Sober Story: Daniel

Tuesday 21 Mar, 2017, 10:28am by Mrs D 20 comments

This week’s Sober Story comes from Daniel, a 35-year-old living in Auckland.

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Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?

Daniel: I quit drinking and smoking on March 8th, 2014. So just over three years.

Mrs D: Why did you start drinking?

Daniel: Drink was always around. Our fridge was always stoked with beer, the pantry with cask wines and brandy and whiskey, it seemed that it was a right of passage. Men drank, if you wanted to become a man you had to drink.

Mrs D: What can you tell us about your early drinking days?

Daniel: I had my first heavy drinking session at 15 years old which saw me dragged out of a flooded ditch face down – I could have died. I then carried on to experiment with drink and weed, going to raves, getting annihilated, starting trouble, getting ten tones of shit kicked out of me. Then I stupidly tried glue sniffing and covering my face with a rag of petrol to get a cheap high. When I was 17 I started working underage in a pub and really earned my drinking spurs. I was able to get drunk near enough every night (on my actual 18th birthday I ended up getting arrested and thrown into a police cell). After that the drinking escalated into Class A drugs. Things were spiralling out of control, too many messy nights to talk of. I was often late for work, and often turned up unfit to work. I worked in bars and restaurants and had many debouched and diabolical times – often involving the police and often ending up with me getting fired. .

Mrs D: But despite all the drinking and drugging somehow you managed to get yourself through University as well?

Daniel: At 25 I went to University which was a real chance for me to turn my life around, but I was unable to curb the drinking. At one point I went to the local GP, nervous as fuck, sweating and shaking. It was a real struggle to tell a complete stranger that I thought I was an alcoholic. I was gagging on the words, could barely get them out.. but I managed to tell her. I thought she was immediately going to intervene; tell me how perilous my situation was, subscribe me heavy medication, whisk me off in an ambulance to a clinic, or at least be outraged at my immorality and profound degradation. Nothing though, she just pleasantly said that she didn’t think I was an alcoholic and gave me a pamphlet with some numbers I could call if I wanted to and wished me a good day. I left feeling that I’d failed to convey the weight of my problem and a little let down that she’d failed to see it for herself. I went straight to the pub from the doctor’s office. During my final year at Uni I drank and studied and drank and studied and I did manage to get a first class degree.

Mrs D: That’s impressive! 

Daniel: After Uni I moved in with my older brother. We were both drinking heavily and it all ended one night in a big drunken fight when he kicked me out. I spent a few wretched weeks in a motel, then a couple more wretched months in an apartment. I was pretty low and drunk by this point. I wasn’t looking after myself. Aimless, clueless, depressed and drunk. My drinking was really spiralling out of control. Whatever time I started drinking I wouldn’t stop until I passed out so I had to try and start as late as possible. But as soon as I woke up I needed a drink. I was becoming a mess. I was fully dependent on alcohol now, maybe worse than at any point of my life. And this phase lasted for quite a while. There were fights, vomiting, being kicked out of bars, being smashed over the head with bottles, stealing, vandalism, you name it I’ve done it when drunk.

Mrs D: What were the last of your drinking days like?

Daniel: My last days of drinking were heavy but not extraordinary given all my years of boozing. The final night itself was pretty low key. A mate took me out and treated me to a few drinks. I remember feeling disconnected from my surroundings, extremely self-conscious, at this point in my life a social pariah. I had no money, no job, no nothing. It was getting harder and harder to pull off any charade, my life was narrowing down further and further and there was nowhere left to hide. The next morning  I lay on my bed with the curtains drawn, eating fried chicken, the sun was out and it was getting hot and I felt like shit. Really disgusted with myself and the way I was living. Broke, in debt, no job, no hope of getting a job, next stop homelessness. So I decided that was it: no more drinking and smoking, I had to sort my shit out. I’d made this decision a hundred times before but this time it felt different.

Mrs D: Wow that’s powerful. And how did it go in those early hours and days?

Daniel: I spent a week sleeping (i.e lying on my bed all day and night watching cockroaches scuttle across the ceiling) punctuated by long nightime walks (I wasn’t going out during the day, sunlight would have been too much in my highly sensitive, state of withdrawal).  I just white knuckled it through the first few weeks/months, nearly succumbing many times. I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t socialise. I had no money. I was fully alone. Three months into this purgatory I was lying on my bed feeling hollow and sick and randomly listening to Radio NZ when this very clear, articulate, intelligent, woman starting talking about her alcoholism. It totally struck a chord with me like someone had just hit my brain with a giant tuning fork. Her candid openness – what the fuck? She’s dealt with all this shit already and come out the other side? A real person, living a real life, articulating the problems and the addictiveness and the wickedness of booze and how it had trapped her and brought her low. I found her blog,  it took me a while before I posted anything but when I did I got some replies. It felt great and I was hooked.

Mrs D: I’m so happy that radio interview reached you and got you into communicating with us here online. How did it go for you after that? What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?

Daniel: I kept it quiet until a point I felt confident enough with it - that was a good six months into it I’d say. By then I was beginning to believe that I might be onto something. When it did emerge that I was getting sober my Mum was incredibly supportive but I think my brothers and my mate (I only really had one friend at that point) kept egging me on to drink and they didn’t really believe it would last long. I guess to them it felt like they were losing me, that I was setting myself apart from them. I was moving away, distancing myself, moving to a new country, speaking a new language, while inhabiting the same space, watching on with a sober eye… of course it made them uncomfortable and of course they encouraged me to drink. I would have felt exactly the same way had the tables been turned.

Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?

Daniel: My whole drinking career was a relapse. I wanted to stop drinking from quite early on, I swore to quit on hundreds of mornings and by the evenings I was drinking again. I always failed and put it off ’til next month, or next year. But I’ve not had a drop in the last three years – barring an accidental liqueur chocolate.

Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?

Daniel: I don’t think I’ll ever be calm physically or emotionally. I’ve never felt comfortable in my own skin. I fidget, I tap my leg, I crack my knuckles, I click my back and neck, I find it hard to make eye contact, I’m awkward socially, I’m a bag of nerves basically. Certainly not drinking has enabled me to handle my insecurities better but they’re still there. I will say though the first year I did really feel low a lot of the time, and into the second year too. No energy, lethargic. I’m undoubtedley getting better now but I think it’s long process. I’m cutting back on sugar and caffeine but it’s a constant refinement, a constant battle with the self, stripping away things. There’s always the next thing to give up or to do, but that’s ok. Currently I’m trying to get addicted to things which are good for me – the latest thing is that I’ve joined a gym and I’m trying to become addicted to that. Maybe one day I’ll reach a place that I’m really happy and comfortable in. As I say, I’m certainly a lot better off now than I was three years ago. Not drinking gives you the opportunity to grow.

Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?

Daniel: I avoided most social situations for the first year, and then found out I didn’t like most of the social situations I put myself in when I was drinking. I’m not outgoing by nature, alcohol made me outgoing and I think that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much. The reality is I’m happier alone most of the time. I have a couple of mates and my brothers and my mum. My relationship with my brothers is good now which wasn’t the case when I was drinking. I’m firmly re-branded as a non-drinker – whereas before it was shocking to see me without a drink, now if a friend or relative saw me with a drink they’d probably drop theirs.

Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?

Daniel: That drinking wasn’t the primary problem – drinking masked the problems and stopped me from dealing with them. I didn’t know that before. I honestly thought if I got sober everything else would magically fall into place - my anxiety, low moods etc. Learning that I hadn’t cured myself simply by stopping drinking and smoking et al was kind of a depressing realisation. I’d used a fuck load of energy and had to spend a lot of downtime getting sober and now the real work had to begin. So yeah, I’ve learned that getting sober for me was really just the start in learning to deal with ‘life’, and I’m still at the bottom of that pyramid scheme.

Mrs D: I’m just making my way up that pyramid scheme. But yeah, that was a bit revelation to me too.. how much I had to work on once the booze was taken away. How else has your life changed?

Daniel: I’m still a cook with not much money, but then again, I’m more positive nowadays and I don’t have to go through withdrawals anymore. I generally have better thoughts but when I have boring or negative thoughts I can’t escape them with booze. I get stuck in boring thought loops, the same boring words and self conversations and negative self-talk pops up, but I can cope with those thoughts better now and step outside them and know they don’t define me. Life can be dull and frustrating and I still don’t connect with people the way I’d like to. I’m working on relaxing and being more open and spontaneous but I’m still quite up tight and awkward. I’m still on the periphery of everything but I can live with that. It’s not what I wanted from life but I guess I still have time (maybe!). I’m chipping away slowly. I’m not all guns blazing positivity all the time but I do have moments when I’m upbeat. I would say my good days outnumber my bad days which wasn’t the case when I was drinking.

Mrs D: That’s good to hear. What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?

Daniel: A second chance at life is a fairly big benefit. No hangovers (I really don’t think hangover is an adequate word to describe the hell of days after heavy drinking sessions, not being able to leave your room, anxious, reliving the previous night’s goings on over and over in your head… the shame, the sickness, a ‘hangover’ almost sounds like something fun). Being able to sleep fairly soundly most nights is good too. Not so much of that self pitying melodramatic shit, your own company becomes more acceptable. Self esteem and your image of yourself improves dramatically too.

Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?

Daniel: I wouldn’t tell that fucking chef that I was an alcoholic. Let me explain: A few months into my sobriety I was flirting with a chef job at a fairly decent restaurant. My anxiety was getting the better of me and I didn’t turn up to a couple of trials that had been arranged. I made the effort to go but couldn’t actually walk through the door. I made excuses and got another trial and went in and worked and it went well. Then I was supposed to go back and chat to him and I didn’t do that. Then I finally did and he offered me the job. I worked one shift and then backed out. My main issue was that the kitchen was open and it faced a bar. I would have been looking at beer taps and people drinking my whole shift. I thought this was going to seriously put my sobriety on the line. I didn’t want to risk it. I felt like I’d been mucking the guy about though and I thought honesty was the best policy. We’d been having a text exchange and I just said to him; “look mate, I’ve only just recently got sober and I think this job might jeopardise my sobriety.” That killed it. No more replies. I felt seriously wounded by his silence. It felt like society was giving me the finger: You’re a useless fucking alcoholic who can’t handle anything. A big fucking baby. That’s what I felt like. So if I were to go through this process again I wouldn’t let my guard down like that again.

Mrs D: He probably just didn’t know how to respond to such honesty, so chose silence. Disappointing but some people just can’t deal with such realness. Good on you for owning your truth. Any advice or tips for those who are just starting on this journey?

