Clean and Obscene: Guess who’s back? Back again? Addiction’s back. Tell a friend.

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…”
“NO!”
“…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,
J xxxx

 

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Clean and Obscene: Chip off the Old Block

I hadn’t intended to write a blog post today. But then divine intervention struck in the shape of the lovely dark-haired lady I live with these days.
“Why don’t you do a blog post about your dad?” She said, as I was brewing a coffee to blow away the cobwebs formed over the course of a spectacular 10 hour sleep.
I’ve not talked about my father that much in these blogs. I seem to have an open nerve where he’s concerned. I’m not saying we don’t get along, and I’m not here to tell you that I don’t love him, because he is my father and I will always love him. What I can tell you, with certainty, is that he is a flawed human being. I love him for his flaws, and no one’s perfect. God knows I’m not. But mine and my father’s history has been rocky in previous years, to say the least.
So, to paint a picture of my dad for you… it’s difficult. He’s a conflicted character. He’s 50ish years of age (even that sentence, he’d balk at. He’s still seventeen in his head) and what you might call a “proper northern bloke”. That is, the stereotype of sullen silences, heavy drinking, an aversion to “high art”, and a dislike bordering on contempt for anything new. However, with all this in mind, please know that he can be amazingly witty, observant, deep, insecure, and kind. He’s a man who is capable of great love, but also of great contempt. Like I said, his character is a juxtaposition. So, to give you a brief background, he was raised by his mother (my grandmother) in a small terraced house in the north western English town of Macclesfield, his dad having fucked off and left the two of them to it when my dad was still in nappies. He took an apprenticeship to become a mechanic at the age of 16, and did that job till the age of 50, when he decided he’d had enough of, in his own words: “Fucking about with bits of metal in minus 10 degrees Celsius”. Now he delivers those bits of metal to other garages in a big white van. That should give you some kind of measure of the bloke.

I never saw my dad as an alcoholic when I was growing up. I don’t think he was, by late 90’s early noughties standards. He worked his arse off during the day, then he’d go to the pubs in the evenings. Even as a child, I remember being sat in a pub from a young age, once a week, clutching a bag of crisps and a bottle of Coke, while tidal waves of cigarette smoke engulfed me, watching all these local guys from the village drink themselves stupid. It was a showcase of addiction, every Friday night I’d watch the men gambling away in the corner, the old woman who’d spend all night mashing buttons on the fruit machine, the constant boozing, the constant smoking. One of my favourite things to do in the pub was ask my father to write my name in the foam on his pint of Guiness.

I’m not saying any of this is bad, or the wrong way to bring up a child, but it does give you some insight into what kind of culture I was around from the age of five onwards. I figured drinking was just something people did. When I was very small, I remember Dad taking me to one side in the pub and saying to me very slowly and clearly:
“We’re in a pub now, son. It’s like an adult playground. These men come here to relax, and they don’t want to listen to you going on with yourself.”
I liked that. “An adult playground.” Cool. That description stayed with me well into my early 20’s. It was probably the birthplace of the idea that I carried around with me of “I’m not drinking, I’m relaxing!” The two activities were as one and the same in my head. Because of this early introduction to the British drinking culture, I’d developed some kind of bizarre instruction manual for life. Feeling bored? Have a drink. Got a day off? Get drunk. Feeling sad? Have a drink. Stressed? Have a drink. It’s Friday? Get smashed. It’s sunny? Let’s go the pub. And so on.
But anyway, back to my Dad. The thing that I’m still having difficulty with adding up in my own brain, even now, is that when I was a child he was a fantastic Dad. He was home. We went on trips to places (not regular, just enough so they’d be an amazing surprise.) From the age of 8, he used to take me into the country side on the back of his motorbike after school on balmy Spring afternoons. On Sunday mornings, he’d make a fry-up or (my favourite) cheese on toast. My dads’ cheese on toast rocked. On the rare occasions when he could get the time off work, he’d pick me up from school. I’ll always love the memory I have of being sat in the classroom five minutes before home-time, and looking out of the window to see all these mums dressed in M&S business suits, or the dads dressed in shit polo shirts and cardigans, and then seeing my Father, cigarette nestled between his lips, wearing ripped denim and cowboy boots, shiny gold earring dangling from one ear, attracting wary looks from all the prim and proper parents.

It all changed in 2008. Or, rather, it all became blindingly obvious in 2008. I don’t want to go in to loads of detail, and a lot of it I still don’t understand myself. I was 14 years old, and several things happened in quite quick succession. From what I gather, Dad had a disagreement with someone he worked with, and ended up in loads of debt. The courts got involved, and it was heavy. He started buying bottles of wine, and knocking them back by himself every night after work. He had a routine of going straight to the pub after he’d finished, then coming home a few hours later, cracking a bottle of red, and drinking it by himself in the dark while listening to old Marillion records (That’s another thing about him, I inherited a really cool and diverse taste in music.)

He barely spoke, except to argue with mum. Our utility room became full of empty wine bottles, covering an entire shelf and several blue boxes. It was embarrassing, if I’d invite one of my friends over after school, and by the fridge we had enough empty bottles of wine to make a stain-glass window. Things became tense. Me and my Mum just kind of never really talked about it much. The arguments were increasing, both in frequency and intensity. A few times me and Dad came to blows. In 2010, he walked out for the first time, after a biblical argument between the three of us. Sometimes, I felt guilty about me and Mum ganging up on him, but having a family is hard enough without one third of the unit self-destructing, and he needed to get his act together. He just seemed to sink deeper and deeper into an alcoholic depression.  I wasn’t the easiest person to live with, understand, I was hurtling through puberty at a rate of knots. I thought I knew everything. I was always angry or doing things I shouldn’t, Mum was always in a state of tension severe enough that I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d tried to claw her own eyeballs out, and Dad was just…well, whenever I saw him he was drunk. He’d get come home from the pub absolutely trollied, then at 10pm at night, he’d put blaring rock music on the telly while me and Mum were trying to get some sleep. The arguments would start.

