So, it’s been two months since I quit drinking. Hoorah for me! How does it feel? Honestly, on days like today, it feels like shit. My skin is crawling, my toes are tapping and, at the time of writing, I’m riding a white-knuckle craving so powerful it’s parting fucking mountains.
It’s basically because I’ve had a shitty day. I’m feeling angry and frustrated and booze was my go-to soothing balm for all wounds, physical and spiritual. But not this time. I made it safely back, eschewing the bars and pubs that littered the route home. It’s been a hell of a day, but if that’s the positive to come out of it, then I guess it’s served its purpose. It doesn’t mean I have to be fucking happy about it, though. The day started off so positively, as well. I woke up in a good mood! This rare occasion is so elusive, I’m surprised NASA didn’t send scientists around to take readings. But anyway, there I was, happy, feeling positive (and dare I say it, sexy).
I had to travel to Manchester (20 miles away from my neck of the woods) for a rehearsal starting at 1pm. I got to Manchester at 12:50 only to find out the rehearsal was at 4pm. Bollocks. I couldn’t really be arsed going home, only to come back again, so I whittled the time away in the city centre drinking coffee and window shopping, I was like that bloody woman in Sex and the City. By the time 4 o clock came around, I was knackered. I probably shouldn’t have been wandering around aimlessly for three hours, but there we go. Anyway, I’m sat in the rehearsal space, waiting. 4:05… 4:10… 4:15… 4:20. No one’s turned up, and I’m starting to feel well and truly pissed off. How fucking rude.
I text the director, and try and sound as calm and nonchalant as possible. Two minutes later, he replies. Turns out, the elusive rehearsal has been rescheduled to a later date. He sent an email yesterday. To the email account that I don’t fucking check on a daily basis. It’s not his fault, I know it’s not his fault. It’s MY responsibility to check MY emails, and that fact makes it all the worse, really. I’ve fucked up, and there’s no one to blame. So, I turn the hatred inward (as is my usual habit) and begin shouting at myself in a tone of voice that I wouldn’t use on anyone else. Oh well, better head home. Now, just a disclaimer: I know that this isn’t the worst day imaginable. I understand that no one died, nothing exploded, and I still had all my limbs. But, as I was saying in a previous post, when you put the bottle down you remove all your armour. You go from being in a world that is, basically, anaesthetised and non-coherent, to a world where reality hits you head on. So, tolerance to everything is low. The slightest inconvenience can feel like a major catastrophe. As a result, when something genuinely shit happens, it feels like the world has ended (sorta).
Seething, I began the trek back through the city’s Northern Quarter. But now, I was in a different mind-set. When I was arriving, I was feeling quite positive and upbeat. Now, I hated everyone: “Look at his stupid glasses. Her hair looks a right fucking state. Oh my God, why is everyone asking me for fucking money? Job Centre’s that way, doofus!” I know, these thoughts make me sound like a selfish, self-centered arse hole. But, please, I beg of you, stay with me. There’s a piece of received wisdom I subscribe to these days that runs along the lines of: “You are not your thoughts.” In a nutshell, this means that if you have a negative thought, one that makes you anxious or sad or angry or depressed, here’s what you do…you observe it. You just watch it enter your mind, patiently, as you would a bird flying past your window and settling in your garden. You say to yourself “I am seeing this thought.” Then, you watch it simply fly off. It’s a great way of keeping your chittering, snapping, biting brain-box in check. Now, I know that when I experience those thoughts, it’s not me thinking them. I think they’re my addiction trying to get to me.
It’s like the baddie in Terminator 2, just when you think he’s perished in the flame, his pieces reform and he comes after you once more, using your various emotions as weapons. At first, he used my depression to try and get me to drown him. Then, he came at me wielding my own anxiety and stage-fright, and I fought him back. Then he lumbered at me through the fog of boredom and restlessness, but I evaded him. Now he was back, and he was packing. Dual-wielding anger and frustration, he came charging straight towards the defences that I’ve cobbled together over the last two months. While I was sat in Piccadilly station, waiting for a train that I’d discovered would take an hour to arrive, I could feel him wittering away in my ear.
“Ooooh, look, it’s the bar you used to go to…”
“…nah, go on. We’ve got an hour. You could just nip in, sink a double, then buy some mints to cover the smell. No one would know.”
“I would know.”
“Yeah, but you want it.”
“No, I fucking well don’t.”
“Go on. Go on. It’d be so easy. Just tootle on up there, fix on your best winning smile, and drink the fucking drink. All this bad stuff will go away, wouldn’t that be nice?”
“Who the fuck are you, the Mafia? I’m not bloody doing it. Besides, I don’t have my ID.”
“You don’t need ID, you look about 25. You used to be cool, man.”
“No, I used to be a piss-head. It’s different…I do fancy a coffee, though.”
“Oh, look at him. A Coffee. This isn’t fucking “Friends”, you used to hate all that clean-living shite.”
“I’m going for a coffee.”
“NO! Not Coffee! Pub! Pub! Pub! Pub!”
“Fuck off. I want one of those little biscuits.”
“You’ll get fat.”
“Rather fat than dead.”
“Pffft, you said it, not me.”
And so on. The blathering internal dialogue my addiction brings with him to any occasion is enough to drive anyone insane. Anyway, cut to an hour and twenty minutes later, legs aching, bladder full (from coffee) and stood up in a packed vestibule on a train hurtling home, i’ve decided I can’t stand any of these fucking people I’m stuck in this compartment with. They’re having a very loud and annoying conversation about their favourite gins. I was never one for gin, but the conversation is enough to kick-start my hatred. They’re laughing, smug, chortling away at stories of getting wrecked on Hendricks, Bombay, Gordon’s, Hunter’s…you name it, they’ve made a tit of themselves while drinking it. I’m praying for the train to tilt clean off the rails and fall into the abyss, putting an end to the inane chat. My phones dead, so I can’t block out these morons with music. My God, why have you forsaken me? Oh, yeah that’s right…I don’t believe in you. Well, now would be the time for a miracle, if you’ve got one going spare.
A miracle happened. For whatever reason, divine intervention, or the thought of a fresh tomorrow, or some inner reserve of strength, I didn’t drink. I came home, fired up the computer, and began writing this immediately. Exorcising my demons through the clickety-clack of words. Is there a moral here? Let’s find one. I guess the take-home message is that, if you resist just a second, or an hour, or a day longer, you’ll eventually come out the other side. I’m happy that I didn’t drink, although it was a fucking close call. I was sat in that train station, mouth salivating, eyes twitching at the thought of a cold one going straight to the centre of my brain and turning all the bad-stuff off. But it doesn’t turn it off, it just delays it until tomorrow, when you finally have to deal with it. With added interest for late payment. Stay strong, if I can do it (and I’ve got the least willpower of anyone I’ve ever met. I once had McDonald’s for every single meal one day, but that’s another story) then you can do it to. And you’ll thank yourself a million times over, when you do.
Still (thank Christ) Clean and Obscene,