“My driving philosophy about making music is that you can reduce it all down to one note if that note is played with the right kind of sincerity.” Eric Clapton
There’s a part of me that still loves drinking alcoholic beverages. The thrill of planning the when, where, what and with who? I always drank alone, withdrawn and introverted. I realise that sounds contradictory, however despite being surrounded by people in public houses, bars, restaurants, I was essentially there to consume alcohol.
The illusion I felt was actually self deception and delusion. I would wake up with a motivational buzz that insisted music, delight and mirth. Fresh out of the shower, dressed in clean clothes, teeth brushed, intentions of making the most of the day ahead.
Heading into town I ran through my plans for the morning. Coffee, Americano, single seat and table at the back, maybe even a barstool in front of a mirror, the best company, company that doesn’t talk back. I buy newspapers, local and international. I browse blurays in a high street shop. I have a fry up in the cafe. Bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, tomatoes, toast and cups of tea to wash it down. See how normal I am? Just a bloke, a man about town doing every day stuff.
Is it a reasonable hour to have a drink? There’s 24 hour licensing now. Who am I kidding? I drank 24/7 anyway. Keeping up appearances was important at that moment.
I always drank very quickly to begin with. The first three pints of stout wouldn’t touch the sides. The buzz was intense, confidence, check, personality, check, charisma, check, dont fuck with me cos I’m the man, check.
The obsession had been appeased but the floodgates had unleashed an insatiable urge to consume more and more. The buzz turned into a massive shit show every time I drank. I never just went home. The necessary visit to the off licence to purchase yet more alcohol was always a burden but it appeased the voice in my head questioning the consequences of not ensuring there was more when I awoke from this. Alcoholism is that urge to be able to continue to blackout and beyond. It’s executed damnation.
Maybe this binge lasted a week or two. Regret, sorrow and promised redemption would follow. Rattling in a perspiration soaked bed, aroused by the aroma of vomit and dread filled consciousness. Home detox was a regular event for me. The buzz had gone but I knew it would summon me again, enticing, beckoning, unmerciless.
I fantasise about the perfect share. The share that will amaze and astound everybody in attendance. This is my over inflated ego squaring up to my self worth that decided it was a pacifist some time ago. Splintered facets of a personality long soaked in alcohol. In essence I wanted to first exist, then survive, live and become the fruition of willing through human experience.
I had no defense against the first drink. One drink would be too many and after that a hundred drinks wouldn’t be enough. An obsession of the mind, an allergy causing an incessant compulsion to drink.
A rhetorical question I’ve often asked is who on the Earth wants to drink warm white cider from the bottle in the early hours of the morning? The blind groping in the darkness, the unscrewing of the plastic cap and the glug glug glug of the intoxicating liquid coursing down a parched gullet. Do you know anybody who cracked open a can of super strength lager with their Sunday roast dinner only to announce how it’s malty flavour compliments the chicken? Super lager, strong white cider etc are beverages designed to facilitate alcoholism and they have no justifiable place in society.
How I found myself in desperate need of three pounds to go and fix my dependence on alcohol. Rifling through coats some of which belonged to me and others that didn’t. Seeking out a few coppers, twenty pence in a zip pocket seemed like a nugget of gold and promised a step closer to purchasing yet more alcohol. The terror brewing.
How wretched I had become. The banality of existing temporarily discarded and replaced with the absolute authority, King Alcohol. A snivelling despised servant of an elusive idea. It would never be like the first few occasions of being intoxicated. The warmth spreading out from the empty place within, the hole in the soul had become emblazoned with a rapture of spirit. A reawakening of the divine entity within. Passion for the banal even, enthusiasm for life, but at what cost?
Maintenance of the descendence into dependence. As rhythmic as that sounds I assure you that crossing over into the dark realm of alcoholism is not a transition of choice. The bitterness is tasted, evident by the loneliness and experienced through regret, nostalgia, resentment, anger, depression all rooted deeply in fear.
And so the misery continued throughout my twenties, the roaring twenties. I raged into the next decade of my life with renewed vigour. Each time I got a new job or started a relationship it was going to be different. Pretty much like every time I picked up a drink it was going to be pleasurable, successful and complimentary to the life I aspired to. Perpetual want never gets, add infinitum.
So I arrived at another precipice, you know, the kind an alcoholic never envisages as being potentially fatal. I suppose in that respect you could say I was an optimist, the bearer of the smallest Olympic flame within a stadium of demons whooping cheers of damnation and ridicule. Anyway, I digress, there I stood about to embark on another attempt to live life with my best accomplice, alcohol, by my side.
Relapse. I had the deck of cards perfectly balanced so to speak. Ready to press the self destruct button once again. Three days of drinking regressed me to the child I was growing up. Comatosed in the back bedroom of the terraced house belonging to my parents.
I’d exhausted all avenues of enquiry regarding my hopeless state. All but one I hadn’t thought of. I kind of knew there was a meeting that took place each week but I was convinced I wasn’t that alcoholic, the kind that sits on a park bench with a brown paper bag taking sporadic swigs of liquor whilst lamenting. I was given the ultimatum and finally had nothing to lose I thought. It wasn’t as if i could lose my sanity or even my life!