After he left, we had a brief state of grace. Things were calm, and me and Mum carried on as if nothing had happened. We didn’t hear from him, but we knew where he was. I wasn’t sad about it at all, I was harbouring a lot of contempt for him. I look back now and think “Why didn’t I cut him some slack? He was my Father, and he was struggling” but at the time I was a selfish fifteen year old. One afternoon I came home from school to find his car in the driveway and the front door wide open. I was just about to burst in and demand to know what the fuck was going on, when I saw Mum and Dad salvaging paperwork from the under-stairs cupboard. Basically, the bathroom had exploded, showering water over all the rooms below. Mum, in a panic, had rang Dad, and Dad had come round to do what he could. After this, it was decided he should return to the family, on the condition that he could go to the pub once a week, and be home by 7 o clock each night. Maybe we were wrong, trying to put restrictions on him like that, but we didn’t know what the hell to do. Anyway, he lasted a week. The first Friday came around, and he went to the pub and just didn’t come back.
“You’re not gonna turn me into some kind of fucking monk!” I think is what he had to say about the matter. I think I responded by sending him a three page text messages in which I hinted quite forwardly that he should pitch himself off a roof. Relationships broke down once more, and I didn’t speak to him for a whole year.

I’m telling a lie, actually. He rang me up about 10 months into what I term “The Great Silence” to ask if I wanted to go with him to see our favourite singer in Sheffield. Of course, at the time, I really didn’t want to go with him anywhere. I can see now that he was trying to reach out in the only way he knew how, to build bridges with a son he hadn’t spoken to in nearly a year, but at the time I didn’t want to hear it. It was a further two months before we spoke to each other again.

It was summer holidays, and I was at home on my own. I’d started smoking secretly, that is, without Mum knowing. I’d run clean out of cigarettes the night before, and anyway, I had no money. Bollocks. The mind of a 16 year old addicted to nicotine is the most manipulative organism in nature. “I know!” I thought. I texted my Father for the first time in a year.
He rode the half an hour bus journey from his mum’s to my house, bringing with him the requested 10 B and H gold. We sat together in the back garden, smoking. Eventually, we spoke. Then we carried on speaking. We cleared a lot of the air between us, and we arrived at a place where we could begin to form a relationship. After that, I’d go round to my Gran’s every Tuesday after college and meet him in the pub. We’d have a few drinks, then go back to Gran’s where she’d cook us our tea. It was a nice way of doing things. Since then (that was 2010) he’s quit smoking, moved back in with Mum, and got a steady job. He still drinks, but not wine. I’d call him a functioning alcoholic, but then, as he says, I’m “modern”. It’s funny, but I remember having conversations with him about certain people he didn’t like. After we’d assaulted every aspect of their character, Dad would swill his pint around the glass, sniff, then say “Yeah. And he doesn’t even fucking drink” in a tone of voice that would be better suited to describing someone as a neo-Nazi.

The point of this article, I guess, is to examine the link to my Dad’s behaviour and my mind. He drank daily, and I grew up thinking that was normal. His attitude to drink was “Well, something’s got to kill you”. I can’t remember the last day he didn’t have at least one beer. Maybe that’s just him. I love him, however much he drinks, but I’d want him to know the effect it has on him as a person. Without the booze, he really is one of the most down to Earth, funny, charming and observant people you could meet. The drink changes him, as it does me. It turns us into this sneering, people-hating, selfish creature.  A question I’ve been plagued with for some time is “Is addiction genetic?”
Looking at my Father, I guess, yes. It could very well be.
Thanks for assuming the role of my therapist through this blog post, it’s been therapeutic.

Still Clean and Obscene

J xxx

Clean and Obscene: I’ve changed, man.

Clean and Obscene: I’ve changed, man 

 

I recently went for coffee with a friend of mine I’ve not seen properly since last year. We’ve not had a proper face-to-face conversation since I got sober. Meeting in Piccadilly Gardens one murky, cold February evening, we walked around the shops (I’d been ordered by the Girlfriend to find a suitable scarf and pair of gloves, and to not come home until I’d secured these items) chatting, and generally shooting the proverbial shit. This friend, who shall herein be known as R for the sake of anonymity, knew me when my drinking was quite possibly at its worst. I’ve told him things I’ve not even told my own Mother, and he’s seen me as fucked up as I’ve ever been.

Two things started to become abundantly clear as we reminisced about nights out, drinking sessions, and the previous year’s adventures

1) I couldn’t remember half the shit he says I’ve done

And

2) It felt like he was talking about a completely different person.

Now, I’ve only been sober for a relatively short amount of time (54 days and counting, whoop!), I’m certainly no Russell Brand-esque monument to abstinence (I still have my vices, but now they’re more like Pringles and Sprite rather than, say, cocaine) but even that fairly short space of time is enough to gift me the clarity I needed to look back at who I was and think “what a douche”.

Ok, I’m being harsh. But this is just tapping into the Jekyll/Hyde analogy I mentioned in a previous post, when you chemically unbalance yourself as an addict, you do become a totally different person. “Remember when you woke up in my bathroom?” He says to me.
“Erm…” I’m fumbling for the appropriate memory in the folder of my brain labelled “Misc. drunken fuck-ups” I do have a kind of tribal memory of my alarmed face staring back at me out of a grimy bathroom mirror. “Oh yeah!” I chuckle, with uncertainty. There are more that I remember. A particular low-point was throwing up in McDonald’s at one in the morning, then carrying on drinking long after R had gone to bed. Or the time I downed neat Vodka straight out of the University accommodation’s kettle. Or the time I drank twelve whiskey and cokes then went to see a performance poet in Manchester, who I then heckled the bejesus out of, while sat next to my lecturer from uni.  Or falling asleep in the flat’s corridor wearing nothing but a huge black coat (this, I am reliably informed, happened more than once.)

