The drink monster is a curious creature and most of all a rather unpredictable one. When I’d left Maggie and the rehab centre, it was perching right there on my shoulder, squeezing its little arms around my neck and sinking its claws into my burning throat in a deadly little hug. Despite feeling so ready (like many times before) to deal with my drinking problem and a huge part of me wanted to commit to never again every bit as sincerely as all the other times previously that I’d felt similar resolve, I also felt really good about things and for taking action. Feeling good is my biggest trigger to drink. Sometimes I wish I was a miserable cow because then I might just keep sober – I never feel like drinking on the very rare occasions when I feel down.
Then again, I’m sure that’s not true and perhaps it’s the nature of addiction. It’s certainly true for smoking – I smoke to relax and de-stress, just like I’ll light up when I need to focus. I doubt any drug could have opposite effects. My belief is that we (ab)use the drugs because we’re addicted to them, end of. A non-smoker doesn’t need to light a cigarette to focus, do they? Nor to relax. So that’s bullshit and I wonder if my I-drink-when-I-feel-happy idea is bullshit too, something I tell myself. Do other people want to have a drink to celebrate something? I’m sure they do. A promotion, an anniversary, the weekend. Then there’s me who will celebrate that it’s Tuesday. If I weren’t happy, I know my drinking problem would be a problem still and it’d only be my triggers that’d look different – heck, that’s how I developed a serious problem in the first place. Sauvignon Blanc became a crutch during a tough period of my life and then when things got better again I kept on drinking, not to soothe pain but to enhance joy. I just found a new excuse.
So back again, to November 2016, and I decided to keep a drunkard’s log. I just read it again and what can I say, I’m cringing. But here it is in all its uncut glory…
Hah! Perhaps now that I am in its grip I can try to explain what it feels like? Because it’s scratching away at me relentlessly I may not succeed and my typing will soon become unintelligible but I’ll give it a shot whilst I’m “still here” – soon I may be too drunk to type out coherent thoughts, but here goes.
Typical day at the day job: I wasn’t hungover so was fairly productive. Had a nice little chat with my employers, worked through the tasks at hand and ended the day on a high like I do most days, or at least the ones I don’t spend fighting a crippling hangover. Even then, when my mind is muddled, I seem to get on OK – my job isn’t rocket science and I can perform most of it even when fuzzy headed and dizzy. My job suits an alcoholic, shall we say.
Today I had to hurry home as we had a plumber coming out, but the drink monster had appeared on my shoulder half way through the morning and once the thought of drinking had put down roots there was little I could do to fight it. So I rushed out bang on time and raced home, stopping at the local supermarket where I bought two bottles of wine and a smaller one. I can just about function the following day if I have two bottles “and a bit” so this is a very calculated move on my part. The plumber had already arrived when I drove into the driveway but he hadn’t been there long so my rush to get wine had paid off. He went to work but kept talking to me, wanting to show me stuff and explain what was wrong with our boiler – this pissed me off as I was trying to pour a huge glass of wine in order to get on with my drinking.
Yes, that’s right, that’s how powerful the drinking monster is – never mind hearing about our boiler and gas supply, and indeed whether it’s bloody safe to use, I just wanted him to shut the fuck up, continually glancing over at my Starbucks thermos filled with wine and soda water that I just wanted to spend time with. I know that’s crazy, even now that the plumber has just left and I’m almost through the first one, but that’s how my mind works in these instances.
A Starbucks thermos for wine? What’s that about? Well, because I chain smoke when I drink and never smoke in the apartment, I go downstairs into the garden and I don’t want the neighbours to see me on a Tuesday with my huge wine glass. A drunkard’s way of hiding, although I’m sure it’s obvious to anyone who might see me. Right about now the buzz from what I’ve had (almost through the thermos which at a guess holds about two thirds of a pint of wine plus a bit of soda) has kicked in and so I don’t care.
Now going to top it up and head into the garden we share with the other flats again. It’s November and getting cold, but that doesn’t bother me so long as I’m with Sauvignon Blanc and Marlboro Lights Menthol.
So much for writing whilst drinking. I did go down to the garden with the freshly topped up wine thermos masquerading as coffee (or so I hoped). Predictably, it disappeared very quickly so I went upstairs and filled it up again. Perhaps several times, I’m not sure. What I do know of the evening is this: I cooked some chicken with Nando’s peri-peri marinade at some stage but not sure I ate much as the wok looked untouched and the rice I’d cooked also seemed ignored where it sat in the saucepan Wednesday morning. I also know I banged my head on something as my forehead was sore the next morning, but as usual I had no idea on what, where or how.
The drinking analysis was therefore redundant and that’s telling in itself – bit ridiculous really of me to think I’d somehow be able to keep an accurate boozing log as the evening quickly progressed into the customary black-out.
Me writing whilst drinking, or drink writing – although, to be fair, I have on occasion woken up to a really witty blog post or even a solid section of my novel produced during a black-out – was really a bit like drink driving. I mean, what did I expect? That I would, just because I tried to be aware of my thoughts and document them, suddenly be a safe drink writer? Nope. Not only had I made chicken and banged my head, I’d also fired off a toe-curlingly cringey and gushing e-mail to my parents-in-law that I still can’t bring myself to read. Then again, I don’t need to read it, because I’ve written countless like it – drunk and full of love and joy. I also vaguely remember getting cold after it got dark and went to sit in the car, starting it and putting the heating on. Will I ever get so messed up I actually decide to drive? At the moment I’m a dangerous drink writer, how far is the step to being a drink driver? Please God, never let that be me.
Trying to perform any duty whilst under the influence is a ridiculous experiment, because it’s an experiment that doesn’t warrant undertaking. We all know the answer.
I suppose what I wanted to do, largely for myself, was jot down notes of what goes through my head at regular intervals during a session. Reading back and remembering my annoyance at the plumber holding my drinking up I’m not sure I would think over so much had I not made a note of it. I was only on my first wine thermos at that point of course, so it didn’t happen during a black-out or anything, but having it in writing and being sober while reading drunken me’s thoughts further proved to me just how bad things have got.
I have no memory either of my partner coming home so I don’t know if we spoke. I don’t even know if we have sex, but I imagine I was a passed out, snoring heap by that point. Nor do I remember putting one wine bottle in a plastic bag and placing at the bottom of the bin, the other casually thrown in on top. I do at times hide – the wine thermos – but not in front of my partner.
And on the subject of partners I have the following to say: if you’ve ended up with an alcoholic, run for the hills!
What I have done to deserve this amazing man I do not know. I just know that I don’t, and God knows how many chances he’ll offer me. I want, of course, to believe him when he reassures me that nothing could make him walk away, not even if I fall off the wagon (or jump, as the case may be) a million times. But how much can I put him through? As of now, he has a partner who drinks too much but still functions relatively well. It’s tempting for me – so, so tempting – to hold on to that. Hey, I just like a drink! Bit excessive perhaps, but it’s no big deal! It’s Thursday and I only had a drink on Tuesday, that’s one out of four evenings, what’s so bad about that? Then that pesky, more rational part of my brain budges in and reminds me that piecing together a Tuesday night from visual (chicken with peri-peri marinade) and physical (sore forehead) evidence rather than remembering what happened is Very Bad Indeed.