People seem to be dying left right and centre these days. Or maybe it’s just the kind of life I lead, or my neighbourhood. One week you’re meeting them for coffee in Boscombe; the next week they’re dead. It’s unnerving.
I suppose what’s unnerving about it is the fact that for so many years – in fact for most of my adult life – it was me who couldn’t stay sober, me who was at the doors of death half the time.
I used to hope for death on a nightly basis, to pray for it, even. You know the kind of thing: “God, please, please (you bastard), don’t let me wake up tomorrow.”
But wake up I did, on an alarmingly regular basis. And I’d wake up to the same stuff. The same TV, the same done-in ashtray, the same empty bottle, the same shits, shakes and rattles. The same having to get a few quid together to go down the shop and buy a bottle of stinking white cider. The same fear and despair; the same hopelessness and resignation.
I remember one particular night, after I hadn’t slept for a week. All I wanted was to get some sleep. Actually, what I really wanted was to drink myself to death, but denied the luxury of that, a decent night’s sleep would have been the next best thing.
I happened to have a bunch of codeine tablets lying around; about fifty of them. I thought to myself, “If I swallow all these in one go and drink a litre of vodka as fast as I possibly can, then surely it will kill me, or at least put me out for twenty-four hours.”
Three hours later I was conscious again and rattling uncontrollably. It was bleak. In the end I came into recovery not to avoid death, but because it seemed like it wasn’t happening for me.
So this week I heard that a friend of mine, a drummer in a band I’d played in, had been found dead in his flat. What killed him? Alcoholism.
Not so long before that, another friend of mine, a schoolteacher, fell down the stairs when drunk and managed to kill himself that way.
Before that, another friend died after an epileptic fit brought about by – you’ve guessed it – alcoholism.
I was awoken at the crack of eight o’clock this morning by a friend of mine who is drinking himself to death as I write. It’s the usual story: paranoid and full of fear, desperate and deluded.
“You’ve got to help me; you’ve got to help me!”
What can I do? I’ll tell you what: nothing, that’s what. If I knew how to stop drinking I wouldn’t need to work a twelve-step program.
I’ve detoxed this guy once, already. He’s had God knows how many detoxes in the last six or eight months, and now he can’t get one. And anyway, it really doesn’t seem like he wants to stop drinking. What he seems to want is for someone to sit with him and say “there, there”, and make it alright for him. We’ve all been there.
But I’m no longer in the business of making it alright for you. I’m no longer in the business of commiserating with you as you selfishly drink yourself to death. You know what we have to do to recover; you know what the program of action is. If you choose not to apply it, that’s your business. If you choose to pick up a drink every time something doesn’t go your way, that too, is your business. And if you want to drink yourself to death, hey, knock yourself out. Just don’t expect me to listen to you while you do it.