It’s not even like I was drinking to have a good time. I was well past that. I was drinking because I couldn’t think of anything else to do, then to get over crippling anxiety, then loneliness, then the pressure of the work, then, finally, because I had to drink to survive. No two ways about it. But, when me and R sat down to have that coffee, he told me that my short spell in sobriety was incredible. Had I really been that bad? I guess that, yeah, I had. He told me he’d read some of the blog and he liked it, and it felt fantastic. I really do feel like a new person. I raised my medium latte, the head of foam wobbling on the top, the only kind of froth I’d be blowing off anything for the foreseeable. “Cheers!” I said. R just chuckled.

But, all this got me thinking. If I feel like a new man, am I acting like one? What’s actually changed? Well, below, I’ve attempted to compile a list of mental and physical changes I’ve noticed:

 

  • I know my own self-worth

There was a song I was quite fond of in my drinking days. It’s called Ugly Love by the immortal Robbie Williams (remember those vices we talked about? RW forever) and the first verse goes something like this:

“You were always tripping,

I was always stoned.

You knew I was a piss-head

That’s why I never phoned.

So why d’you act surprised?

I was drunk on the day we met.”

 

The last lines of that passage became like my mantra. It was imprinted on the banner I waved as I rode into the battle of life. It was my armour. With that phrase rattling around my skull, I could fuck up as gloriously as I wanted, and if other people were disappointed with me, well, then it was their fault for having such high expectations of me. They knew I was a drunk mess, why were they expecting me to behave? It was the shield I used to get away with lacking in all kinds of areas of my life; professionally, socially, familial. I’m an alcoholic! Don’t expect too much! I’m trying my hardest!

It’s different now. I don’t have to hide behind some song lyric from eighteen years ago (killer lyric though it is). With the lack of excuses, I try and put 100% (I was going to write “110%” but that’s just posturing) into all areas of my life. I’ve lain my shield down, and without it’s deflection, I receive all of life straight to the face. Yes, the bad, but also the good. The brilliant. The fantastic. I go into meetings, rehearsals, performances, lectures, and social occasions knowing exactly what it is that I have to offer. Taking off the armour has set me free. I might be more vulnerable, but I can run faster than anyone who’s chemically addled.

 

  • I like being at home.

Oh yes. Home is where the heart is. More importantly, home is where the people who love me are. Home is full of nice comfy chairs, telly, and the kettle for brews, the oven for snacks, hob-nobs and blankets. It’s bloody incredible. I can’t believe I used to want to go out there, into the loud cold place.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not become a recluse or anything. But I used to go out even when I didn’t want to go out. I can’t tell you how relaxing it is not being jostled, sworn at, having drinks spilled on you, having nowhere to sit, spending all your money, being too cold, being too hot, sweating, shivering, throwing up in public, walking to the next bar, the noise, the people, the crowds, then waking up the next day with a drill going off in your head and doing everything except buying shares in Neurofen and Immodium.

This is the place I like to be. I don’t feel like I’m missing out, I don’t feel like I’m socially deprived. I see the people I want to see, and I don’t bump into people I’d rather avoid. Let me tell you something, if you think drugs and booze is the happiest you’ll ever be, you’ve clearly never curled up in bed next to the person you love with a good book and a hot drink at 10pm. You’re missing out.

  • I’ve become REALLY fucking picky

Ok, whether this is a good thing or not, I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide. By “picky”, I mean I don’t spend time with people who I think will be damaging to my sobriety. I don’t go to places I think will be damaging to my sobriety. My dick-head detector is now razor-sharp and I can pretty much tell at a glance whether a person has my best interests at heart or not. Before now, it was my addiction in charge of the navigation.

“They might try and separate ussss!” it would hiss in my ear, when someone voiced concern over my drinking. “Yeah!” I’d agree. “Where do they get off, trying to save my life?” The word dick-head has now taken on a new meaning. I’m not talking about people who like to get drunk, I’ve got many a friend who still enjoys a tipple and it doesn’t bother me one jot. It’s like someone who’s allergic to peanuts, you don’t then go and associate with people who only have peanut-allergies. They can safely imbibe, I cannot, and that’s fine. But I’m talking about the people who won’t have anything to do with you because you can’t have peanuts. Or try and belittle how big of a problem peanuts are for you. Or, even worse than all of them, the people who realllly make you want a peanut. By peanut, I mean booze. I don’t associate with these people any more. Yes, some of the people I’ve cut out I have a long and colourful history with, but they don’t want what’s best for me. They want what’s best for them, so they can go eat all the peanuts they want with the fucking monkey people as far as I’m concerned. I’m happy.

 

  • Arguments are no longer Eastenders-style dramas

Right, I want to make this completely, and abundantly clear from the off: I am fully aware that I am spending my life with the woman of my dreams. I love her completely, totally, and as fully as I think it’s possible to love another human being. She has given me chances time and time again, and has a belief in me that I can only equate to religious fanaticism. She’s just the coolest.

Having said all that, we love a row. Oooooh we bicker. Not a week goes by where we don’t disagree about something. So what’s the difference? The situation is two-fold. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, just because I’m sober, it doesn’t mean I shit sunbeams. I have my faults. I’m a bloody difficult person to live with, actually, and that’s before you even factor in the drinking. I sometimes have a thought that life with me must be like some kind of obstacle course, twisting and turning and upping and downing and stuff. Luckily, I’ve found someone who can go the distance with all the grace of a ballerina on Total Wipeout.

When I was drinking, however, an argument would be fucking biblical. Oh my Jesus, I knew how to escalate a thing. I’d got it down to a fine art-form. Some nights, voices would be raised, things would be punched or launched clear across the room, threats would be made, phones would be broke, tears would be shed, doors would be slammed, drinks would be drunk, break-ups would ensue. It was insane, seriously. I’m not saying that I don’t lose my temper, it’s one of my major faults. And I’m not saying that I don’t regress into an 8 year old when I feel attacked, because I do. But we’ve had a couple of disagreements now with me being sober, and more often than not, I’ve kept a cool head, and a peaceful, swift negotiation comes around. I feel more in control of my emotions than I ever have. I control them, instead of them controlling me. Which is the way it should always have been, really.

