There are days when I need to remember that alcoholism is a life-threatening disease and that I am simply in remission. The fact that this period of wellness has lasted for close to six years shouldn’t lull me into a false sense of security that I am cured forever. I don’t know if addicts are ever cured, because I know in my depths that if I was to slip just once it would be a far worse relapse than I’ve ever experienced in the past. Like most addicts this is not my first period of sobriety, but it is my longest. There were times in the past where I stopped drinking because there were cataclysmic events that “scared me sober”!
There was always a slide into the darkest places of my addiction. A culmination of events that suddenly ended with me experiencing a moment of clarity and going cold turkey. Swearing that I was done with the drinking and that I was ready to turn my life around. One such event came about over a fairly long period of time. But both of my previous attempts were connected with being involved in the hospitality industry. It’s ludicrous that someone with a drinking problem should be the owner of a bar, but there I was like a diabetic in a sugar mill! I almost feel like I am getting ahead of myself with this post, but for some reason I remembered today that although I am sober, there are days when I do not feel like I have a hold on my disease.
So there I was, the proud owner of a bistro and bar in a small university town. It came with an iota of local celebrity status especially among the students and local patrons who frequented the establishment. And I was free to drink six nights a week, for who was I to refuse the kind offers of the people that were keeping the business‘s doors open. The quiet drinks at the beginning of the evening were barely interrupted through the dinner service, as there was always a cold beverage close at hand. I convinced myself that there was nothing wrong with a couple of drinks to keep the stress levels down as we prepared food for a restaurant of 45 covers from a kitchen no bigger than a main en suite! And on the nights when the restaurant was particularly quiet there was no reason not to sit and drink with the regulars. Friday nights were festive affairs, starting early in the evenings as the post-work drinkers dropped by, and often stayed, until the small hours of the morning. The isolated location of the place allowed for lock-ins well past the legal cut-off time. And I could always be convinced to open late at night if everyone was still in the mood for a party and the other establishments had closed for the night.
I look back on that time with a sense of regret and I am not one to feel remorseful about things. It was a thriving little business when I bought it from my business partner and it didn’t take me long to sink the ship so to speak. I was irresponsible and reckless with the business, made horrendous staffing choices and was generally oblivious to the encroaching financial ruin. The problem with addiction is that it clouds otherwise good judgment. I’m hardly an idiot, albeit a little gullible at times, but I was completely blind to what was happening around me. I was careless with the business’s money and stock, not paying attention to the procedures as I should have been. As I became more and more apathetic, I gave over increased responsibilities to a manager who proved to be dishonest. The problem was that since I had let the checks and balances fall by the wayside over the proceeding months there was no way of proving this! He must have been rubbing his hands together as he ferreted away money and stock from the business and I was too drunk or too hungover to notice what he was doing!
As part of his payment he was living rent free in my house. I loved my little sanctuary, but it was soon tainted by his presence. And then when things started to go wrong they went horribly wrong. In one of my moments of rare clarity, I received a phone call about outstanding payments to my liquor supplier. According to my haphazard records they were fully paid, but the truth of the deception was quickly uncovered and I was in arrears for a lot of money considering the size of my business. A confrontation with him led to something of a drunken confession, and culminated later that evening in him pinning me to the ground and beating me. Although the police were called they refused to remove him from the house as he was legally allowed to be there and it was a case of domestic violence, and I was free to lay a charge against him the following day. I left for the night, bloodied and bruised, and returned the next morning with a friend to tell him to leave. He feigned ignorance over the previous night’s occurrences, but left and I’ve not seen him since!
But this post is getting long, so I’ll tie things up. Over the next few months I tried desperately to save my business, but the damage was done and within a few months I was forced to opt for voluntary liquidation rather than face the long road of insolvency. Luckily we were able to go this route, but it still haunts me that I managed to destroy something that I loved so passionately. And as those months ticked by my drinking didn’t stop until I had a complete breakdown and ended up booking myself into a rehab program for depression! What an eye-opener that was…but I’ll continue with that story in my next post.
For the time being I need to remember that I am in remission and that I need to be kind to myself, because losing sight of this disease allows it time to refuel, preying on insecurities, lack of sleep, unhealthy habits and stress. So today I am thankful for my ability to remind myself that on some days I need to be more gentle with myself and not feel guilty for taking the day for myself to just rest, relax and recharge.
“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. ” (Thomas Edison)