to rack up two thousand pounds worth of debt on the credit card over three months in pubs and off licences. Such a waste. The relationship, money, time and my life at that point.
After a couple more years of moving from house to house with my brother, having one job and then another but still managing, just, to keep our heads above water we went our separate ways. At this point I’d not managed to curb my drinking. I was still pouring down four of the extra strong beers and ciders down my neck but now finishing off the evening with enough Stellas until I’d crash my way to bed and collapse there. Undead until the morning when my bowels would explode and my head would pound and pound and pound all through work until I could top myself up in the evening. Weekends were just all day events, all this while also seeing my son, having him in my home and raising him. I cringe to think of it now but then I realised I had to slow down. For my son. No more strong beers, I dragged myself down to eight, then six and then four Stellas a night, with Fosters to end the night with. Continued in this way for a good five years or so and then a decade of being on the fosters. Four to six a night, more at weekends of course and with the odd bottle of wine and whiskey thrown in when money was good.
I went and had a liver function test. Had lots of tests at the doctors when my occupational nurse discovered the extent and longevity of my drinking. All tests came back fine. So I continued, I mean why stop if you’re still enjoying it? During the last five years I quit smoking, not an easy task but I managed it. Still have the odd craving but ignore it. I had kept a reasonable hold on my drinking until recently when while visiting a dear friend I made a complete arse out of myself the night before heading home. Sorry to my friend if you are reading this and thank you for your tolerance, encouragement and forgiveness. Since then, and what I then perceived as a unreconcilable loss of this friend, I have now started not drinking during the week. So far so good. The odd craving but nothing like the smoking crave I still get so I ignore temptation. It really isn’t as bad as I feared. I know I don’t have the strength to quit out right, not yet and I’m not sure that I really want to either to be perfectly honest. At the moment I am happy to be in control of something that has seduced and controlled me for so long. It was my own fear that was stopping me from stopping, a fear that I would fail and therefore I did fail before I even tried. The realisation that once you try you may fail can be a stumbling block, but as long as you are committed and want to succeed, you can pick yourself up and try again. Failure isn’t the end of everything. It’s just another step, another reason to get up again and keep going until you succeed. Only your own fear will stop you and once you conquer that fear you will find that nothing can stop you.