  • Money is no longer a constant worry

This one kind of speaks for itself really. You’re not going to be worrying about money when you stop putting £100+ into your liver on a weekly basis. It’s really cool.

  •  I feel sharper all-round

Aside from the initial withdrawal period (the first 1-3 weeks, for me) where I shuffled around feeling confused, tired, grumpy, lethargic, restless, anxious and foggy, my sobriety has tightened me right up. I sometimes look at myself and think “Bloody hell, look at me go!” I’m the man I always wanted to be. I turn up, I work my ass off, then I go home for a brew and an early night. My creative output has increased tenfold. At the moment, I’m involved in a play in Manchester, my degree, a poetry project, the blog, and the Clean and Obscene Instagram page. It’s amazing what you can get done when you don’t spend 5 hours a night in the pub. I’ve got hands in all different pies and I feel like I can manage. Yes, I have shit days. Yes I’m tired after a long day, but it’s a nice kind of tired. The kind that comes with the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done the best you can today, that you’ve taken advantage of every second. I thoroughly recommend this feeling. If they could bottle it and sell it, no-one would ever buy alcohol again.

That’s it from me for now. If you enjoyed this, do give us a like and a follow. I’m also on Instagram under “Clean and Obscene”, so if pictorial motivational images tickle your fancy, tootle on over and come follow me in the journey of sobriety.

Thanks for reading,

Still Clean and Obscene!!!

J xxxxxx

Clean And Obscene: Sober, but not Saintly.

I’m over fourty days sober. Not comparing myself to Christ at all, but that’s the amount of time he spent wandering the sands, while his horned nemesis tempted him with false promises. And, like the world’s most famous hippie, I too feel a bit lost in the wilderness, with temptation lurking round every corner. Ok, I’m exaggerating a little bit. Not EVERY corner. Most days, it’s kind of ok. I can, for instance, go to the shop without throwing a mountain of cash at the befuddled elderly woman behind the till and skipping merrily out with my pockets jangling with enough hard spirit to take down a medium sized rhino.

So, as mentioned in one of my previous entries, I’ve had an absolutely horrendous time trying to sleep. It’s not as bad now as it was, but I still don’t know, when I lay my head down on the pillow of an evening, whether sleep will arrive quickly and painlessly. Last week, for instance, I’d had very little, and I was beset with a sort of malaise that confined me to my dressing gown for, as my beloved phrased it (pretty accurately): “70% of the week!” I don’t know what sort of bizarre pie-chart she employed to reach this conclusion, but it did feel like I was at one with both gown and blanket. I didn’t want to do anything. Maybe this is normal, and maybe it’s always been a part of me, but normally when I didn’t want to do anything, I’d have a bit of a grumble then get up and do stuff anyway. Last week I didn’t do anything for about five consecutive days. This, in turn, led to a feeling of being confined (duh, obviously). I was grumpy, snappy, sarcastic. An achievement for me was to convey my answers using no more than one sentence, because I simply couldn’t be arsed talking more. It was a strange combination of feeling trapped and fed up, and not being able to summon the energy to do anything about it.

I’ve always struggled with depressive episodes. It’s fine, I’ve more or less got them under some kind of control. Or I thought I did. Hands up, who thinks they know what I used to do when I was depressed? That’s right. I’d take a big, long refreshing glug of Jack Daniel’s and get on with it. Albeit in a very drunk and wrong-headed sort of way. But this time, I was sober. Just me and my feelings. This brain ain’t big enough for the two of us. Man on man (steady, now).

It was a wake-up call, because some small naïve part of me kind of thought that because I’ve laid off the sauce, then my moods would also regulate, and everything would be happy forever and ever fade to black. It doesn’t work like that. The more I delve into my history, the more I’m working out that I probably started drinking because I was depressed. I tried all sorts, CBT, counselling, anti-depressants, but the only thing that I kept up with was the constant slew of self-prescribed booze. I don’t consider myself a “depressed person”. But I am aware that every couple of months, something in my head goes and I’m a bit fucked for the next week or so. This is my first week of dealing with it sober.

Holy fuck, I wanted a drink. Just one. Just to take the edge off. Tie one on and hit the battle cruiser, sink a few, blow the froth off, have a nightcap, partake, one more for the road…My God, it’s pretty outstanding how many metaphors there are for having a drink, isn’t it? Not only was it the actual emotional state I was in that kicked the cravings into over-drive, but also when I was having an argument. It’s been years since I’ve argued sober, and, when I’m feeling low, I can be the meanest, most argumentative, stubborn bastard. During one such row, I wanted to drink so badly I could feel my legs tingle, as if they were shouting “Fuck this! We want to get going, come on we’ll take you out! The pub’s this way, right?!”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that when you kick a habit that’s been slowly killing you, it’s as if a beam of light radiates from the sky above. Angels sing, and everything goes from black and white into whopping great Technicolour. FALSE. You still have all the problems you normally do, except this time…you’re sober. You have to learn to deal with emotions you’d normally just drown in a biblical flood of substances. You have to learn how to deal with situations and people who, in the old days, you’d put yourself in a coma to avoid. I’ve mentioned this in a previous entry, but it is like becoming a new person all over again. And yes, this is a good thing. Especially if the old you was an addict kind of chap, who’d piss off all whom he met and blow off important interviews and lectures for a well-earned afternoon of brain damage. But, something that isn’t mentioned is the negatives.

