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
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!!!