Daniel: Don’t listen to what anyone tells you. Anything’s possible. Get sober anyway you can – alone, in a group, up a mountain, out at sea – what works for one person might not work for another. Don’t worry too much about what people tell you (“you’re a dry drunk”; “you’ll always be an addict”; “you can’t get sober”; “you’re boring”; “what’s the point of living without drink?”) you’ll hear lots of shit and some of it from your own brain: (“why are you doing this to yourself?”, “you’re too far gone”; “you need it”; “you deserve it”; “you’re making yourself miserable for no reason”; “give it up mate you’re not fooling anyone”). Just learn to ignore all the voices, forge your own path with that good part of yourself, follow the part of you that has noble intentions, the more you listen to that part of yourself the louder it becomes. Don’t hold back, commit, be prepared to lose everything, be prepared to go to prison (as you’ll probably want to kill a few people on your journey to enlightenment – only do it if it’s the only way to stay sober :) ), be prepared to be ostracised, brace yourself for the worst. It gets rough, but you will come out the other side if you don’t have a drink.

Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?

Daniel: This may sound oxymoronic but: I want to drink again but I also want to get to a place where I never want to drink again, and I think I might get to the latter – I think it just might take time. I’m three years sober and I’d like to make it to ten. At ten years sober I’m going to reassess (I’m hoping by then that I’ll be fully entrenched and committed to sobriety and that I will just chuckle at the thought of having a drink). I think that by giving myself this ten year goal it’s actually helping me to stay sober. I think saying “never ever again” is too absolute for me. It’s taken a big effort to get sober…. – and I think luck has played a part and also the time and opportunity maybe wouldn’t come round again. I’m thankful that at the moment I’m out of it and that touch wood I haven’t done any serious permanent damage - many other people aren’t so lucky. Getting sober is the one thing I can cling to when all else crumbles in my hands. I can give myself a shot of optimism every time I remember. Sobriety is the gift that keeps on giving.

Daniel

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If you’d like to read more of Daniel’s story with much more detail of his drunken exploits you can read his full, unedited story below.

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How long have you been in recovery?

I quit drinking and smoking on March 8th 2014.  So just over three years.

What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?

If my drinking career was charted on a graph, from my first heavy drinking session at 15 years old – back in ’96 (which would be a huge black rum spike on the chart – dragged out of a flooded ditch face down, could have died – and the next couple of years, experimenting with drink, weed, and a stupid phase of glue sniffing and covering my face with a rag of petrol to get a cheap high…..going to raves in the middle of nowhere, getting annihilated, starting trouble I couldn’t finish, getting ten tonnes of shit kicked out of me) to my last drink at the age of 32…. the final weeks and months were heavy but would not stand out or eclipse previous periods……

London ’98 – ’00 would register highly in the booze consumed column -  that’s when I started working in a pub and really earned my drinking spurs, I was underage but due to a clerical error (I told them it was my 18th birthday when really it was my 17th… genius……) I was able to get drunk near enough every night…. on my actual 18th birthday I ended up getting arrested and thrown into a cell in Uxbridge police station (a station I’d actually end up breaking into a few years later on)… the charge: me and my mate had attempted to commandeer a pedalo, and go for a midnight paddle, from the boat club, at the lido our pub – The Watersedge – was situated on. We didn’t get it anywhere near the water before we were surrounded by quite frankly an excessive amount of police and were flung against a wire fence….. the night in the cell was horrid – hot, sticky, claustrophobic…. dehydrated once the high of the booze wore off….. I was convinced that after I’d spoken to the police doctor I’d be released……. the doctor must have taken one look at me and told them I needed a good eight hours locked up to sober up….. the drinking escalted into Class A drugs when I moved into a shared house with some other employees from the pub….  things were spiralling out of control…. too many messy nights to talk of.  One particularly psychotic one involved large amounts of vodka redbull in the local Wetherspoons pub. On the walk home down the highstreet, me and my mate went on a mini crime spree, got chased out of a Chinese kitchen by a chef with a meat cleaver, stole some bread from a bakery and then tried to kick in the video store window, for no other reason than that it was there. The glass was solid though and withstood both of us taking running kicks at it. Eventually somebody who lived above the shops opened their window and started yelling at us so we scarpered and proceeded to tip over all the bins down the road. We even had a ‘bin fight’ and tipped the contents of bins over each other. Needless to say my two years working at The Watersedge didn’t end well. Me and the same mate were having some after work drinks on a Sunday, the bar was fairly empty and we were just chatting to the barman and getting drunk. When he went out the back to change a keg me and my mate went behind the bar and filled up a pint glass with different shots of spirits.  We got two straws and sucked the whole thing down in one go.  We had some more beers and were becoming really pissed.  The barman was getting tired of us and threatened to cut us off…. my mate got mad and wanted to fight him. Other staff members came over and told us to call it a night. It all turned into a bit of a melee and we were ushered outside. I must have blacked out when the night air hit me and the next thing I was woken up in my bed by my mate crashing in through the door, stumbling, ripping down my curtains, letting the blinding morning light in, and landing on top of me. He had a hospital bracelet on and he said: “I’ve just come from the hospital and you’re fired!” Evidentally, I’d got a taxi home but he’d wandered off and passed out in the road. Someone had called an ambulance and he’d been taken to hospital.  At some point during the night I’d stole a bottle of baileys from behind the bar and put it in my bag. Cleverly, I’d left the bag on the bar, open, for all to see what I’d been attempting – hence I’d been fired which my mate knew about ’cause the manager had phoned him up.  We went downstairs and smoked a joint and tried to process what had happened.  Needless to say I felt like absolute shit. I’d have to move out of the house too as it was rented through the company we worked for.  I decided to go in and speak to the manager face to face and try to smooth things out and apologize. He wasn’t having any of it though and I had to leave.

………..I came back to New Zealand and got a job at a cafe in Takapuna….. my drinking and drug taking continued….  I was often late for work, especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings and often turned up unfit to work.  It was causing significant tension in the workplace and one morning I arrived two hours late to find one of the other chefs literally tearing her hair out, she was so angry and frustrated.  The owners were a Korean couple, and I’d never seen the guy lose his temper but he was incandescent with rage that morning and starting spurting some stuff about the Korean army and how I had to have discipline etc etc.  He demanded I get my things and leave immediately.  I went inside and got my stuff, I got along quite well with his wife though and she sneakily slipped me $100 and wished me luck as I was leaving.

………..Next job at an Irish bar I got fired from too because of a drink related incident.  I went down to the mount for New Years 2002…. took acid, got drunk beyond recognition.  New Year’s day I was supposed to be at work but instead I was lying on the beach recovering.  I fell asleep, got badly sunburnt and then drove home.  Next day I went into work to show them how badly burnt I was and to try and use that as an excuse for not turning up the previous day.  Once again they were having non of it though, and I was fired.

………..Back to London: The Watersedge had changed hands and I was able to get a job back there.  People had moved on though, it wasn’t the same ‘good time’ as before. We had a few crazy nights, it was during this time that I broke into Uxbridge police station.  It was another New Year’s eve, we were wasted on ecstasy and booze and the bar we were at had run out of ciggies…..my mate drove us to get some from the garage but we got pulled over and they took him to the station for driving while intoxicated.  They left me on the side of the road… It was pissing down with rain, but I didn’t care, I was floating on a warm ectasy cloud and I had several more pills in a plastic zip lock bag in my sock. I hailed a cab and told him to take me to Uxbridge police station. I got to the station but it was an impregnable concrete fortress.   There was a temporary reception set up in a booth outside… I guess ’cause it was New Year’s eve and they were expecting it to be busy… I spoke to the lady in there and said I was looking for my mate who’d been done for drink driving….  she didn’t sympathize at all and told me her son had been killed by a drink driver….. I continued to look for a way in.  It was about two in the morning and it was lashing down with rain….. eventually some doors opened to let a police car out… I pressed myself against the wall and then quickly dived in as the car left and the doors were closing…. I got to a window and could see my mate inside being questioned…. I immediately started banging on the window and shouting out his name….- I’m not sure what I was hoping to achieve by doing any of this, I certainly wasn’t thinking straight, if they found the drugs on me I was probably gonna get charged too… there were a few officers about and one said: “that’s his fucking mate, get him out of here.”  An officer came out and twisted my arm behind my back and pushed/escorted my off the premises. He was hurting my arm, felt like he was ripping the shoulder out of it’s socket and as soon as he let go of me I instinctively went to lash out at him…. it resulted in a bit of a slap to his face…. nothing too bad…. it was really raining and he just told me to get lost…. I strolled off, happy that at least I’d seen my mate and went to a phone booth to shelter from the rain and take another pill…. there were trains running and I made my way back to the bar we’d been at…. the pill kicked in and I was buzzing….  at around 4am my mate came back and told me that once the officer who had escorted me out came back in and told the other officers that I’d slapped him they all came out and were going to arrest me, but they couldn’t find me.  There were other drink/drug fuelled stupid, crazy nights/days but in general the vibe at The Watersedge had changed.  There were pregnancies and full blown drug addictions and lots of fallings out, so I left and got a job down the road, in the kitchen at a health club. It was quite a swanky one too…..  there were a few Eastenders actors that used to use it and a few pop stars too…. I found another drinking friend.  A true alcoholic, when he had bad hangovers his skin would actually turn yellow, his liver must have been working overtime and he was only about 25 years old. He worked behind the bar, which was handy as he used to pour me a couple of RTD’s into a pint glass and put a shot of blackcurrant cordial into it so I could just drink it in plain sight while working.  Then he’d always fiddle the tills so there’d be at least a couple of free pints waiting for me when I’d finished.  We drank so much of their stock and they never realised,- not ’til the end anyway – it went on for well over a year. He was a really funny guy in a kind of Mr Beanish way and people were drawn to him.  He never had much money ’cause he spent it all on drink but he always surrounded himself with people who were more than happy to keep him topped up in order to keep the entertainment going.  We also got quite into cocaine for a while.  Leaving lines in the cubicles for each other.  That wasn’t good though.  If drinking was expensive, coke was even worse, and we could never get enough.  Needless to say I got fired from that job too.  We got careless with our drinking.  One night we were having a drinking session after work. We convinced the security guard to leave us to lock up.  We drank ’til about four in the morning and then decided it was time to go…. not wishing to stop the party though we stole a bottle of Pimms from the liquor cabinet.  We got outside onto the road and my mate, being him, picked up a large branch and held it above his head, pretending they were antlers and that he was a deer.  He stood in the middle of the road and started making deer noises and taunting oncoming traffic.  I of course thought it was hilarious – until the police showed up.  I just instinctively ran and hid deep in some bushes off a nearby field.  The deer impersonator and another colleague just stayed and spoke to them.  Other police descended and starting looking for me, there was a police dog too but they couldn’t find me.  This went on for what seemed like ages and they weren’t leaving.  I was getting bored and cold and wanted to go and drink the Pimms so I hatched an ingenious plan.  I went the back way out the bushes and looped round and walked up the road, pretending to just happen upon the scene (I was drunk okay, I wasn’t thinking properly) I mocked surprised and asked the police and my mates what was going on?  One cop immediately said, “That’s him, that’s their mate who ran off.”  I tried to play dumb and innocent and said I was just on my way home from a friend’s house and I had no idea what they were talking about. They took my name and my details and had surmised that we all worked at the health club and then they searched my bag, found the Pimm’s and surmised that I’d stolen it from work and informed me that they’d be phoning the club in the morning and speaking to the manager.  I thought they were just blowing hot air, at least I hoped they were.  I was a little less confident the next day when the booze had worn off and sure enough when I arrived at work I was called into the manager’s office and fired.

