At the fear of offending anyone, being an addict is relatively easy compared to kicking the habit. We know what to do in our addiction and we do it so very well. I drank, got drunk, learned to deal with the fall out and it was a fairly effortless undertaking on my part. I knew where to drink, who I could count on to drink with me and exactly I would feel before, during and after! There are no real surprises in overindulging. You know before you start you are probably going to feel horrific the next day and yet you indulge nonetheless. You know that going out during the week is a shocking idea because you are not going to stop after one or two quiet drinks and that the next day is going to be a write-off, yet you do it anyway! But somehow I was always surprised when I woke up nauseated and spent the morning with my cheek pressed against the cold porcelain of the toilet seat, unable to keep anything down. Or when I woke up late for work after a few drinks gone wrong, with my alarm screeching at me and half a dozen missed calls from the office. What I found was that even though I was completely sure of what the outcomes would be, my addiction would get the better of me.
And it was the easy choice. Because any addict will tell you that fighting with your addiction is mentally and emotionally draining. So instead of that I’d give in and feed the monster! The really tough part comes after you decide that enough is enough. When you finally admit that your life has become unmanageable and you realise that unless you make a very drastic change things are not going to end well. The night that I stopped drinking was a night when I literally and figuratively hauled myself out of the gutter. Recovering addicts often tell stories of their moment of clarity when something happens that is so prophetically startling that there is no going back.
It was the 31st December 2007 and I was living in Asia at the time… My friends and I had booked VIP tickets to a local NYE event and the night was looking to be fun-filled and playfully chaotic. I don’t have many vivid memories of the night, but I do remember drinking large amounts of tequila which was being distributed by the bar staff and DJs. There was dancing to be sure and I know that my friends I were having plenty of harmless fun. There was no aggression, no arguments and no incidents. In the early hours of the morning the party-goers decided to move to a new location…some friends’ house a short stumble across the city. We left the club in fine spirits as the New Year celebrations dictated and headed out into the cold night. We hadn’t got very far when my cathartic event occurred…
Somebody had deemed it an excellent idea to remove the cover off one of the drains outside the venue and I happened to be walking in the direct line which saw me disappear into the rancid gutter below the cockroach-infested predawn streets. Luckily the fall was not a long one, but I did manage to rip my cocktail dress and bruise and cut myself on numerous parts of my body. The uproarious laughter rang along the deserted streets as I was hefted out of the mire and set back on the roadside. Sobriety claimed me in that instant! I was mortified! And in that moment I knew that I was done. I hobbled along with my friends towards the next part of the evening, but my festive cheer was gone. On arrival I borrowed a clean set of clothes, crumpled up my favourite dress and washed myself clean of the night. I caught a taxi home a little later with some friends and went to sleep.
The next morning I was lying on my bed, chatting to a couple of friends about the previous night. Of course they were taking great delight in recounting the story of my disappearance to those who hadn’t been there and once again I was overcome with shame. It was in that moment on 1st January 2008 that I declared that I was giving up drinking. It might have sounded familiar to those with me at the time, but I knew in my heart that this time was different. There was an inexplicable shift in my thinking as I thought about how I didn’t want to end up in the gutter again – literally or figuratively! I didn’t want to spend my weekends in altered states of consciousness doing things I could hardly remember and then suffering from the after effects, be they physical or emotional. In that moment of clarity I saw that there was so much more to life than what I’d been living and that I wanted to turn my life around. It was in that moment that I bid farewell to the easy option and started my fight for sobriety.
‘Til next time