D’you remember learning to be a person? How long d’you reckon it took? Ten years? I doubt it. More likely you were between the ages of 19-21 when you suddenly started getting a handle on all this “I’m my own person” deal. Getting sober is more or less like doing that all over again. Not the walking and talking so much, but if your only experience of attending (say) a wedding is necking all the free champagne, tripping over and destroying the cake, and attempting to sleep with all the bride’s maids, the bride’s mother and the bride, then you may need to recalibrate slightly. So, sticking with the example, if you go to a wedding SOBER, then you’ll be at a loss of what to do. You were so busy with drunken shenanigans (technical term) the last few times, then you’ll have missed out on certain key skills pivotal to the success of social occasions. Things like:

  • Small talk
  • Table manners
  • Complimenting people (even when you don’t think they deserve it)
  • Holding in nasty thoughts (“It should have been me she married, bastard!”)

Just simple things like that. You are, essentially, a toddler. Sober and scared and befuddled, you need to go and shake hands with that man you don’t particularly like, and ask him how his kids are, instead of polishing off a bottle of neat Stoli and flipping him V’s. This is called human interaction and is particularly vital if you are to stand any chance in your new, sober life.

The point I’m making, in a very long, roundabout sort of way, is that, now you’ve got rid of your crutch, you need to learn to walk again. You will. Of course you will, but it won’t be perfect. You’ll get angry still, emotional, you’ll shout and grumble and things will still piss you off. Possibly even more stuff. But this is all part of the process of growing and learning, much like a toddler will throw a temper tantrum when they don’t understand why something isn’t working, so too will you. But the bad bits are outweighed, I’d say, tenfold by the amazing. One thing I haven’t mentioned, throughout all of this, is that lately, I feel like I’m becoming the man other people always said I could be. It’s taken me nearly a quarter of a century but I finally feel (more or less) content with my life. Sobriety is the key to unlocking your true potential. I’ve only just started discovering mine and, I promise you, if you stay on this path, you will too.

Still Clean and Obscene (yay!)
J xxx

Clean and Obscene: Hyde Sleeps, Why can’t Jekyll?

 

 

It’s the fourth night in a row like this. I’ve gone to bed at my normal time, exhausted, and hit the lights. My partner asleep next to me, her breath cutting through the darkness. I close my eyes and try to focus on my breathing. Ten minutes pass…twenty….half an hour….fourty five….an hour. I’m still not asleep. I’ve been tossing and turning, trying to get in the best possible position. I’ve been lay here with my eyes shut for an hour and a half now. Why the hell isn’t sleep coming? I’m so tired. All I want is to be pulled under, to rest. It’s not only the knowledge that I can’t sleep right now, but, if I don’t get unconscious fast, tomorrow will be a write off also.

My brain is rattling around my skull at a million miles an hour, like a tennis ball in the Wimbledon of my mind. Need to sleep…THWACK! I wonder if bald people ever try to put makeup on their heads? So tired…THWACK! When d’you reckon season four of Rick and Morty’s going to drop? God I could cry…THWACK! What does being born feel like? Jesus Christ, shut the fuck up…THWACK! Have you ever tried to list your favourite jams in order of consistency and taste? And on it goes.

This is a common problem in the newly sober. If you’re used to passing out of an evening with a gallon of booze in your system to dull the mundane chattering in your headspace, it’s going to be tough when that particular ball gag is removed. I feel this in the day, too. I get restless so easily. I’ve got three books on the go right now. I swap between them, not being able to settle on one specific narrative for long. The only way I can enjoy telly is if I’m thinking about or doing something else to compliment it. I used to love an episode of Friends during my day. These days i’m lucky if I can stick with one for about twenty minutes before my mind starts wandering. That’s FRIENDS for crying out loud, I know seven year olds who could follow the plot. Yet here I am, completely losing interest before Ross commits his first fuck-up.

My own theory on this is basically positive. I’ve been damaging and numbing my brain for the best part of four years, and now I’ve stopped, the mental pathways are starting to heal. Coming back to full strength, and I’m not used to the noise created by a brain firing at full-throttle. So it’s a good thing. Super brain! A new piece of equipment for me to use and enjoy. Once I get used to the constant chatter that comes with said brain. I have a feeling it may have been this that caused me to drink in the first place. I never could deal with thoughts or emotions very well. I’ve always had people telling me that I “over think” a lot of things. I do. Guilty. When someone says something to me, I take what they’ve said, flip it round, turn it inside out, scan it for any offensive undertones, try and work out where they’re coming from and what the subtext is, hose it down, shake it out, then reply.

It’s exhausting. But when I was drinking, the burden was lifted. I didn’t care what people meant (If this sounds like a positive thing, it really isn’t. I nearly got the shit kicked out of me in a pub one night because a 15 stone monster said something to me, I didn’t listen, and he got angry…like, crazy angry. But that’s another story). So, all in all, I’m taking it as a sign that my mind is healing from the abuse, and like a broken bone, once it heals it will come back stronger than ever.

But that still doesn’t offer me any solace with regards to my current situation. Oh, yeah, I’m trying to enjoy the fact that my mind is re-awakening, but all it’s doing on this particular night is pissing me right off. It’s like having a child in the back seat of the car that won’t just shut the hell up and let me drive in peace. Chit-chat. Blabber. Continuous mental waffle. On and fucking on throughout the night. I think I get a bit of sleep over the next couple of hours, but it’s always short lived. Like the villain in “Terminator 2”, every time I think I’ve won, my subconscious reforms, and comes after me again.

The following day, and I’m knackered. I’m rehearsing for a new play in the arse-end of the Northern Quarter in Manchester, and it’s going alright. Except that the rehearsal is taking place in the depths of a bar. I was worried about this, it’s my first time going into a bar since my drinking days, and I know it’ll test me. It doesn’t help that, when the rest of the cast turn up, they all order alcoholic beverages. A pint of lager here, bottles of Corona there. I know it shouldn’t piss me off, but it does.
“It’s not their problem” I think to myself. “They’re allowed to drink, it’s not their fault you’re a piss head.” And it’s not. But I’m tired and irrational. I can feel the creature straining at his chains, and if I wasn’t here to work I’ve got a feeling I’d be balls deep in that back bar before you could utter “one day at a time”. I’m pleased to report that I didn’t touch a drop.