………….2005…… the girl I was seeing left me for a regular at the pub we worked in…. how could she leave me for that alcoholic bum? …..  oh wait… I was an even worse alcoholic bum……. the morning I found out I went straight to a pub… waited outside for it to open at 10am….. “Whiskey please….” “We’re not supposed to serve alcohol ’til 11am you know?” said the kindly old man behind the bar….. but he could see that I was in need and served up a double…. and they kept coming…. by midday I was heavily anaesthetized… I went out and leaned against the fence….. I’d figured ­she’d be driving by this way soon and maybe I could stop her or fling myself under her car or something….  a local ‘scallywag’, shall we call him, from the nearby estate walked past me with his girlfriend…..  I raised my eyebrows and smiled, as you do, he just stared blankly at me and walked past….  a couple of minutes later they came back…… this time I just looked the other way and from out of nowhere he pulled out a bottle and smashed me across the head…..(I guess he just didn’t like the look of me; I have a hunch he was whacked out of his brain on something)….. it didn’t break but it knocked me backwards into the flowers…..  I just lay there for a while…..   after a couple of minutes I started smiling and chuckling to myself…..  it amused me that that wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to me that day………..  I got up and resumed my vigil leaning against the fence…. another couple came by, and they told me I was bleeding and that I should go the hospital (which was across the road) I reassured them that I was fine and after careful deliberation caught a bus to another pub…….

…………….Roehampton ’06 – ’09 (uni, my chance to turn my life around) I had some diabolical drinking sessions…. not least the 16 hour drinking marathon around the end of year ball……  or the time I locked myself out of my room completely naked (long story) and had to cross the campus in the middle of the night in winter with only a sticker off a fire extinguisher to hide my modesty….. (that’s actually quite funny in hindsight…. the security guard with the big german shepherd, who let me back into my room, kept saying to it, “Sausages boy…. who wants some sausages?….”  It was depressing and embarassing at the time though. Or even the first day when I arrived at halls….  25 years old, feeling nervous and out of place….. where should I go? What should I do? Introduce myself to my new dorm buddies….. nah, go find the nearest pub of course and get blotto by myself.  A few months previously I was attending a one year university access course, I’d found a like minded drinker on the course and most days after lessons were over we’d find ourselves in the pub… if Gav didn’t feel like it, I’d twist his arm for just one and likewise the other way round. One would lead to two, 2-3, 3-5, 5-10….. you know how that goes…. wake up…. head’s splitting….  can’t move without great effort….  fuzzy recollections…. regrets come seeping in…. oh no, I sang fucking karaoke…. confessed my undying love to the barmaid……  spent my weekly allowance in one night, again….. a small fortune in taxi fares alone….. I was becoming worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish the course and go to university and so I went to the local GP, nervous as fuck, sweating and shaking, It was a real struggle to tell a complete stranger that I thought I was an alcoholic.  I was gagging on the words, could barely get them out..  but I managed to tell her.  I thought she was immediately going to intervene; tell me how perilous my situation was, subscribe me heavy medication, whisk me off in an ambulance to a clinic, or at least be outraged at my immorality and profound degradation.  Nothing though, she just pleasantly said that she didn’t think I was an alcoholic and gave me a pamphlet with some numbers I could call if I wanted to and wished me a good day.  I left feeling that I’d failed to convey the weight of my problem and a little let down that she’d failed to see it for herself. I went straight to the pub from the doctor’s office, a few drinks would help me to process what had just happened.  Maybe I wasn’t an alcoholic? It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have to call any of these stupid numbers to begin with.  I threw the pamphlet away, had a few more drinks and decided that maybe she was right, maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion.  Get a fucking grip man and get to the bar, your drink is empty.  And so on I went… I passed the course despite my drinking and I went to uni and got a first class degree, despite my drinking. My Dad died a couple of weeks before I was due to start my final year.  I had to fly back to New Zealand for the funeral.  Of course I was drunk at the funeral.  I was nervous about giving a eulogy and so had a hip flask of whiskey on my person which I kept nipping off to the toilet to drink. Me and my two brothers stayed drunk all week long around the funeral, had a couple of fallings out, and of course I was wretchedly, horribly, hungover the day I had to fly back to London. Not good when you’re facing a 30 hour trip. During my final year I drank and studied and drank and studied.  Applied myself when I had to, even if it was maniacally writing essays on the mornings they were due to be handed in.  On the last day when I had to hand in my final portfolio I was still frantically trying to piece it all together.  I had to get the tube to uni as I was living across town at that point.  I had the biggest panic attack of my life on that tube.  My heart felt like it was being ripped out of my chest and I couldn’t breathe.  I thought I was about to make a complete spectacle of myself in my death throes. The embarrassment of it all worried me more than the actual dying.  I thought I was going to be too late for the hand in time and that I’d fucked up the last four years of my life and that I was going to fail and that I shouldn’t have drunk so much and that I should have paid more attention and worked harder. I was just catastrophising everything.  Of course I got there and handed in on time and it turned out that we could have handed in our work later and it wouldn’t have mattered.

……After uni, I came back to New Zealand.  I had inherited some money and so I didn’t need to look for a job.  I could spend time pursuing my own interests.  I moved in with my older brother in an apartment in the Viaduct.  We were both drinking heavily and it ended in a fight.  He was seeing someone.  She was round the flat all the time.  They were constantly getting drunk and it was becoming tiresome.  She was recently married, and she was very emotional.  It was a big melodrama.  One night they were having a particularly big party for two.  Loud music, dancing around the living room.  I was trying to sleep and asked them to keep the noise down.  It was 3am and we had neighbours all around us. She kept turning the music back up when I left the room, eventually I snapped and told her that she should be at home with her husband. My brother didn’t take kindly to that remark and I thought he was going to punch me. He had a real demented look in his eye, I’ve never seen him angrier.  He didn’t but he told me to get the fuck out – so I did. I spent a few wretched weeks in a motel, then a couple more wretched months in an apartment in Herne Bay.  I was pretty low and drunk by this point.  I wasn’t looking after myself.  I had no hoover and my apartment floor was disgusting.  I’d got bitten by something on my thigh too and I had this big septic lesion which was getting worse and worse. My neighbours were noisy and I couldn’t sleep, I’d just lay on the floor watching infomercials all night.  There was a bar across the road I used to frequent.  I was in the habit of drinking Margeritas.  That was my thing.  I’d just sit there, drinking endless margeritas, picking at and showing off my rather septic thigh.  People asked me who I was, what I was doing…. I used to make up stories that I worked for the government but I couldn’t go into specifics about exactly what, top secret, anything to try and make myself sound interesting….. people actually believed me, it was fun….  One night I had too many Margeritas and I had a blackout.  I’d lost my laptop and I was freaking out. I needed that for everything… it had my whole life on it.  I was sick and shakey hungover though and felt too embarrassed to go and ask in the bar.  Eventually I got up the bottle, it wasn’t there, but through bank statements I traced the bars I’d been to.  I phoned them up and eventually traced my laptop to a mexican bar/restaurant downtown.  The owner said that I had indeed been there the night before and had been rather heavily inebbriated and that he had my laptop and I could come and pick it up.  I sheepishly went and got it and he actually said to me, maybe it was time I quit drinking…. A total stranger and a bar owner to boot and he was telling me that!

……..Aimless, clueless, depressed and drunk, I did what I always do, I moved hemispheres again. I went to see my mum in Spain. Spain 2010 was almost suicidal drinking – I had money in my pocket still from the inheritance and in Spain alcohol and cigarettes were cheap, you could buy a whole bottle of brandy for seven euros and a pack of fags for two. It was only a small tourist town that I was staying in.  Mostly the town was just bars and restaurants. There were about half a dozen bars that I used to frequent.  The spirit measures out there are ridiculous, and if you’re a good customer they’ll give you even more.  I was becoming well known around the bars, not in an entirely bad way, but anything I did in one bar would instantly be known everywhere, and my mum and her partner would be given the run down on anything I did.  One night I fell off my bar stool in the German bar and had to be carried out.  I didn’t remember it but the next day we saw the owner and he said: “Tom go Kaputt!!” … I fell off my bar stool in another pub, apparently, and gashed my head open, this young Spanish guy helped me up and suggested I go to the emergency room, I didn’t but he bandaged me up and we went out to a few other bars.  I had no recollection of him or any of that happening, so it was a little embarrasing when I went for a meal with my mum and her partner the following night and he was the waiter and he told us all about what had happened the previous evening – I didn’t even recognize him – I laughed it off but this was becoming a serious problem.  I’d often walk through town during the early evening and meet people who were happy to see me (I’d probably bought them drinks, money was literally falling out of my pockets at this point) and would shake my hand and I’d have to play along like I knew them. “Oh yeah! Great night last night! See you there again tonight!” My drinking was really spiralling out of control.  Whatever time I started drinking, I wouldn’t stop thereafter until I passed out so I had to try and start as late as possible, but as soon as I woke up I needed a drink.  If I could delay ’til 4 in the afternoon then that was a result but watching the clock in the Spanish heat made my skin crawl, I’d often start in the morning. I wanted to rent my own place but Mum was insistent that I stay with her.  So I had to surrepticiously hide the majority of my alcohol in my room and then nip upstairs and pretend I was getting my first beer of the day out of the fridge at a respectable hour, when it actual fact it was more like the tenth, plus I would have had spirits too. I was becoming a mess. Disposing of the empties was another issue, my closet was full of empty cans and bottles, I’d have to sneak down the road to the rubbish bin at the end of the street and dispose of them when no one was around. A couple of times I woke up and remembered that I’d chundered all over the road which led up to the house.  It was the only road into town and I knew my Mum and her partner would walk by and immediately suspect that I was the culprit.  I had to dart down with water and a brush and clean it up….. I would drink all day at home and then EVERY evening I went out… I couldn’t stay at home… couldn’t do it……I felt like the monster Grendel, laying low all day then making night time raids on the village. One night I left a bar and a cabbie picked me up. He said his name was Jose but I should call him Johnny.  He asked if I’d like to keep the party going and go to a club.  “Of course! but there’s no clubs around here.”  We drove for about 45 minutes out into the countryside and in the middle of nowhere was this place with a neon sign that flashed “Casablanca”… I went inside… there was a bar and there was a few guys and a few scantily clad women.  It seemed pretty subdued for a nightclub but whatever they served alcohol… a couple of hours later I emerged and Johnny was still there, waiting for me. He asked what I thought of the club.  Oh yes, a very nice “club” I said.  From then on in Johnny always appeared wherever I was asking if I needed a lift…..  Having Johnny around felt like I had my own personal chaffeur.  I’d usually be hammered and he’d say: “You wanna go to the club again?” Sure, I went back quite a few times and quite a few times I’d wake up on Mum’s doorstep or on the beach.  One morning Mum found me outside the front door with a gash above my eyebrow and a chunk missing from my nose… I’d obviously hit the doorstep pretty hard last night. She was upset and got angry with me and demanded I sort myself out.  I told her that I had it under control.  But I didn’t, I was fully dependent on alcohol now, maybe worse than at any point of my life. She knew I wouldn’t be okay if I didn’t have any and she’d meet me halfway by buying me a couple of cans of small weak lager.  I had to get out of town, it was becoming claustrophic and I felt like I was embarassing Mum…. I was at an extremely low ebb…. I really felt like I’d run my race….I had nothing left….. could barely get up the stairs in the morning…. and yet I still had to try and keep up appearances and pretend everything was OK…..   Even the owners of the bars who I was giving a lot of money to and I got along with were telling me it was time to leave and sort my life out…… So I went to Ireland…..I had a friend who’d moved there, she’d understand my situation… she was a drinker….. I didn’t know where else to go or what to do….I had considered just taking off on foot, trying to walk and hitch hike back to England, maybe the open road would teach me something…. I thought better of it though…. I was too weak anyway…..

