It’s a nice morning for a walk – and at least temporarily there is a blue sky to be found if you look upwards.
If you keep your eyes focused in this direction things seem very pleasant – however if you adjust your gaze downward then things on the ground aren’t quite so rosy.
I wasn’t thinking about this subject when I woke up and I certainly wasn’t when I set out for a walk – but at the moment I can’t help but remember the days when every morning held the promise of a hangover.
These days I rarely talk about my past drinking habits because they seem so far away – and maybe because I’m also lucky enough to really not miss either the taste of alcohol or the sensation of being drunk.
I do occasionally miss the ability to shut my mind off however – but the difference is that I now recognise that it was this aspect of my habit that caused me so many problems.
There are others that aren’t so fortunate however – and the private hell they appear to be trapped in is all too apparent when you walk around the bottom of town in Leamington Spa.
Here the pubs open early – and while the nearby shops are still closed some of the people inside these establishments are enjoying the first (maybe even the second or third) pint of the day.
Although for many years I never spent any time in pubs and didn’t usually drink during the day (except maybe sometimes at the weekend) a drinker is a drinker. We can spot one another – and as I pass people smoking on the doorstep of Weatherpoons I immediately recognise the haggard and yellow eyed look of a hangover in their faces.
It typically greeted me every morning when I looked in the mirror – although if I’m honest after many years of heavy drinking I’d ceased to recognise it as such. It was just my face.
I’m mercifully free of this self destructive cycle now and I’m ridiculously thankful that the events of a very dark period of my life eventually resulted in positive change.
They didn’t initially though. In fact they had the opposite effect.
I used to regularly consume 3-4 litres of 5% abv cider every other night – or two bottles of 13% abv wine but when I hit bad times this worsened dramatically.
By the time I stopped I was easily drinking around 5 litres of cider (if I could tolerate the physical volume) or 3+ bottles of wine every single night.
I feel no shame about it any more. It’s in the past – but at the time I felt the need to hide the extent of my habit from everyone.
I took bottles to the recycling centre regularly or dropped flattened cardboard wine boxes off at the nearby collection bins near my local shops. I also squished up all of my empty plastic cider bottles so that they were teeny tiny in my refuse bags.
As I type I find that I remember particularly strongly the smell of stale alcohol as it escaped from the from the plastic cider bottles when I flattened them.
Oddly I came to rather like this smell. It wasn’t pleasant – but it was part of my daily life and it represented a release, comfort, emotional numbness, pain relief, the ability to sleep – and the blessed relief of forgetting (even if just for a moment) the reality of how miserable my existence had become.
I don’t type all this because I’m dwelling – or feeling at all down.
Quite the opposite is true actually.
Honestly I feel a sense of relief and freedom – and that enhances the happy mood that I’m already in.
I’m in control of my destiny once again instead of being controlled by my addictions.
(Author pauses. Looks out of the window of the coffee shop he’s in and takes a sharp intake of breath)
I suppose when it comes down to it that’s really what it was.
I don’t like to admit that about myself. Instead my internal narrative is about a man who was ‘alcohol dependant‘ and for the longest time I’ve only felt comfortable with this self applied label.
I chose to identify with ‘alcohol dependant’ because it enabled me to step away from the reality of what someone drinking to the extent that I did truly was.
That person was an alcoholic – and I guess if I’m absolutely truthful with myself that’s what I was.
Although it hadn’t completely ruined my life or stopped me working it was only a matter of time until it did and when I recognised that fact I finally found it within myself to take action.
There’s no point denying it to myself any more. 774 days ago I was an alcoholic and that was my reality.
I’m not punishing myself with this statement. I’m releasing myself.
There’s nothing to hide from any more. It’s the past and it’s gone. The reality now is very different.
You may one day find me a repentant member of coffeeholics anonymous – but not today internet. I’m on my second large Americano and I very much doubt it will be my last.
This is as drunk as I get. Life is enough now. The sky is still blue outside and I’m clear headed and happy.
I’m also fit and healthy, grateful that I have a second chance and that I stopped with enough time left to begin my life again.
I write this not just because it’s part of my process of coming to terms with my past but because it’s true – and in truth there’s power.
Within it lies the capability to provide understanding to anyone reading and associating with this or similar behaviour that it’s not too late.
In fact it’s never too late – no matter how desperate things may seem. Even if there’s not much time left you can make what remains a better place to be – and live life free from things that control you.
Today is entirely what you want it to be.
Bend it to your will internet. You can do it if you want to.