There’s a received wisdom amongst the twelve-step community. It’s called HALT. It basically means that, if you really feel like you want a drink you need to stop for a second and consider the following:

H ungry: Am I hungry?

A ngry: Am I angry?

L onely: Am I lonely?

T ired: Am I tired?

When feeling these emotions, your risk of taking a drink shoots up. If you think “God, I want a drink” but stop for a second and consider “Why, though?” Then you can take steps to remedy the problem before a bottle touches your lips. You don’t want a drink, you’re just angry. You don’t want to throw that bottle of Jack at your head, you’re just tired. Low mood is a breeding ground for your addiction, but you can sort this out before you go screaming towards the Sambuca like a man dying of thirst.

The rehearsal went well. I walk through the front door to find my partner dozing on the couch watching Coronation Street.
“Shall we go up?” she asks.
“Yeah, I’ll come up. I’m gonna take a Sominex, I need to sort this sleeping shit out.” She looks concerned.
“Don’t worry,” I say “I’m not going to get addicted or anything. I just need to break this cycle.”

She comes over and sits next to me. She’s telling me not to take the sleeping pills, try something else first. I can kind of see the reasoning in this, but I’m desperate. However, she is making sense (as usual). She says I need to go up, make a hot drink, have a shower and read a book by candle light for a bit. We do this, and it’s not long before my eyelids begin feeling heavy in the flickering flames. But I can already feel it. With no external stimulation, my mind is already warming up on the starting blocks. All its doing is waiting for me to close my eyes then BANG! It’s off.
“Anything you want to get off your chest?” She asks.
The answer is, in fact, much. There’s a lot of stuff that’s stuck to the inside of my skull, but nothing I’ve built up the confidence to discuss yet. It’s not even very important stuff, and besides, where would I start? It’s like trying to find the end of a roll of Sellotape.
“D’you know what I found helpful?” She begins. I listen, hungry for any information that could help. She tells me that, before sleep, I should grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down three pages of everything that’s in my brain. It doesn’t even have to make sense, I don’t have to show it to anyone. Just waffle upon the paper, like a mind-dump. That way, the theory goes, I can go to sleep with an empty head.

I agree. I pick up a notepad and pen, and start to write. I’m going to show you bits of it now, but some of it is censored (Because, you know, I’ll thank you all very much to keep your grubby fingers out of my brain.) So this is what I wrote:

“I’ve just done a really good rehearsal for the play. Sober, too. God, I wonder if I can keep this up for the entire run? Not the sobriety, I mean, being good. I wanted to drink so badly today, when I saw the others having a drink the fidgets set in. I’m not completely clear of my addiction, yet. That’s ok, it’s not even been two months. This shit is with me for life.

I still feel guilty about everything I did… kicked while I was down…I hurt her, too…all I can do is live with the pain, and if that’s my penance then there we are. I hope I can sort all this shit out, because God help me I’m so utterly, mentally and beyond all reason in love with her….Maybe I will actually never fuck up again.

A really busy year coming up but I’m convinced 2018 will be mine. I’ve never felt like that about any year before ever. I’m going to keep the blog up, it helps me and I hope it helps others. I need sleep tonight, my brain kicks into overdrive and then just gathers momentum. Even when awake I need constant and multiple streams of stimulation or I get frustrated. Is this just my brain when it isn’t incapacitated? I can’t remember.

The only TV I seem to be able to stomach right now is Sherlock. Is that because of the puzzles and explosions and pace? I’ve run out of them anyway. There we go, three pages of brain-fart”.

And there we have it. It’s a bit nonsensical, a bit rambling, but that’s ok. It was just what was in my brain at the time. Even now, reading it back, I struggle to relate to those thoughts in the cold light of day. I know a couple of things in there don’t reflect the way I actually feel, and that’s ok. They’re just my thoughts, separate to me, not who I am. D’you know something? It actually sort of worked. I’m not saying I slept like I was six feet under all night, but I definitely had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while. Apparently, it can take up to six months to truly recover your sleep after kicking the booze. But that’s fine. I’ve got amazing people around me, coffee, and fresh air. It’s just another challenge I have to go through. One more test on my road to earn back my stripes. Anyway, that’s all from me for now. Have you had trouble sleeping since kicking the substances? Leave a comment if you want, i’m looking out for ideas. As ever, thanks very much for reading.

Still Clean and Obscene,
J xx

Clean and Obscene: Un-Fucking yourself

 

 

It’s hard, all this. It’s definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Some days are easier than others, but one thing that’s become crystal clear is that putting down your last drink is just the beginning. “Yeah” you think to yourself, “I’ll just NOT drink”. You don’t fully become aware of the things you DO have to do to make the process successful.

It’s clear that, if you’re in a position where you are staring down the barrel end of a life without booze, or drugs, or whatever it is that’s been killing you, that you have at some point in the past, been fucked. You’ve been so fucked that you were clinging on to your drug of choice like a man drowning at sea clutching to a piece of floating debris.

In your first couple of weeks of sobriety, you’ll begin to notice a lot of things that may have passed you by previously. Concepts that I had to get to grips with are listed as follows:

  • Boredom
  • Anxiety
  • Bursts of serenity and euphoria followed by low mood
  • A need for solitude
  • A constant reliving of all the things you did wrong during your addiction.

There was more. Waaay more. But these were the main ones that returned to haunt me day after day. Sometimes I’d cycle through the above bullet-points multiple times in ONE DAY. The point I’m trying to make is, just because you’ve pledged to sobriety, it doesn’t mean that you’re magically un-fucked. Now you have to deal with debris. You have to piece together, block by block, a whole new life for yourself. There’s a whole mess of cleaning up to do in the wreckage of your mind.

It can be daunting. Look at you, all sober and fresh and tired, and all of a sudden it’s as if someone’s plonked you down in front of a ruined building, told you to fix it, handed you a toothbrush and a dustpan, then sauntered a way with their hands in their pockets whistling a jaunty tune. I may have taken that metaphor a bit far, there, but you understand what I’m saying. A massive part of the process is coming to terms with your life as it has been, and your life as it will be.