…..Two weeks in Dublin with an old drinking buddy really sorted me out….. She had a partner now and the three of us were as bad as each other. Talk about pouring gasoline onto a fire.  I got out of there, in an even worse state than when I arrived and went back to London. Stayed in a dosshouse in Willesden Green… it looked much better on the website than it did in real life, locks that hung off the latches and holes in the walls, the deranged sreams and shouts of alcoholics, glass being periodically smashed, you had to sleep with one eye open.  I randomly decided to move to Essex.  I wanted to live somewhere accessible to London but out of the madness of the inner city, somewhere a bit more peaceful and affordable.  I got the train to Chelmsford and went and stayed in a B & B. I was drinking lager in my room, I was low, nervous, shakey. Across the road was a real estate agent and I saw a small house to rent.  I used the last bit of money from my inheritance to pay the bond and 6 months rent up front. And then I moved in, no furniture, no nothing. I carried on drinking by myself. There was a pub across the road, I became acquainted in there. Got hammered a few times. I felt like I was getting a reputation again and I’d only just got there.  I was getting really twisted and angry with myself. My money was nearly completely out. I went for a job interview at one of Marco Pierre White’s restaurants in Chelsea. I had some vodka on the train ride there.  It didn’t give me any courage though it just made me feel worse.  It went badly and the head chef immediately told me I didn’t have the job.  I went straight to the nearest pub and got hammered (I really know how to handle rejection!). A week or two later I was doing some day time drinking and I found a newspaper advert for courier drivers and I phoned it.  Before I went for the interview I went into a nearby pub and had four or five pints. I was certain they’d smell it and tell me to get lost. They didn’t. I got the job. Right, now I’ve got to sober up.  I’ve got to drive a fucking vehicle. For four long months I stayed sober. This involved several times buying a six pack and then tipping it away.  But one hot day I didn’t tip it away.  Sometimes I’d be on call over the weekend, so I couldn’t drink just in case I got a job… sometimes I started drinking and turned my phone off.  I got away with it.  Sometimes if I was doing long jobs, Edinburgh and back for instance, I’d sleep in the back of the van and have a couple of beers before I went to sleep.  I drank when I could, but I never drove drunk.  I kept that job up for nearly a year but then I started to lose money.  I was renting the vehicle from the company, petrol prices were sky high, it was right in the middle of the global financial crisis, the amount of work was drying up, where as before I could double or triple my money with multiple packages on board now I was driving with one item on board, and I wasn’t getting the good long motorway jobs anymore. I was doing a lot of short work in London.  I was paid by the mile – 50p per mile, per item – and in London sometimes travelling a mile could take a very long time.  I was driving 60-70 hours a week and it was actually costing me money. I had no friends, no social life.  I was going down mentally, the job was driving me crazy, London traffic was making me angry, I was just angry all the time. The other big problem was my anxiety levels were quite high.  Being a courier driver was the worst job I could have picked really.  Going into places I’d never been before was sometimes challenging for me. And I had to go everywhere: hospitals, RAF bases, Canary Wharf banks, posh private mansions, council estates in South London, all kinds of businesses, courts, lawyers offices, everywhere.  In a sense it was good because I got to see so many places that I never would have otherwise, but on almost a daily basis my anxiety would flare up. I was determined to beat it though.  I thought if I just kept  facing it and overcoming it it would get better. I remember going into a hospital in London and picking up a dialysis machine which a hospital in Manchester needed. When I got to Manchester several hours later, I parked in the hospital car-park and started having a panic attack.  For some reason I couldn’t face going in.  I was panicking even more because I felt like someone’s life may depend on me being able to deliver this piece of equipment.  I got out of the van and walked past the entrance, trying to suss out the place.  I walked past the entrance a few times and then went back to van.  Don’t ask me what I was afraid of or why I couldn’t go in.  It’s a completely irrational fear, one I’m fully aware is irrational when it’s happening.  It’s just fear for no apparent reason.  And then self loathing kicks in because of the awareness of how ridiculous it is. Then you start catastrophising the consequences of what will happen if you don’t deliver the item.  Dump it by the side of the road.  Police will be involved.  You’ll have to dump your vehicle too as it’s being tracked.  Of course you’ll be fired.  Probably arrested too.  Might even make the news.  No one will ever employ you again.  Someone will die too… someone’s waiting for that machine.  The pressure becomes intense and it takes every fibre of your being to fight against it – as I said, I know it’s fucking ridiculous, all you have to do is walk in and give them the machine, which eventually I did…… Once I had to wait outside an operating room in the Royal London Hospital while they cut out someone’s kidneys, who’d just died, which I had to take to Cardiff Hospital….  That was a harrowing delivery, especially as I couldn’t find the drop off point….. I’d been given bad information…. Even mundane pick ups and drop offs, from homes to businesses could instill me with dread, it was indiscriminate. So as I was saying, all this combined with the fact that I was losing money meant the writing was on the wall for my courier days. So I dropped off the van early one morning at the office and posted the keys through the letterbox with a note.  Went home, packed what I could into a suitcase, left all my other possessions and a note for the landlord and went to the airport. I was broke but I’d booked a ticket on my credit card to Auckland and at the airport I withdrew as much money as I could at the ATM then threw the card into the bin.

…….I arrived in Auckland and I phoned one of my brothers, he wouldn’t take my call so I phoned my other brother and he came and picked me up. Within a week we’d had a drunken bust up and he kicked me out, we’d been down at the local pub and his girlfriend had come to pick us up in her little two seater car. She could only take one of us at a time home, he was fine and told me to go first.  She dropped me off and went straight back for him, only a five minute trip but when he came through the door he was furious that we’d abandoned him, completely fucking irrational and stupid and crazy, he was flipping out at both of us, I told him to calm down and he told me get out of his house, I refused, I said there’s no way I’m leaving you with your girlfriend while you’re acting like this, I’ll leave in the morning when you’ve sobered up.  He’s one of those people who can just switch at any moment when he’s drunk.  It was all very traumatic and protracted but eventually he went to bed.  In the morning I caught the bus to town and sat in a bar in the viaduct with my suitcase, only a couple of hundred dollars to my name and nowhere to go.

After a long text exchange with my other brother, who I hadn’t seen or spoke to for over a year, he begrudgingly agreed to come down and meet me.  It was extremely awkward and eventually he acquiesed and said I could stay with him for one week.  He meant it too.  One week.  He harassed me the whole week I was there to make sure I was getting a place to live.  I took a pool house in Parnell.  They didn’t want any deposit and the rent was around $200 a week.  I had just enough to pay the first week in advance and I moved in.  I had no bedding, no kettle, no microwave, nothing…. just a bed and a desk… I didn’t even have a towell.  I used a jumper to dry myself with after showering.  It was September 2011 and the first few nights were freezing cold… the pool house was old and the wind swept right through it…. I slept under my clothes but it was teeth chatteringly cold…  I got job at a pub, it was the rugby world cup and they were taking on more staff in preparation for that…. I hadn’t actually worked in a kitchen for over five years…. I’d stopped when I went back into education and swore to myself that i’d never step foot back into a kitchen again, but here I was, I had to work and it’s the only thing I could really do.  I was nervous about stepping into a busy kitchen, they’d employed me as Chef De Partie aswell, which is third in charge, so I had to have some nouse about me.  I got in, I got on with it.  I had to try and hide all my anxiety. It was a small kitchen, maybe four metres by one and half and on a busy service we’d have five chefs and a kitchen porter working.  A cramped, hot, hostile environment. The head chef was an Indian immigrant with a young family, fully committed to doing well and succeeding at whatever cost.  Get it done and get it done yesterday or fuck off.  He was fast and a psychotically hard worker and he expected nothing less from everyone else.  A little too overcommitted for my liking, we were doing pre-made burgers and boil in the bag lamb shanks, it wasn’t like we were going for a michelin star.  But that’s the way he wanted to play it, so we had to go along with it.  The first few weeks I had no money whatsoever. I had to pay the real estate agent a letting fee.  They were fine about letting me pay it off in installments.  I needed to buy basic things, like a duvet and I had to buy chefing equipment and a uniform too. I had no washing machine either so I had to lug my laundry around in my suitcase to the laundromat in Parnell.  As soon as I got paid the money was all gone.  My relationship with my older brother was improving and he’d lend me a few dollars to get through the week.  I’d walk into town and go and get $20 or $30 off him, then at least I’d have a little bit of beer money.  There was no way I was going without any booze.  I couldn’t afford much, but I needed one or two cans to get me through.  At work we’d get a free pint at the end of every shift and if we wanted more all drinks were half price to staff.  As I became more comfortable at work I’d spend more and more time in the bar.  No matter what time I finished work I’d pitch up at the bar and stay ’til closing.  Whether I finished at 10pm or 2pm I’d stay ’til the bar closed.  I had a tab and I’d ring it up, I didn’t care, it was half price…. Margeritas, Godfathers, Chocolate Martinis, Black and Tans, Snake Bites, Tequila Slammers, Car Bombs, Patron, Chartreuse, Long Island Ice Teas… I got along with the bar staff, I’d buy them shots to have with me, and they liked experimenting and making the bewildering variety of my drinks.  Beer was the staple, and I’d have a good four or five pints before I’d start feeling that I wanted something sharper to hit the spot….  I was like a kid in a candy store, there were regulars around and staff would finish and have a drink, but I didn’t really care who was about, I was happy, just me and my drink. Chefs would come out of the kitchen and be amazed that I was still there 9 hours after my shift had finished.  I didn’t care, fuck ‘em, I’ll do what I like.  It was becoming a running joke in the kitchen though, and because everyone wanted early shifts, everyone kept saying you couldn’t put me on an early as I’d only be here drinking ’til close anyway.  The head chef was getting tired of my drinking habits and some days I’d be really hungover, but I tried never to let it affect my work.  I never phoned in sick, I was never late, on hungover days I’d work twice as hard. It was rough sometimes and undoubtedly people could tell when I was sick from drinking- red faced, bloated and sweating. I often wouldn’t talk for whole shifts, just get my head down and get on with the work. As long as the work got done no one could say anything to me.  I didn’t want to give anyone any reason to have a go at me about my drinking, partly out of pride and partly out of fear that they’d bar me from drinking at work.

