Pink Elephants (Talking About Booze)
I’m pretty nervous sitting here writing this blog; a ball of pent-up energy, frustration, passion, exasperation, exhilaration, tiredness, guilt, excitement, caffeine and god knows what else. I’m going to talk about alcohol. More specifically, I’m going to talk about not consuming alcohol. Beyond that, it’s a stream of consciousness and I’m not sure where it will lead. Somewhere positive I hope. If you don’t want to read about alcohol, please leave now and consider this your trigger warning.
I’ve been wary about writing about booze since I stopped drinking. I always think of the Bill Hicks “ex smokers” sketch and how I don’t want to become one of those preachy converts who thrive on judging people and their perceived bad habits as a means of stroking their own fevered egos and masking insecurities. There’s nothing worse than a born-again Christian that wants to save us all from eternal damnation, right? Fuck that, I have no interest whatsoever. I’m also in no position to give advice, I can only relate to you my own experience. I implore you to believe that this isn’t an easy essay to write but comes from a place of compassion and love.
To me, my sobriety is absolutely 100% my number one priority in life.
I will never walk away or ignore someone who wants to talk about recovery.
Without going into specific details, let me briefly summarise;
I think of myself as extremely lucky.
My “support network” is incredible and, whether they realise it or not, have played an absolutely vital role in my recovery. Truth is I probably don’t deserve such an amazing partner, family, friends and comrades. The ocean of utter shite I dragged them through during my “career” was beyond a nightmare. I can’t accurately express my gratitude to them and absolutely should try to do so more often. Words feel inadequate, the tightness in my stomach as I write this tells me so. I’m grateful for everything they’ve done for me. I’m grateful for every morning I wake up and I’m alive.
My problem drinking began when I drank for the first time. I am not a moderate person, I’m pretty much an all or nothing motherfucker. I knew I had a problem pretty early on; it exacerbated my extant feelings of “otherness”, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, and gave me what felt like a cloak of invincibility that insidiously ate away at the very core of my being. Alcohol to celebrate success, alcohol to commiserate the fails; you know how the story goes, it’s our culture, it’s “normal”. I put myself in harm’s way, in dangerous situations I was lucky to survive, countless times. Many friends were not so lucky.
I often joke that “if you cannae understand without an explanation then you’ll never understand with an explanation”. I’m usually messing around and just being silly. However, unless you know deep within yourself what the truth really is, then you’re never going to understand or believe it to be true when someone else points it out to you. Until you can admit it to yourself, you’ll never know.
I knew for years, I wasn’t even really in denial about it. I went to therapy when I was at uni but didn’t give a fuck. Many tried to help me and I threw it in their faces. My selfishness and arrogance were matched only by my self-loathing and antipathy. Alienation and nihilistic self-destruction was my path, death the ultimate destination. I thought I could handle it. I couldn’t. Drunkologies bore me. The punk scene revels in that shit.
Stopping drinking is the single best decision I’ve ever made.
Stopping drinking was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I have no problem with other people drinking.
I closed ranks to break the cycle; cancelled shows, got signed off work, went to my GP, upped my anti-depressants, called my closest comrades together and went to meetings. I wrote a fucking facebook status about it, to make myself accountable. I remember shaking on the floor calling AA for the first time. They had someone call me back and my guts just spilled; the damn broke and an ocean of shit came flooding out.
Many, myself at the time included, hold preconceptions about AA as being an overtly Christian practice. That wasn’t my experience, theism an irrelevance. You can fucking believe me when I tell you creationism isn’t on the menu. I can only encourage you to go and find out for yourself. I’d have taken some comfort in the words of Jesus to heal some of the lacerating self-analysis and bring some light. The greatest lesson I learned was don’t be an arrogant fuck and think your problems are the blackest. It’s no picnic, there are no mindless cheerleaders. It’s as real as it fucking gets.
Facing up the worst truths about yourself is hard. Looking in the mirror and accepting responsibility for your actions doesn’t always come easy, but don’t give up on yourself. I’ve been sober almost 900 days now and every day is a learning experience. It remains one of the key turning points in my life. I haven’t been to many meetings in the last year or so. Moving city helped and I love living by the river. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by so many positive and inspiring people, but even now it’s not easy. I still live with depression and probably always will, but I harbour fewer de/illusions about myself. Meditation helps but I’m slack at it.
I am humbled that people feel they can confide in me and ask for advice with their own drinking issues. As I said earlier, I will always listen to anyone who wants to talk about recovery, their path to and/or from it or whatever. From my best friends to people I don’t know, I will never ignore you. The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone and that by reaching out (fuck people who balk at that phrase) to someone, you’ve already taken that vital first step. Talking of steps; the twelve step program may work for you. How one interprets the steps is a personal matter, it’s not for one person to tell another what lies on their path or how navigate. If you focus on someone else’s, you lose sight of your own. I try not to be that person.
I respect everyone who lives with the struggle because it’s real. I’m grateful every day that I live with it because it means I haven’t fucked it, every day a little victory. As said, I will always listen and I’m more than happy to discuss any and all questions/queries that people may have on a personal basis, but my support is not entirely unconditional; please don’t swag up to me with a pint in your hand and ask “how did you stop drinking?” and expect anything other than “put the fucking pint down first”; please don’t send me messages then fill your FB with pictures and statuses about how much ye love getting burst. I fucking loved getting burst. That was exactly my problem (one of them anyways).
When people do that, it hurts my fucking feelings. Now, I’m a big boy and I’ll get over it, but it evokes in me great empathy with those people whose faces I threw shit in when they tried to help me throughout the years. It crosses my boundaries. To dismiss anything out of hand is folly but to blatantly ignore and, in some cases celebrate, exactly what you’ve reached out for support to endeavour to overcome is counter-productive at best. I wouldn’t accept that shit from my closest friends, let alone casual acquaintances or people I actively dislike. Have some respect for me but, and more importantly, have some respect for yourself.
I didn’t know where I was going when I started this blog but I knew I needed to get something off my chest. It’s something that’s been weighing on my mind recently. I’m still learning, developing my “coping mechanisms”, trying to keep my shit together. I know how lucky I am and am thankful every single day for all that I have. I know many, many people are not so lucky and that I’m in a position of massive privilege, but that doesn’t make things easier, everyone’s shite reeks. What sets you free can also be your burden. Ignorance may be bliss but it was the arrogance that nearly killed me. Even through the writing process, the act of sharing, I feel better.
When you try to give advice, you assume that you know better. Fuck that, I’m no preacher. I can only engage you if you’re willing to listen as well as talk. You are the answer to your own question, you just need to be willing to engage with yourself. Nobody can help you if you’re not at least willing to try to help yourself.
Don’t ever feel like talking about your problem(s) is a problem. The lack of talking about your problem is a problem. Without resorting to cliche, I’d encourage mindfulness and awareness. It’s amazing what you can see when your eyes are open.
There are many wonderful groups who can provide professional and peer support;
Or speak to me, just put the fucking pint down first please.
To thine own self be true.