Thankfully, there are all kind of things you can do. Remember that good old saying “One day at a time”? In essence, this means that you don’t have to figure your whole life out RIGHT NOW. You just have to live today in the way that you want the rest of your life to be. If you want your future to be peaceful, then live today peacefully. If you aspire to be kinder in your new life, then be kinder today. You are already starting to lay the foundations of the person you want to be.

I felt an overwhelming sense of recovery and healing during my first couple of weeks sober. I felt like a soldier returning from battle, slowly coming back to life in a hospital bed. It may sound strange, but I could physically feel the mental wounds scaring over and healing. It’s a slow process, and I’m nowhere near there, but I could already feel it starting. It was a time of rest and as much solitude as I could get. You shouldn’t wallow in the past, sure, frankly it’s a waste of time. But, that’s not to say you shouldn’t examine the path that led you to where you are. When did you first realise you were fucked? How did the fucking manifest itself? When did you decide to put the first footprint down on the path to being un-fucked?

The thing is, though, you’re here. The moment you decided to put the bottle, or the needle, or the cheeseburger, or the questionable romantic partner down, you made the first step. It’s a life-long journey, and no one said it would be easy.

Before you can begin sweeping up any kind of rubble, you need to do the next thing. Forgive yourself. If you’re a self-pitying, self-wallowing addict like I was, you’re already familiar with the phrase and concept that “No one can hate me as much as I hate myself right now”. Pain breeds self-contempt, and it also breeds addiction. The two co-exist hand in hand. So you may have put away the coping mechanisms, but you need to address the problems that drove you to self-destruction in the first place. You need to do some serious soul searching.

How you, as an individual, go about this, isn’t for me to say. I’m not here to preach to you, I can only tell you about my own approach. I spent time reading about other people’s experiences, drawing parallels between my life and theirs. I could see the same destructive patterns, the same denial I went through, the same destruction of my own life.  A particular favourite read of mine was Catherine Gray’s The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober. It was a book that definitely dispelled a lot of the fear I had about making these massive changes. I’ve found that the fear is a huge aspect to new people starting out in their sobriety. The mind is full of questions, and, if you think about it, it’s only natural. You are an animal being taken out of your natural habitat and placed into an alien environment. If you’ve been hiding in your addiction to escape harsh truths and emotions, then peeking your head into the wide open spaces where emotion and truth roam free in herds is going to be nothing short of terrifying.

Let me tell you, the fear passes. Like all things do. As you become acclimatised to your new life, you start to figure it out. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific than this, it’s a very big and vague concept to put down on paper, maybe a writer better than I would be up to the task. All I can say is, for my part, it was like greeting an old friend after a long absence. I feel like the man I used to be. I feel like a better person, and I prefer this new guy a whole lot compared to the old sneering, cynical, grumpy, aching, belching, guffawing, skint, crying model.

I spent time meditating. Just sitting alone and being quiet, with my eyes closed. Just revelling in the fact that my mind didn’t feel askew, embracing the sense of calmness such activities bring. Enjoying the fact that I could sit here for as long as I wanted, without feeling a creeping hangover, or needing to rush to the nearest pub for a quick fix. It was magical. I started to appreciate my mind for what it can do when it’s not being drowned in a litre of whiskey. It used to be that the full capabilities of brain ended at being able to figure out the cheapest bar to drink in within a two-mile radius. Now it has become this wonderful thing, capable of happiness and escape, my little case of thoughts and memories and love. If I sound a bit extra at this point, it’s nothing compared to the overwhelming nature of the revelation that I, too, am a living breathing person.

And so on. The process is about getting to know yourself, and, more than that, getting to like yourself. Think about how much energy and time you spent on your addiction. How tiring was that? A massive personal joy has been marvelling at the amount of things I am able to get done now. In letting go of my addiction, my potential has expanded ten-fold.

I’m not here saying that I am successfully un-fucked. Not by any stretch of the imagination. There’s still a whole lot more of un-fucking to do, it will take years. But I’m writing about my experiences over one single month. Imagine what you and I could accomplish in five years if we were to stay on this path? The first step to un-fucking yourself is to realise that you are fucked. The rest follows.

Still Clean And Obscene,
J

Clean and Obscene: Sober and Scared (With the Sober Survival Guide)

 

 

 

I wake up. I don’t know why I feel so uneasy. Something is definitely wrong. I’m not ill, no one’s died, and I haven’t fallen out with anyone in the last week or so. I’ve been clean and sober for about three weeks now, and I feel like I’m settling in to it a little bit. The boots are starting to fit after the painful process of breaking them in. I’m still trying to get used to this “feel every emotion at 100% all the time” thing. No soothing balm to calm the inane thoughts rattling in my head.  So what’s wrong?

Well, for a start, it’s my birthday. I’ve not had a birthday sober since I was fourteen years old. Every annual landmark of my diminishing youth I’ve celebrated in a haze of booze and company. That’s ten years. On this exact day, for the last ten, I’ve been completely and utterly off my face. It feels strange, like I’m missing something. That’s the thing about drinking; if you’re used to having a drink while watching a film, every time you watch a film you’re going to want some alcohol in your hand. If every time you finish work you head straight for the pub, you feel uneasy when you give the bar a swerve. If you get smashed every birthday, when you finally have a birthday sober, your brain feels like something’s amiss. You’ve formed a habit that you’re no longer carrying out, and that tends to set teeth on edge. It doesn’t help that my birthday is the last point in what I term “The Bermuda Triangle”. This means that I have Christmas (a boozy occasion), followed by New Year’s eve (a very boozy occasion) and then my birthday (the booziest of occasions) all in the space of about 3 weeks. Time was, I’d just spend the entire three weeks smashed, so as not to deal with several hangovers. I’d save it all up and just go through a horrific four day hangover commencing January 18th.