My Landlord sold his house and I had to move out of the pool house.  I’d not saved any money for a bond and so my options were limited.  I found a studio available in a 150 room ‘lodge’ – a doss house basically – and I took it.  There weren’t many other options.  I’d done the whole ‘flatting’ thing before and I wasn’t keen.  I took the room thinking it would temporary, a few weeks at most, I ended up staying there for four years.  For the first couple of years I drank.  I had a couple of mates at work and we’d go drinking in Ellerslie on our days off.  Sometimes if we were doing split shift we go to Ellerslie in the afternoon and get drunk before the evening shift. I felt like I’d earned a drink. The last couple of years had been stressful, kicking my can around the place, not knowing what I was doing or where I was going.  At least I had a job now in one place, that paid money (even if it was just over minimum wage), and a couple of mates, I couldn’t sink much lower than I’d been.  I’d wasted all the inheritance, I’d fallen out with my family. I’d been about as isolated and disconnected as anyone could be.  Anything was better than that.  Even this shitty job and this shitty hand to mouth existence was better.  And so I carried on in this way for the next couple of years. Sometimes overdoing the drinking, sometimes embarrassed to show my face at work as I’d made a mini spectacle of myself the previous evening: dry humping the bar man, jumping up on the bar, getting half naked or just stupid drunken conversations, … whatever the fuck it was…. I might scuttle in in the afternoon, the following day, trying to get to the kitchen before anyone saw me, just try to be serious and get on with the job. Until inevitably someone from the front of house would come in and let everyone know just what I’d be doing. “Do you know what this fucker was doing last night!!!”  Sometimes I’d be shakey and I’d stop off and buy a couple of cans on the way to work, drink them as I crossed the public reserve en route. Sometimes I’d take cans of lager or a hip flask of whiskey into work in my bag.  Drink them in the toilet. One old regular knew what I was up to… he’d notice the can or bottle under my apron and give me a knowing glance. After a couple of years my job was becoming untenable, my mates in the kitchen left and they brought in a new senior chef who I didn’t see eye to eye with.  I applied for and got a job as a sous chef in a cafe in Newmarket.

…………I’ve gone on about my drinking and I should probably get to the sober part..….so to summarize and to answer the question, my last days of drinking were heavy but not extraordinary…. the final night itself was pretty low key…. the job in Newmarket was incredibly stressful….. they were understaffed and the head chef was coping admirably, on the outside at least…. although she put on a brave, staunch face….. it felt like she was running a sinking ship…..  I was doing 140 covers by myself some days over a 10 hour period….. it was summer, the kitchen itself was like an oven…. there was a Chef de Partie who was working against me because she felt like I’d taken the job she should have been promoted for…….   after one massively busy Saturday, when there’d been an event in town and we’d got slammed, I went back to the head chef’s house for a few drinks….  there was her and her partner and a couple of other chefs and we got annihilated into the early hours…. her partner insisted on driving me home at about 3 in the morning even though I wanted to get a cab….. he was hammered and gave me the third degree on the way home…. suspecting that I fancied his wife……. (I didn’t)…. it was messy and we had to be at work at 5:30am for what was going to be a busy Sunday. I lay on my bed, trying not to fall asleep as I knew I wouldn’t get back up, after a while I called a taxi and went to work. The cab cost about half my day’s wages but I figured the normal ride from my head chef wouldn’t be waiting.   I arrived at work and went straight into the bathroom – I looked like shit – the kitchen already felt warm and stuffy…. I was hungry…. I needed sleep….. this was gonna be the day from hell…..  by 6:30am the head chef still wasn’t there, the owner was becoming irrate, customers were arriving and no baking or anything had been done…. he wanted to know where she was…..  I tried to play dumb….   obviously not wanting to divulge that I’d been on the lash with her.  He wanted muffins and scones and that wasn’t my department…. I didn’t know how to make them, but not wanting to look inept I gave it a go….. they came out fucked….. he was getting angrier….. I felt like walking out…. eventually the head chef showed up. She looked awful but was putting on her game face…..  we got slammed…. it was worse than the previous day, dockets were everywhere. Food wasn’t prepped. We were making hashbrowns to order out of raw potatoes…. it was seriously fucked…… mess everywhere….. shouting….. front of house staff getting pissed off….. customers waiting 45 minutes and more. At one point I caught the head chef’s eyes over the bench…. I just looked at her and shook my head…..I was absolutely dying, craving for at least a bloody cigarette…… I was gonna walk out then and there but I actually liked and respected her and couldn’t do that to her. After the final order went out and we closed, at about 3pm, we were able to go up to the roof for our first cigarette of the day. “That wasn’t fun, let’s never do that again,” she said…. I agreed.  After work I went to the Irish pub nearby…. I needed a drink…..I felt sick…. and the only way to get rid of that sickness was another drink.  The pub was next to my bus stop home and if the electronic board said 20 minutes ’til the bus I always went in for a ‘quick pint’ . No matter what the board said I always went in. The first one was tough to get through but by the second it was starting to go down smoother. I was mulling over not coming back to work on Monday…. it was her day off….. I could just stay here and have a few pints and sleep in tomorrow….. fuck it…… the job is impossible….. you got through today…. you didn’t leave her in the shit…..  she must know it’s over…….  I had a few beers and then went home. I was seriously tired and thought I’ll see what time I wake up and how I feel in the morning. I got up and went to work. I figured I needed more time to decide whether to leave or not and Monday and Tuesday won’t be busy and then I’ll have my days off on Wednesday and Thursday to give myself some thinking time.  I wanted desperately to leave but it wasn’t that easy…. I had no money… I was living pay cheque to pay cheque and in fact I was somehow now living off an overdraft that I didn’t have.  The bank was letting me withdraw money from certain cashpoints but I couldn’t use the card to pay for anything by eftpos.  There was some sort of glitch that seemed to be working in my favour.  I did end up going into work on Monday and inexplicably it was busy again.  The head chef must of got wind of what was going down and she turned up just in time to see everything turn to custard again. She was all business and shouting and ranting and barking out orders…. taking over the service…. again I felt like walking…. after service we had a meeting with the owner…. evidentally he’d had to give out over $1000 worth of refunds and vouchers for yesterday and today wasn’t looking good either…. he wanted to know what the problem was…. I told him: you’re understaffed, you need two people working on the hotline, not just one (i.e. me…. the headchef made the cabinet and the deli food and was supposed to help me out whenever I needed it…. but she had her hands full on her section nearly all the time) They both said that they knew that but that they couldn’t justify having two people doing it as sometimes it wasn’t that busy yadadada….. we needed to work with what we had and have better systems in place….. etc etc……. that night as I sat in the Irish pub I made up my mind not return to my job.  It felt good to have made the decision….. I was free!!! Money was going to be an issue but I’d been able to withdraw $100 from a cashpoint so for the time being I could get down to drinking….. tomorrow I’ll worry about tomorrow…. right now I can live. That’s certainly a recurring motif for an addict: fuck tomorrow, enjoy right now…. if you can’t enjoy right now what can you enjoy? Might as well be dead.   I also think that life is often so bleak for addicts that they’ll snatch at any chance at joy they get…. unfortunately the only joy for an addict is getting another fix and that leads them back to more misery in the future. It’s that never ending loop…. the addict continually chasing his or her tail…… and so that night I drank….. a few in the Irish bar…. onto the cool, slightly posh bar……  chatting with the blokes that stand at the bar….. before you know it we’re in town…. Japanese karaoke bar….. completely hammered…. Showgirls….. card keeps letting me withdraw money….. I’m smashed…. it’s 3 in the morning…. I’m with different people to who I started out the night with…. don’t know what’s going on…. find myself in the ‘Penthouse’: the brothel attached to Showgirls….  she’s a middle aged Fijian Indian lady….. I tell her straight away I don’t want to sleep with her – I’m lonely I guess, I just want companionship, someone to talk to – she tells me it’s still full price….. $260 for an hour…. I say fine….. money has no meaning to me when I’m drunk…..we just lie on the bed together…..  I’m rambling, saying everything, trying to find out her life story…. she’d probably rather have sex than to listen to all my nonsense…… the hour flies by…. I pay for another one…. she tells me some wretched story about how she was raped by two guys and how that led her into prostitution…. I’m holding her and we’re just lying there…. after a I while I fall asleep…. then the door opens and the ‘host’ tells me it’s time to leave… I get led down some stairs and find myself out on the street….it’s light…. people are starting their day…. I should be at work soon…. only I already know that’s not happening. I go to Britomart but the crowds and pulsing life of it all is too much. I’m sick and weak and shakey and my brain feels swollen.  I need to get a train home, to bed, but the prospect of speaking to people to ask for a ticket and then actually riding the train are too much to bare…. I’m in quite bad shape.  My clothes are rumpled and dirty, it’s obvious I’m still out from the previous evening…. I’m embarrssed to be in public… I find somewhere quiet to sit and try to regain a level of composure.  Eventually I bite the bullet and get on a train and go back to the lodge and sleep. Before I slip into unconciousness I text my boss and tell her I’m sorry, it’s over.  She calls me repeatedley but I put it on silent and let it go to answer phone. The next day, I’m in limbo, I spent close to $1000 on my night out. If I sobered up the reality of my perilous situation would become all too raw and apparent but I still had access to a few dollars and I could keep dosed up on large cheap cans of strong lager…. so I lay low in my room drinking…. I look online for jobs and arrange an interview for a chef’s job down on Prince’s Wharf…  I’m hungover on the morning of the interview, really hungover… I decide to get a hip flask of vodka to try and jolt some life into me…. I wait outside for the liquor store to open… I sheepishly ask for the vodka….. I want to drink it straight away but I’m too self concious to just drink it out in public…. I get to town and try to find somewhere quiet to down it…. there’s not many places where there’s no people so I walk along the waterfront ’til nobody else is around…. I down it over a ten minute period but it just makes me feel worse…. I’m not drunk happy and confident as I was hoping for, I just feel drunk sick, acid stomach and sore head…. I go to where the interview is and circle round the place a couple of times, contemplating whether I can go in or not…… the decision is wrenching me… I’m so fucking sick of this game….. I decide I can’t and hate myself for it…. I go and sit on the wharf and wonder if I shouldn’t just jump into the water….. a cabbie drives past me and must realise something’s up… He asks me if I’m alright…. I try to sound fine……he wishes me a good day…………………….