The first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous I attended was an unforgettable experience. Naturally I was very withdrawn and suspicious. I lied about having a phone when somebody asked if I’d like their number. I consequently discovered that these people wanted the best for me and to see me live a sober life. Unbeknownst to me I had discovered the tribe to which I belonged. Belonging had been something I hadn’t experienced in a long time.
My experience concluded that attending meetings wasnt enough to maintain sobriety. Something was missing. A vital component contained in the first Step. I drank on three separate occasions after my first meeting. I learn the hard way. I returned with humility and humbly asked a kind gentleman at the meeting to sponsor me. I was willing to do what it took to learn how so many people had lived for years without touching a drop.
Personally, Step 1, provided the encouragement, support, self worth and empowerment to live. I am an alcoholic and my life becomes unmanageable when I drink. Inevitably the obsession to drink was fierce and all it would take for another episode of binge drinking would be an emotional event. However, I bow had protection against the first drink. Accepting my alcoholism and acknowledging my allergic reaction to consume more and more once I start had given me an opportunity to live totally abstinent. Step 1 is more important to me than the rest of the program because it ensures I will not relapse. From this precipice I can step back from the abyss and work the program, nurture my relationship with a Higher Power and be the person I’m meant to be.
The Serenity Prayer has become my mantra in life. It is said at the end of every AA meeting and serves as a reminder that I have no control over people, places and things. Gratitude and SERVICE defuses resentment, UNITY as a fellowship means belonging, RECOVERY is fulfilling our potential. I’m an advocate of AA because it worked for me and enables me to relinquish the wretchedness I truly felt inside.
Broken symmetry perfectly reconstructed in misaligned synchronicity.
A reminder of an alluring danger.
Contemptuous desire to know the consequences of an action inevitably wrought with pain.
Wheeled into a room, one window and an en suite. Refrigerator in the corner, standard bedside cabinet, the only thing that was standard in this room. Rising from the wheelchair to get into the bed took an exerted effort to transport the chest drain and pot plus ones own emaciated mass.
An urge to alleviate the pressure building on my bladder spurned me to look for avenues of urination. To my surprise I found an en suite bathroom. i didn’t question the door on my left on arrival, assuming it had an assortment of mops and paper towels etc. The wet room had a walk in shower and basin shrouded in fluorescent light coursing from two neon beams above.
Unshakable dread crept into my thoughts, skulking underneath the pleasantries and light heartedness. Air conditioning churning away with its monotonous drone. This is fucking quarantine.
I recall being woken up in a triage ward a few hours after my initial arrival. Shook awake by a doctor to be told, forewarned, that my odds of survival were 50/50 and I must stop abusing alcohol. Resentment burned in my heart.
I looked to the window to feel a breeze, hear a bird or an engine, to smell food cooking. Rivets. Cold steel window frame securely fitted to the wall ensured my fate, my impending doom, my existential reality, my vulnerability, my fear.
A feeling of immense gratitude enveloped my surroundings as I sat there in the church hall. The AA meeting about to commence, the previous feelings of fear, hurt and resentment reduced to a state of humility and simple reflection.
I was enlightened by the idea of somebody preparing a place for me. This gesture, Jesus like, created an opportunity for spiritual growth. Somebody had dedicated their time and effort so that I could sit here, sipping tea, resenting and seething with character defects. I listened sot hat ignorance could be washed away.
I felt gratitude genuinely in a way that expelled the feelings of unworthiness and inferiority. I had found my tribe, a sanctuary in which I could develop and learn how to experience life without having to seek oblivion.
I didn’t share my experience, strength and hope that evening, however I did learn to appreciate the facility and the means in which an addicted person can begin to heal, learn and recover.
Entombed in the back bedroom of a terraced house, bewildered, bemused and anticipating indulgence coupled with foreboding despair. Striking the balance between intoxication and two looming forces, withdrawal and blackout. Reaching for the luke warm strong white cider not knowing if it’s dusk or dawn. Guzzling the unpalatable source of replenishment to the point of despair and disgust. Wretchedness.
Beard growth, greasy hair, unkept fingernails, sallow skin. Blood shot eyes, rancid breath, fur lined tongue, bile emptying from acid stripped gullet and accompanying stomach. Bloated and deprived of nourishment.
Floating, transient existence. Questionable energy resource other than the incessant need to consume alcohol. Wash when I get back, they won’t smell my breath through the perspex. Grappling with the urge, the need, the obsession, the futility and banality of addiction.
Warped perspective, vision similar to a wide angle lens. I see everything, crystalised, and yet my senses betray and beguile. The approach to the hallowed purveyor of said article so desperately required is imminent. Unable to salivate, body like an absorption of all that is fulfilling. Piss like mucous, running non existent snot manifesting as moist sniffles. The door to the elusive treasure trove of tremendous trepidation and insurmountable suffering awaits, beckoning like an alluring hazard. The metal door handle is bulbous and I know it’s to be pushed as opposed to pulled. I literally use my body weight to shoulder the door ajar.
Relief shrouds my very being, behold, the answer, the cure. Without hesitation and doubt, my salvation.