I sit on my own for a while. My girlfriend has been absolutely amazing. She’s not a big drinker anyway, and I can tell she’s doing everything she can to make my day special. After everything we’ve been through lately, it means the world to me that she’s put aside her work for the day, and dedicated herself to “doing whatever I want to do”. The thing is, I can’t do what I would really like to do (give myself liver failure) so I struggle coming up with an alternative. We sit and watch about a million episodes of “Friends” on Netflix. Wrapped in blankets and scoffing birthday cake, it’s not a bad way to live, this. Relaxed. Low-key. But I still feel restless. Drinky. Like an itch in the middle of my brain I can’t scratch. I shove more cake into my face, anything to distract from my crawling skin. This is the hardest day since my initial withdrawal. I can get through it, I know I can. It’s on days like these that you need to turn to the people you trust most. You need to talk to them, tell them how you feel, and pray they cut you some slack. Yeah, I may seem a bit on edge, but that’s because I’m busy wrestling with a stupid brain that wants to drive me back to self-destruction.

If you’re expecting a dramatic climax to this story, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you. Fortunately, there was no massive relapse. There was no note telling people that I’ve travelled to Vegas, and if they want to find me they can dig through the mountain of cocaine and strippers until they find a whiskey-stained corpse that sort of looks like me. I just watched more “Friends”, didn’t implode my life, ate more cake, and had some chips for tea, then I went to bed with a cup of tea at 10pm. I got through it. One more day under my belt, and like leather that’s been beaten tough, I’m stronger for it. I got to thinking about steps I could take when I started with that restless, itchy feeling. What would make me pause, calm me down, give me perspective? Well, here’s a few things I came up with. I introduce you to…

The Sober Survival Guide

  • Find something every day, no matter how small, to be thankful for: Whether it’s the first cup of coffee in the morning, a piece of cake, your loved ones, the sunshine in the trees, the view from your bedroom window, the fact that there are dogs in the world. Find your small pleasure and enjoy the hell out of it. Enjoy the fact that you’re sober enough to enjoy it. This world can be a terrible place, but, by the same token, there’s such beauty to it. Find the positive and focus on it.

 

  • Take it “One Day At A Time”: One day at a time. This phrase has helped me so much. Just focus on staying sober You don’t have to give up alcohol or drugs for the rest of your life today. You just have to be sober for one day at a time. Save tomorrow for tomorrow. Throw all your energy into making today the best you can make it, and know that tomorrow is a fresh start. It’s your day, take it and use it. If, by some nightmare, you do fuck it up, then there’s always tomorrow. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Get through the day, and that’s enough to be getting on with for now.

 

 

  • Change the situation: Jim Carrey (actor, funny man, and all-round good egg) once gave an interview. In it, he was asked about his makeup in the film “The Grinch”. He said getting into costume everyday was nigh on unbearable. It was something like 5 hours of makeup just to put the damn thing on. How did he cope with this? Well, according to Jimbo, he flew in a CIA operative who specialised in training people how to cope under torture. The trick, apparently, is to keep doing something different. Change the situation you’re in. Sing, dance, punch a cushion, scream, wiggle about. Just keep mixing it up and doing something different.

Staying sober is a bit like being under torture. Your body thinks it’s being deprived of something, so it will try and trick you into getting what it thinks it craves. Your addiction is your interrogator, and you must resist at all costs. Go for a walk, read a new book, dance like an idiot, change your hair-style, write a blog detailing your most horrific moments (ahem). Mix it up. Now is the time to try something new. Re-find yourself.

 

  • Exercise: Ok, so we’re not all athletes. We can’t all be Usain Bolt, breaking records while leaving a trail of flame behind us like the DeLorean in “Back to the Future”. But, even half an hour of mild exercise is enough to trigger an endorphin rush. Endorphins, by the way, are little feel-good chemicals.

D’you know what else triggers endorphins? Alcohol and drugs. When you give these up, your body misses the pleasure that used to flood your brain every time you got smashed. Exercise releases these chemicals into your brain, and while it sounds exhausting, after a while you begin to want to go running, or weight lifting, or canoeing. Imagine that. Being addicted…to exercise. When I first heard that, I thought it was some bizarre joke. But it’s true. When I first started running, I was shattered after about three minutes. Stood on a street corner, about to cough up a lung, dizzy, my head spinning, I thought “Oh yeah, this is good. Given up alcohol but now I’m going to die of cardiac arrest.”

But I stuck with it for a couple of weeks. D’you know what happened? I got used to it. More than that, if I didn’t go out pounding the streets, I began to miss it. It reshuffles the deck, gets your head straight. And it gave me a natural high. To think, I used to pay about 80 quid a night to feel like that. Now all I have to do is slip on some trainers and run like Theresa May’s chasing me.

 

  • Be kind to yourself: If you’ve been in the grips of a nasty addiction, chances are you’ve not been showing yourself the love that you deserve. What was your usual routine? Go to work, then spend the remaining twelve hours giving your liver a good bashing? There’s so much more to enjoying yourself. So, take it easy once in a while. Set aside some time to run a deep bath, and stew in it. Sit in a comfy chair and watch an amazing film. Turn off your phone, buy a box of chocolate, and work your way through it while listening to the good bits from Les Miserables. Whatever makes you happy, do it for an hour. Learn the things you enjoy doing that don’t involve you being chemically unbalanced. Relax. Take it easy. Treat yourself. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have saved hundreds of pounds that you no longer waste on your drug of choice. Spend it on something you’ve really wanted! A holiday, a new shirt, some fancy light-up trainers (if you’re anything like me, a six year old in a man’s body.)

 

So there we have it. That’s really all I’ve come up with so far, but hey, it’s still early. I can tell you that following this guide got me through the trickiest day of recovery I’ve yet had. If there’s anything you find particularly helps you, do drop us a line, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas. So, until next time, look after yourself.

 

Still Clean and Obscene,
J x