…………a mate comes round on the Friday and I tell him in really blokey tones about my big night out at Showgirls and about how I spent shitloads of money and about how I told my job to stick it.  All bravado and bluster and bullshit when the reality is far more harrowing.  He takes me out and treats me to a few drinks in Howick…. I remember feeling disconnected from my surroundings in the pub. I felt extremely self-concious. I was a social pariah now. No money, no job, no nothing. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror behind the bar….I looked haunted and ill….   my self image has never been that good….. but that time it was even worse, I felt like I was the type of person that other people avoid…… after a few drinks my self image changed and I felt affable and outgoing and funny and confident….. it was getting harder and harder to pull off that charade though…. my life was narrowing down further and further and there was pretty much nowhere left to hide…. we had an OK night… a few laughs…. I forgot about my situation briefly…. I slept at his…. woke up and he dropped me home….. it was 9am…. we were hungover…. had no cigarettes…. I found half of one in my room and we shared it…. desperately sucking on the thing right down into the filter like a couple of tramps….  he left and I walked to the bakery for some food.  I had some schrapnel in my pocket…. enough to get a feed…. the bakery sold fried chicken and chips and as soon as I smelt it I had to have some. I was hungover hungry…. craving fat and sugar…. I got a bottle of coke to wash it down…. I went back to my room and lay on my bed, with the curtains drawn, eating the fried chicken and watching, for the upteenth time, one of the only movies I had on my old, beat up, laptop….the sun was out and it was getting hot and I felt like shit…. really disgusted with myself and the way I was living… and frankly broke, in debt, no job – no hope of getting a job, next stop homelessness…….. so I decided that was it: no more drinking and smoking, I had to sort my shit out……………………….. Now, I’d made this decision a hundred times or more before, in similar situations, with just as much earnestness and with just as much conviction and I’d always failed…..  I had no reason to suspect that this time would be any different…..  I didn’t think it would be…..I felt resolute in the moment but I also knew that moods changed and that in a few days time my resolve probably wouldn’t be so strong when I found a couple of dollars and the overwhelming pathological need for a drink kicked in…… but it also felt different this time…….I felt that if I failed the consequences would be more catasrophic….. I had nowhere else to go, no parents to bail me out this time, dad was dead, mum was on the other side of the world and i’d embarrassed her enough….. my brothers’ patience was wearing out and I wouldn’t go cap in hand to them again anyway…. I wanted to hang on the last scrap of dignity I had…..I was too low anyway….. I’d rather disappear somewhere than humiliate myself again….. maybe I could finally get the courage to face my destiny on the street… I’d often thought about it….In London I’d often spent time talking to homeless people when I was drunk…. I think I was doing research into what it might be like.  One time I even took a homeless person’s Big Issues of him at Victoria Station and tried to sell them…. Hundreds of people were walking past him and ignoring him I wanted to see if I could sell them and get him some money.  After I stood there, trying to sell them enthusiastically for a good fifteen minutes and had no luck whatsoever, he took them back and said: “Not that easy is it.” I bought him a coffee and a sandwich, but he chucked the coffee and produced a can of cider… I suspected his body couldn’t handle any non-alcholic beverage.  Another night a couple of homeless guys were literally sitting in the gutter asking for change… I was completely hammered and for some reason got down with them and started begging too (I don’t know, I’m fucking dumb when I’m drunk) They accused me of not being homeless and actually got quite cross for invading their patch – fair enough………….  Homelessness felt close now…. maybe it wouldn’t be so bad…. no more fucking work!!!  I probably was mad, I probably belonged on the street…… after a week of sleeping (i.e lying on my bed all day and night watching cockroaches scuttle across the ceiling) punctuated by long nightime walks – I wasn’t going out during the day, sunlight would have been too much in my highly sensitive, state of withdrawal. I made ambitious raids to the dairy… barely looking at the shop assistant…. getting chocolate… fizzy drinks… lollies…. pies…… whatever crap I could afford with my shillings and bobs and bits of wool.  I had to get moving… rent was due… I needed a plan…. I phoned WINZ…. it wasn’t an easy phone call….. I put it off…. I was embarrassed….I spoke nervously and arranged an appointment….. I got a shift a week back at my pub job… just one night…. that’s all they could give me….and not chefing…. washing dishes…..   WINZ gave me some money for rent and combined with my one shift a week I had enough money for basic food.  Need I say I was fucking low and depressed and anxious and wanting a fucking drink though….. I just white knuckled it through the first few weeks/months, nearly succumbing many times…. finding myself walking to the liquor store…. walking past it…. circling it……. many internal dialogues…. much shouting at myself……   I just felt sick….. walking to work….. tail between my legs…..  I was a laughing stock at work now…. left my role to be a Sous chef and now I was a dishwasher, taking shit from everyone…. even the commis chefs were just firing pans rudely into my sink……  I couldn’t go out I couldn’t socialize…. I had no money….. I was fully alone……  three months into this purgatory I was lying on my bed feeling hollow and sick and randomly listening to Radio NZ…..I didn’t often but just by luck I had it on Radio NZ on at that precise moment when this very clear, articulate, intelligent, woman starting talking about her alcoholism…..  it totally struck a chord with me like someone had just hit my brain with a giant tuning fork…. everything else I’d listened to that day was just background noise that I wasn’t taking in…… but her candid openness…. what the fuck? She’s dealt with all this shit already and come out the other side? maybe I wasn’t looking for it before but I’d never really heard anyone talk about their alcoholism, maybe the odd rockstar or celebrity in brief romantic reminiscent passages, but not someone ‘normal’, someone in New Zealand, (Auckland aswell I think at the time) a real person, living a real life, but articulating the problems and the addictiveness and the wickedness of booze and how it had trapped her and brought her low…. I scribbled down her name on a scrap of paper: Mrs D…. evidentally she had a blog….. I went back into my self pitying, pathetic hole and it wasn’t until a few days later that I found the scrap of paper and googled Mrs D and found her blog……   there was a few people commenting on the blog about their trials and tribulations concerned with drinking……it seemed like a small, close knit community and it took me a while before I posted anything….  I was just enjoying reading it all to be honest…..  when I did and I got some replies it felt great….. I was hooked…..

Are you in anyway proud of your drinking? (my question not Mrs D’s)

….all the drinking stories may sound like I’m showing off…. maybe I am…..am I proud of some of the shit I did? I wouldn’t say I was proud…. it’s just what happened….. my whole adult life has revolved around drinking…..I can’t tell you about the time I helped refugees in Cambodia or the time I met Nelson Mandela…. or the time I performed in front of 60,000 people or the time I climbed Everest…… or surfed a big wave in Hawaii…. or sailed solo around the world…..or did anything of any note or interest….. I’ve done nothing with my life except drinking, so maybe I have to look at it slightly romantically….. it’s all I have…….   I heard someone say recently, that to boast of your virtues is the same as boasting about your sins…..  i.e. that you shouldn’t do either….. I don’t think I agree with that though, I think people are proud about getting sober and they should be allowed to express that….. I don’t see the problem.

What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?

I hid it (of course; how could you not? pretty ballsy not to…. congrats if that’s you)  I was not going to divulge the fact that I was attempting to get sober…. when I inevitably failed it would just be another stick they could prod me with….. something else to highlight how pathetic and useless I was…… I would keep this quiet until a point I felt confident enough with it……. that wasn’t until a good six months into it I’d say… I’d passed my previous best of four months and I was beginning to believe that I might be onto something… Christmas was on the horizon and I was really worried that that would be a trigger.  I’d gone out a couple of times into drinking environments but I’d just meekly got an alcohol free drink and mumbled that I didn’t feel like drinking, I was just having a little break, nothing serious: I just didn’t feel like having a beer (calm down everyone!) There was no way that I was going to boldly claim that I’d quit drinking…. no fucking chance.  When it did emerge that I was getting sober, my Mum was incredibly supportive but I think my brothers and my mate (I only really had one friend at that point) kept egging me on to drink and they didn’t really believe it would last long.  I guess to them it felt like they were losing me, that I was setting myself apart from them, by not drinking I was would no longer be a member of The Club, no longer be able to engage them in the language of the drunk, wouldn’t be able to go on those drunken mind journeys with them. I was moving away, distancing myself, moving to a new country, speaking a new language, while all the while inhabiting the same space, watching on with a sober eye… of course it made them uncomfortable and of course they encouraged me to drink, I would have felt exactly the same way had the tables been turned.

Have you ever experienced a relapse?

My whole drinking career was a relapse…. I wanted to stop drinking from quite early on…..clearly, the urge to keep drinking was far greater though…. I swore to quit on hundreds of mornings and by the evenings I was drinking again….. I always failed and put it off ’til next month, or next year.  After that birthday, or after that holiday, or after that event….on and on and on and never stopping. When you’re young, you think you have time, you think you can get away with it…. soon time speeds over you though and you look back at another wasted period of time… “Has it really been five years since that night?” You keep thinking that you should be in a better place by now….. the more time accumulates and the more you haven’t changed the more depressing it becomes…. until there’s actually a dawning realisiation: This is it, it ain’t gonna’ get any better. In sobriety you come to accept that.  You snatch at little things and the mundaneness of everything can sometimes be beautiful.  In active alcoholism, the thought that this is all there is is utterly terrifying and morbid and drives the drinker to suicidal ideations.  Back to the question though, no, I’ve not had a drop in the last three years… barring an accidental liqueur chocolate.

