After nearly 17 years of not just drinking, but getting properly wasted at every opportunity I quit drinking a month ago today.
Those who have known me over the years will likely be shocked to hear of my getting on 'the wagon'. There are people I have known for years who have literally never seen me without a drink in my hand.
Drinking was a part of my life for so long and it wove itself into the fabric of my existence so seamlessly that even the thought of giving up was as unlikely as quitting breathing for the rest of my life.
There was never a moment’s doubt as to whether I should go and get a couple of bottles of wine from the shop at night, or head for the pub as soon as I got into town and stay there till closing time, or my money ran out. I used booze to self-medicate when I felt down, angry, insecure, bored or lonely. I used booze to give me the edge in my job. I used booze to give me courage to interact with the world. I used booze as a matter of habit whenever I had access to it or money for it.
I prioritised booze over everything else in my life. No matter how much money I earned in a month I would always struggle to pay rent, buy food, pay bills at the end of it. There was no occasion too important that I wouldn’t go out the night before and get hammered. I sold my photographic equipment, laptop, DVD collection, CD collection, telly, DVD player and two ipods and spent all the money on booze.
I lied to family and friends about the extent of my drinking and how much I spent on it. I lied to my ex about getting pissed and cheating on her. I lied about the nights spent locked up on drunk and disorderly charges.
For the most part I considered myself a ‘high functioning’ alcoholic. I managed to hold down jobs (for a while anyway), mainly because I was good at what I did and my bosses didn’t want to kick me out when I was making them money. But a period of attrition would always follow during which my attendance, attitude, personal appearance etc would slide downhill and eventually I’d get fired, and naturally I lied to everyone about the reasons for that too.
But I wasn’t lying destitute in a gutter, I wasn’t drinking all day and sometimes not even every day. It’s just as I said at the beginning that I would get properly wasted at every opportunity I had.
I figured I could handle it. I figured it wasn’t affecting me. I didn’t want to notice how people around me, even close friends were getting sick of my behaviour. I thought I was being edgy, anarchic, free spirited. It’s a real gut shot when you realise you were really being just another loud, self-opinionated drunk.
A month ago I got sick. It only lasted about a week but I didn’t feel like drinking at all. During that week I started to reflect on all these things and I made the decision then to try not to start drinking again when I got better.
As the weeks have gone by that decision to ‘try not to’ start drinking again has crystallised into 'I can’t afford to ever allow myself to pick up a drink again'.
That decision was a tough one to make, and I had no idea of the implications of it. I had no idea how long it would take before I saw any tangible benefits from taking that first step and I was shocked that within this first month I have already learned two amazing things.
Firstly, I started to remember who I was. By which I mean that for the first time I can remember as an adult I have spent a month in my own company. Not pissed, not stoned, not tripping but me. I’d forgotten how to tell the real me from the wasted me and now I genuinely feel I’ve regained something I thought I had lost forever - and yes, I am aware of how cheesy that sounds, and you know what? I couldn't care less!!!
The second monumental thing I realised is that all I care about is my creativity and the relationships I have with the people I care about. Fuck the money and fuck a career in 'media-twatting-sales’ I want nothing more to do with your soulless, heartless, brainless, morally bankrupt enterprises. You contribute nothing good to the world we live in. Fuck you, and the horse you rode in on.
So I am truly sorry for the fucked up way I treated a lot of you over the years and I hope to be able to atone for some of my mistakes by being a better, kinder, wiser and all together less flaky friend.
I know it will only be on my death bed that I will be able to say for certain whether I was successful in permanently quitting the booze. I know the clichéd truism that I have to take things one day at a time. But I know too, what’s at stake.