My final drink only lasted for about a week but it practically killed me, or at the very least made a future of insane ranting and rubber sheets a pitiful certainty, had I not been taken into treatment and detoxed almost immediately. There was no happiness in it, not even for a moment. I was having alcoholic fits every time I left the house. When we talk about the mental obsession that every alcoholic has, we can fool ourselves into believing it a persistent thought that harries you for days or months until you finally pick up a drink. With me, when it struck, it was not like that.
I’d had a friend of mine and her little boy to stay, and they’d ended up staying a week. I didn’t want them to stay for a week, or anything like a week, but I said nothing. I was becoming more irritable by the day. It seemed as if all they did was bicker, just for the hell of it; they’d ransack the computer, and leave their bits all over everywhere.
Every now and again she’d say “you will tell me, won’t you, if you want us to go.”
“Of course,” I lied. “It’s fine.” But it was far from fine. It was on a whole different planet from fine. I told myself that I was being tolerant and considerate of her feelings, that I was putting them first. What a bunch of crap. This is the stark and ugly fact of it: when I avoid hurting your feelings it’s because I don’t want to feel bad. This is why the landscape of my past is littered with relationships that never should have happened or should have finished a lot sooner: because I am dishonest to the core and don’t want to deal with feelings of guilt. I choose unhappiness and discontentment over guilt, and delude myself that I’m being noble.
Another lie I can tell myself is that by denying myself what I really want, I am somehow doing what’s best for you. This too, is rubbish. The only true relationships are those based on honesty; therefore if I really want to do what’s best for you, I have to do what’s best for me. Otherwise our relationship is built on a lie, I am not the person you think I am, and when I become resentful and discontented and claustrophobic enough, I’ll suddenly do what I should have done in the first place and you’ll think: I don’t even know you anymore. The truth is, you never knew me in the first place.
I’ll tell you what’s noble: honesty is noble. Integrity is noble.
Eventually they went home, and with a sigh of relief I went out to a meeting where I was due to make the tea, congratulating myself on being a generally all-round top man and keeping calm in the face of such unrelenting aggravation. This was a warning sign, which I ignored. I know now that if I am irritated or annoyed by someone, it’s because there’s something wrong with me.
The guy who spoke at the meeting was an old boy who’d been sober almost as long as God. It was an amazing story, and everyone paid it rapt attention. Everyone except me, that is. And then suddenly, from nowhere, I was struck by a thought, and the thought was this: “I want a drink.”
That was it. The mental obsession. From that moment I was powerless. I was going to be getting drunk, no two ways about it. The definition of an obsession is a thought which overrides all others. In that instant I considered the consequences of taking a drink; I thought about the next morning, and the one after that, when no matter how much alcohol I threw down my neck I’d still be shaking like a man with Parkinson’s disease; I contemplated the shame and the embarrassment, the disgust and disappointment on the faces of my family, the darkness and desperation that would follow, as surely as night follows day. I didn’t for one moment kid myself that I could get away with having a few drinks, that it might somehow be alright. I mean, I may be prone to madness, but I’m not stupid. I knew where it would take me. I knew that the following morning I’d be begging the local treatment centre to let me in and take it all away; I knew it was absolute insanity. But I’d lost the power of choice.
I turned to the guy who sat behind me and said “can you put the tea stuff away please mate? I’m off.”
I crossed the road to the off licence and bought two zeppelins of cheap white cider (I only had about a fiver), went back round the corner to my flat, where I locked the door, pulled down the blinds, took the phone off the hook and put my dirtiest most ragged old clothes on, because I knew, I knew that within an hour or so I would be covered in blood and shit and vomit, and I opened the bottle and proceeded to drive myself into the ground. The time that elapsed between the thought and the drink was about eight minutes.