Quick side note: I used to be militant about not having alcohol in food…. now I don’t care…. I feel secure enough in my sobriety to not fall off the wagon if I have some cooked out wine in a gravy… it’s not like it gives me any thrills.

How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?

I don’t think I’ll ever be calm physically or emotionally….. I’ve never felt comfortable in my own skin…. I fidget… I tap my leg, I crack my knuckles…… I click my back and neck…… I find it hard to make eye contact…..I’m awkward socially…. I’m a bag of nerves basically…..  certainly not drinking has enabled me to handle my insecurities better but they’re still there….. I will say though the first year I did really feel low a lot of the time…. into the second year too… no energy…. lethargic….. I’m undoubtedley getting better but I think it’s long process. I’m cutting back on sugar and caffeine and things now…. but it’s a constant refinement, a constant battle with the self, stripping away things…. there’s always the next thing to give up or to do…….. but that’s ok….. I gave up class A’s first… then I gave up weed……. then I gave up booze and fags…. I’ve still got other things to give up….life is one big fucking addiction….  we become addicted to people, to places, to foods, to material objects….. currently I’m trying to get addicted to things which are good for me…. the latest thing is that I’ve joined a gym and I’m trying to become addicted to that…. as drinking was a way of switching off the brain….. so too is exercize….. in exercize you can use pain to switch off the brain…. if you workout to a point where you’re physically exhausted you almost don’t care about anything anymore….. you can tell your brain to shut up by heaping pain onto it….. sounds a bit masochistic maybe……..but yeah, I think there’s similarities between drinking and exercizing – they’re both a way to quiet the self…..   maybe one day I’ll reach a place that I’m really happy and comfortable in….  as I say, I’m certainly a lot better off now than I was three years ago…….not drinking gives you the opportunity to grow………

How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?

I avoided most social situations for the first year….. and then found out I didn’t like most of the social situations I put myself in when I was drinking…. I’m not outgoing by nature, alcohol made me outgoing and I think that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much….the reality is I’m happier alone most of the time…..I have a couple of mates and my brothers and my mum…… my relationship with my brothers is good now…. which wasn’t the case when I was drinking…..  there were periods when they wouldn’t speak to me…. now we’re good…. we hang out….. I remember going out a few months into my sobriety and everyone was goading me to have a drink….. I really wanted to…. I felt like an outsider….. I felt like I was kidding myself with this sobriety nonsense….. that didn’t feel good but I was able to get through it….. didn’t really see any of those people after that……..and of course I’m happy to go into a pub now and have a non-alcoholic drink….. doesn’t bother me….  I’m firmly re-branded as a non-drinker… whereas before it was shocking to see me without a drink now if a friend or relative saw me with a drink they’d probably drop theirs: it took me a long time to train them and they had to see me over and over again ordering non-alcoholic ginger beer, but eventually the message filtered through to them: “He really doesn’t drink anymore!”…………………………..it did feel weird ordering non-alcoholic beverages to begin with, I didn’t feel right…. I always thought the bar people were judging me….. I don’t know…. I realise now that bar people don’t give a shit what you order and lots of people order non-alcoholic drinks…. but to begin with to ask for a cola felt like I might as well have been ordering a drink with a straw in it and a cherry and can I have a ‘wowwipop too pwease’…..  it’s ridiculous, but I thought they were gonna turn round say, “Why aren’t you having a bloody beer mate?”…….. one barman did actually say that to me, but he said it in a jokey enough manner and I wasn’t offended.

Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking

Yeah…. drinking wasn’t the primary problem…. drinking masked the problems and stopped me from dealing with them…..  I didn’t know that before…. I honestly thought if I got sober everything else would magically fall into place….. my anxiety….  low moods….. etc….. all that stuff would go away…..I thought they were symptoms of my drinking and drugging but they weren’t. They were seperate issues that drinking may have made worse, but I don’t think drinking caused them. I think the seeds of those problems were there before I started drinking….. and certainly by self-medicating I wasn’t able to deal with them and the problems were exacerbated.  Learning that I hadn’t cured myself simply by stopping drinking and smoking et al was kind of a depressing realisation.  I’d used a fuck load of energy and had to spend a lot of downtime getting sober and now the real work had to begin. The booze had in fact helped me to a certain extent to keep the lid on them, (of course ultimately booze is a totally flawed coping mechanism) now sober, all the ghosts came flying out…….  So yeah, I’ve learned that getting sober for me was really just the start in learning to deal with ‘life’…… and I’m still at the bottom of that pyramid scheme…… I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.

How did your life change?

I don’t think my life has changed… I‘m still a cook with not much money…. but then again, I’m more positive nowadays…. and I don’t have to go through withdrawals anymore…. I don’t feel like I‘m dancing with the noseless one either….. the thought that you are killing yourself and you have no control over it is not pleasant….. my mouth doesn’t feel like an ashtray anymore and my internal organs aren’t sore….. and I don’t get chest pains……  so that’s changed…….  I generally have better thoughts but when I have boring or negative thoughts I can’t escape them with booze, I get stuck in boring thought loops…. same boring words and self conversations and negative self-talk pops up…. but I can cope with those thoughts better now and step outside them and know they don’t define me -  at least on good days anyway, on bad days I can’t seperate myself from my problems, my problems are me. I’m not a normal person who has certain conditions, I’m just a scared, pathetic, useless baby, who can’t function in the real world……  life can be dull and frustrating and I still don’t connect with people the way I’d like to…..  I’m working on relaxing and being more open and spontaneous but I’m still quite up tight and awkward……..I spend too much time worrying and analysing which prevents me from just relaxing and being in the moment….. I’m at the lower end of the socio-economic scale and people don’t respect you if you don’t have a house; a family; a career; a nice car…. that’s ok…..I can’t have conversations with people about their homes and their mortgages and their children and their careers…. because I don’t have any frame of reference for that…… I’m still on the periphery of everything….. I can live with that…. it’s not what I wanted from life….. but I guess I still have time (maybe!)….. I’m chipping away slowly…. I’d like a holiday… I haven’t left Auckland since I came back here five years ago…. I’d like to see my mum… I haven’t seen her for many years either….she’s not seen me since I’ve sobered up….. I’d like to be more….. but I’m not…. some days I can accept it…. some days I can’t……. what is there to say?…..I want to be honest….. I certainly don’t want to write some fake upbeat piece here….  I’m not all guns blazing positivity all the time……   I have moments when I’m upbeat…. I would say my good days outnumber my bad days which wasn’t the case when I was drinking……………..

………I feel like someone’s definitely labelling me as a ‘dry-drunk’ right about now…. ouch!  : )

What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?

A second chance at life: fairly big benefit…..  no hangovers (I really don’t think hangover is an adequate word to describe the hell of days after heavy drinking sessions, not being able to leave your room, anxious, reliving the previous night’s goings on over and over in your head… the shame, the sickness, a ‘hangover’ almost sounds like something fun). Being able to sleep fairly soundly most nights is good too. Not lying there, sweating, having heart palpitations, tired but unable to sleep, needing the bathroom but not able to piss, hungry but with no food in the cupboards. Lonely but with no one to call………I don’t feel that loneliness anymore…. I haven’t felt that abject loneliness since I got sober…. that’s got to be one of the main benefits: Not so much of that self pitying melodramatic shit….. your own company becomes more acceptable….  Self esteem and your image of yourself improves dramatically too, although the flawed nature of humans means that if we don’t remind ourselves of these improvements then they don’t exist…. we don’t carry them around with us by default…. they’re continually forgotten…. the new you becomes the new normal and you judge yourself often on how far you’ve got to go rather than how far you’ve come…..

Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?

I wouldn’t tell that fucking chef that I was an alcoholic……   A few months into my sobriety I was flirting with a chef job at a fairly decent restaurant.  My anxiety was getting the better of me and I didn’t turn up to a couple of trials that had been arranged.  I made the effort to go but couldn’t actually walk through the door.  I made excuses and got another trial and went in and worked and it went well.  Then I was supposed to go back and chat to him and I didn’t do that.  Then I finally did and he offered me the job.  I worked one shift and then backed out.  My main issue was that the kitchen was open and it faced a bar. I would have been looking at beer taps and people drinking my whole shift. I thought this was going to seriously put my sobriety on the line.  I didn’t want to risk it.  I felt like I’d been mucking the guy about though and I thought honesty was the best policy.  We’d been having a text exchange and I just said to him, look mate, I’ve only just recently got sober and I think this job might jeopardise my sobriety.  That killed it.  No more replies. I know it’s stupid (emotional age of 18 remember) but at the time I felt seriously wounded by his silence.  It felt like society was giving me the finger.  You’re a useless fucking alcoholic who can’t handle anything. A big fucking baby. That’s what I felt like.  So if I were to go through this process again I wouldn’t let my guard down like that again. But then again, maybe it helped me grow in some way…. fuck it…. I’ll take all the painful things again… double them in fact! ; )

Why did you start drinking?

Why wouldn’t you?  My Dad drank. I’m not saying I drank because my Dad did, I may have done so otherwise, I know other people who are serious drinkers and their parents don’t touch the stuff and conversely people with drinkers for parents who are T-total. But Dad was the first person I saw drinking.  I used to go to the corner shop in Manchester and buy him cigars when I was little…. you could do that kind of thing back then…. the shopkeeper knew my dad and was fine with it….. I used to be allowed to buy myself a little can of shandy bass as a reward (which I think was like 0.2% alcohol)…..  I used to drink some of Dad’s beer too…..it felt like a reward…… when I was very little I skulled a glass of brandy which was on a low table during a party my parents were having….  I got sick and had to drink lots of milk…..  – my first word was actually ‘Juice’ so I was done for from the start! -  drink was always around…. in New Zealand dad made home brew…. I used to help him and the fridge was always stoked with beer, the pantry with cask wines and brandy and whiskey…..  it seemed that it was a right of passage…. men drank…. if you wanted to become a man you had to drink…. I hated being the underage person who had to have orange juice or cola while all the adults were having a merry old time drinking…..   at fifteen I was round a friend’s house while his parents were out….. we looked through their liquor cabinet…. there was an unopened bottle of Captian Morgan’s Black Rum……  how dark and mysterious that bottle seemed, like finding a genie’s lamp….. what adventures the swashbuckling captain seemed to be promising….. all we had to do was unscrew the cap and let out the fun….. this wasn’t a drink…. it was a magical potion that would take us on a ride…… and it did….. I ended up face down in a ditch and someone’s Dad had to come and drag me out….. I have recollections of that night but they’re just flashes….  dark figures standing over me…. people laughing…..  rain lashing down and trying to swim on the grass in the park…..  being stuffed into the back of a car….. I remember the next day….. waking up on Mum’s sofa, caked in mud and urine…..  passing out in the shower when the water hit me….. the awful sickness….. dizzy….. nauseous…  an axe lodged in my head….. I still can’t smell black rum without getting a pang of nausea….. but did it put me off drinking? …..no, I recovered after a couple of days and was determined to do better….. I’d learnt a valuable lesson in the drinking game….. not to drink too much too quickly….. the effects took several minutes to kick in…. I would pace myself…. I would do better…..  clearly this wasn’t the drink’s fault, it was my inexperience…. you must respect this magical elixir, there was a price to pay if you didn’t…..

What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?

Don’t listen to what anyone tells you if you don’t like it….. anything’s possible…. get sober anyway you can…. alone, in a group, up a mountain…. out at sea…..  what works for one person might not work for another…. don’t worry too much about what people tell yer: you’re a dry drunk; you’ll always be an addict; you can’t get sober; you’re boring; what’s the point of living without drink?….. you’ll hear lots of shit…..some of it from your own brain: why are you doing this to yourself? You’re too far gone; You need it; You deserve it; You’re making yourself miserable for no reason; Give it up mate you’re not fooling anyone……………….  just learn to ignore all the voices……forge your own path with that good part of yourself, follow the part of you that has noble intentions, the more you listen to that part of yourself the louder it becomes……… I’ve done this alone….. yes, with online help…. but in my life, I’ve been alone… there’s not been anyone helping me and I did it in rather dire straits I have to say…. I didn’t have any money for rehab or councillors….. and my anxiety kept me away from any groups or free help that might be available …… maybe my dire straits actually helped me…… God knows if I had the money to carry on drinking I’d proably be dead right now…. I look at people like Amy Winehouse who was being scrutinized at the height of her addiction….. if my drunken nights were front page news that would have magnified my need to drink to the nth degree. Add to that unlimited cash funds and I would have been just as bad as her if not worse……  sometimes being in dire straits might not be such a bad thing…… But yeah, maybe you need to go to therapy, meetings, have medication, do this, do that, I don’t know…….   everyone’s different….. don’t hold back…. commit….. be prepared to lose everything…. be prepared to go to prison (you’ll probably want to kill a few people on your journey to enlightenment – only do it if it’s the only way to stay sober ; )….. be prepared to be ostracized….. brace yourself for the worst….. it gets rough….  but you will come out the other side if you don’t have a drink.

Anything else you’d like to share?

This may sound oxymoronic but: I want to drink again only I also want to get to a place where I never want to drink again……  and I think I might get to the latter….. I think it just might take time…. I’m three years sober and I’d like to make it to ten…. if/when I do,(I feel it’s entirely possible at this moment in time) then at ten years sober I’m going to reassess…. I’m hoping by then that I’ll be fully entrenched and committed to sobriety and that I will just chuckle at the thought of having a drink…. that I’ll just look at it as some pathetic endeavour that I’ve fully outgrown and I’ll be able to fully appreciate and realize how far I’ve come…. ’cause in a way I think that by giving myself this ten year goal it’s actually helping me to stay sober….  I think saying never ever again is too absolute for me…. and actually quite a compelling thought to drive me to drink….”You can never drink again!”… I don’t like being told what to do, even if it’s by myself…. I still very much like the thought of sensible drinking… sitting in a pub, reading a newspaper and sipping a pint of bitter….or having a glass of wine on Christmas day or on my Birthday (I’ve never liked wine so I don’t why my fantasy would include drinking that shit, I think it just seems more romantic)   I know, I know, we’re not normies and we can’t do that… and it’s not worth gambling with your life…..  I know.  And I know that there’s no way I could be a sensible drinker at this point in time…. if I have a drink now I know where it ends…..  and if I make it to the ten year mark and I still feel this way then I won’t gamble with my life….  but if I feel that I’m in a more secure place and that I can have a drink or two…. then I will.  Fuck just reading this, I understand that you’ll be shaking your head (I am myself) thinking there’s no way that kind of thinking is going to end well and if I become a raging, hopeless alcy again, I can read this back and think: “You dumb, unspeakable fool!”…I think that’s keeping me sober too, the fact that I know I will hate myself if I become an alcoholic again… All these words and everything I’ve ever written about sobriety will come back to haunt me and seem vain and hollow and pathetic.  I will really detest myself and the person writing this now: “He was out of the booze hell and he put himself back in!”…. I really can’t let it slip… If it was bad before, I think it will be far worse should I go down the rabbit hole again….I’ll doubt I’ll make it out next time….

…………I know it doesn’t make much sense but I can’t ever, no matter what I do or how I end up, divorce myself from my relationship with alcohol…. it’s always going to be there whether I drink again or not…..  it’s shaped me and it has (or at least had) a powerful pull…. I would love to own a house one day and have some money behind me (as unlikely as that is)…..to have achieved something in my life and to be able to sit back on my deck or in my conservatory and enjoy the warm, contented feeling that a drink or two gives you….I know in reality it’s a floored romantic notion and something I’ll probably never be able to do.  But what if I could? There are some who’ve got to that point…… I still have that idea in my mind and I still would like to get there.  But like I say I’d also like to get the place where I have omnipotent perception of myself and drinking and see it all for what it is and be fully happy and self-contained with my own consciousness.  I think I’ll know if I can do it, and if I don’t feel confident in myself that I can then I won’t.  It’s taken a big effort to get sober…. – and I think luck has played a part and also the time and opportunity maybe wouldn’t come round again…… I’m thankful that at the moment I’m out of it and that touch wood I haven’t done any serious permanent damage……….many other people aren’t so lucky.  Many people never get to three years. Many people are dead………………………..

…….……………….. Sense of accomplishment…..(don’t want to leave this on a downbeat!)….. that’s the other benefit of sobriety…. if you’ve never done anything with your life (like me!) getting sober is the one thing you can cling to when all else crumbles in your hands…. you can give yourself a shot of optimism everytime you remember….sobriety is the gift that keeps on giving, if for no other reason, that in and of itself……  whatever’s going on around you, you can step back and say to yourself… hey, at least I got sober.

20 comments

  1. Even though your history, your events, your discoveries, are different from mine, I see you, your goodness shines through. I am so glad you are sober.
    I wish I could call your mother and tell her how proud I am of you! Thank you my friend for helping me and many others along this magical mystery sober ride!

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  2. Wow! That was a great read thanks so much! You write brilliantly. It bought back with clarity the big booze fuelled all nighters and that hungover ( I agree too nice a word for hell) feeling of shame,nausea and ugh,the headache and racing heart and relentless negativity that took days to recover from. Jesus I don’t miss that.
    It’s another life we have now. One with far less pain.
    I’m proud of you and your 1000 days. Look forward to meeting you one day.

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  3. Hi Daniel! Your strength in getting sober alone is staggering and inspiring. Interesting that you point out that life remains tough even being sober, but that’s where you can really start creating a life that you want. That’s what I’m beginning to realize as the months pile up – that life is filled with possibilities. Thank-you for your honesty and wise words. So great that you figured it out relatively early, I would love to get my 30s back, what a wasted decade being wasted. No more of that for us. xx

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    1. Hi JM…… yes, I wish that I’d got sober a lot sooner too….. but everything is the way it is, we can’t change what’s done….. just have to try and learn from it…. : )

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  4. Fantastic Daniel – truth is you have more inner strength than most of us. Few are able to be as honest about themselves and their feelings as you are. Most are just bullshi**ing it. Feeling awkward and nervous sometimes is perfectly normal, it’s just that most people don’t acknowledge it or fake smile their way through it. You’re a hero to me.

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  5. I loved reading your story – it was like reading a juicy book and watching an action movie filled with drama (and some humor I might add) . But it was/is your life, and I seriously appreciate your raw honesty. The bravery it takes to lay out the truth for others to take in is such a meaningful act. Thank you. What courage and strength you’ve displayed to fight your way to sobriety. Although my situation is very different, I have learned a lot from your sage words of wisdom about doing whatever it takes, however it takes to not take that drink. You seem like a bright guy with a tremendous future ahead of you! Let’s hear more from you :)

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  6. And all this time I’d imagined you were from England, I am not sure why, probably just hearing you mention it. A great read, and I too will be keeping an eye out for your published book. Hurry up and bring it on please.
    As I creep towards 1000 days myself, I realise how far I have come, how much I have changed, how my friendships have also changed, and I understand that things will go on changing, for the better, as long as I go on being the sober me. It is the same for you. It doesn’t fix everything, but it sure as hell fixes a lot. I am so very proud of you, I love how tuned in to yourself you are, your awareness of your feelings, and I’m with Quietly Done, I’d love to tell your Mum how well you are doing. Do you write to her, or skype? I look forward to meeting you one day, and I am glad to call you a friend. xoxo

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    1. Thanks Lizi, yes, I speak to her often…. she’s very supportive about my sobriety…. she’s probably more enthusiastic about it than I am! ; ) – guess she remembers some of the low points more clearly than me…..

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  7. Wow and I’ve only read the short version – will save the longer and complete version for later! I would have to say thank god that you are still alive, really and truly. I cannot believe that the doctor you saw was not more thorough and concerned – Jesus, your help could have come a lot earlier.
    Hearing Lotta on the radio was my “ping” moment too, that interview stopped me in my tracks and a few weeks later I was at the doctors, a crying sick mess and luckily for me I was taken seriously and my getting better began.
    Again, I am so glad you lived through all that you did to yourself and thank you so much for sharing your story, I just think this will help so many people and save them from going through all the pain that you did, hopefully.
    Brilliant xxx

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    1. Hi madandsad……… glad they took you seriously….. I guess on the outside it didn’t seem like a had a problem….. even I wasn’t sure…… such is the nature of the beast….. : )

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    2. Wow thanks for sharing your story. It has led me back down my own boozy past and I have to say that my last few years of drinking were actually quite mild compared to my early drinking days and I too wonder sometimes why and how I am even still alive. Your story has hit my sore spots and I hope one day to be able to share my own. I have never really thought in depth about the horrors of my drinking past and I know its going to take a lot of courage for me to do so. You are so brave and have endured so much but I sincerely think your future is looking so bright you are going to need to wear your sunnies lol. and you definately have a book here that needs to be published I will be keeping an eye out for it ☺xx

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      1. Hi seedynomore…… it’s good to write about it and get it out of your system but it can be quite an uncomfortable place to inhabit mentally – going back over all that muddy ground….. remembering how awful things got…… good reminder though…… good reminder why we don’t want to go there again! : )

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