Saturday the 7th of May 2011, 05.00 am.
Once again I woke up in pain; I didn’t know which hurt the most, my back or my skull. It had become a common occurrence that had crept up on me as slow as a sloth hanging from a tree in a dream.
I had enjoyed the night before, drinking with Dangerous John in my local, and I found as the beer flowed my spine slowly loosened its grip on my body. By late evening I could have danced like Michael Flatly. By 05.00 the next day I was crippled.
Today was the official day I left paid employment, but it made no difference, I had basically been on gardening leave all week. The previous Saturday I took some staff out for a meal with drinks afterwards (and lots of them.) On the Tuesday all the senior managers were at the head office so by three in the afternoon we were in the pub and the company credit cards were sliding across the bar quicker than a card dealer in a casino.
By eleven I had missed the last train home and ended up in a Chinese restaurant somewhere off Dorset Square. Hot spicy giants prawns were just what I needed.
I didn’t know what time I arrived back at the company H.Q that night but as the security code was punched into the key pad I was ready for sleep. When I awoke next day my clothes were strewn across the office floor with my hair pointing to the four corners of the compass, and my breath stinking of stale booze mixed with spicy prawns. I stood there naked looking for my blackberry to see what the time was when I heard the first staff arriving to start their work day. I decided it was time to leave so I dressed, sneaked out, got the train and let the new guy look after things while I worked from home that day!
So by Saturday morning I had had four late nights out with the other days covered by light drinking. I had lived the whole week without being sober. And this was more common than I would dare admit to myself. Well I tell a small white lie because I had known for the last few years that as I climbed the ladder of life I was stopping often at the fuel pumps to fill up my tank with alcohol.
I had seen the consequences with terrible effects and although I knew the warning signs I was more than happy to act like the three wise monkeys, in that I didn’t want to see, hear or talk about.
This happened to my neighbour who was also my friend and drinking partner. His life spiralled out of control as the pressure of modern life and the expectations it throws up became too much for him. He found sanctuary at the bottom of the wine bottle, and couldn’t see as his marriage fell apart. It came to the point where he lost his family and nearly lost his life, at the end of a rope.
I was awoken at two in the morning one mid-week night by the door bell ringing and I opened it to be surprised by the presence of a police man. ‘Hello do you know a Mr so and so.’
Yes I replied.
‘We have received a call from him to say he is going to hang himself, he won’t let us in and will only talk to you.’
So there I was in my dressing gown, on my knees, in the dark, looking through my neighbour’s letter box as he stood at the top of the stairs, a rope was coming from the loft hatch with the end looped around his neck. Eventually when he heard my voice he came down and opened the door.
He burst into tears and as I walked in we hugged each other as he sobbed. Eventually the police left when I agreed to look after him. We stayed up all night watching comedy repeats as I tried to lift his mood; interspersed with him repeating ‘I would do anything for my family. Why won't they come back?’
It’s easy for people to ask, ‘so why didn’t he give up the booze then? But I would say behind closed doors there are more people addicted to something, be it alcohol, illegal drugs, smoking, prescription drugs, food, computer games, and pornography plus many other things, than there are people who are not. Most of us just behave like the three wise monkeys when it comes to our own lives.
I wasn’t an alcoholic (although I don’t know what the definition of one is), I didn’t wake up craving for a drink and I could go a day or two without and it wouldn’t bother me, but, and there is always a but, I did find I enjoyed a drink in the evening with heavy bouts every weekend as I tried to unwind (and forget) about work. During moments of extreme pressure like the death of my father-in-law I lost it completely and would spend various nights with my head down the toilet as my body tried to expel the excess poison I had exposed it to.
I had never had this problem with any other substance. In my youth I grew up as the rave scene exploded onto the streets, or should I say, warehouses and fields, and enjoyed all the new delights this brought, but as I matured (I don’t like the words “growing older”) the only thing that stayed a constant in life was the demon drink.
I knew one thing, now I wasn’t in paid employment and with having to live a pauper’s life until when, in the far off future, I could even think of making my living as an author I could no longer afford to spend so much money on this leisure activity.
I could no longer act like the three wise monkeys unless I wanted ended up homeless and bankrupt.
For anyone who is a struggling unpublished writer I would caution; life is stressful enough but a whole new host of stress factors will spring up like weeds in the garden. Always-hanging-around can be the most stressful of them all and just pouring oneself another drink to take away the boredom is something the three wise monkeys take no notice of.Three years after I spent that evening with my neighbour, watching hour after hour of comedy series on the television, he is still alive although his marriage is dead. As for me, well it’s been a glorious day today and I’m going to find a shaded spot in the garden, complete some research by reading a good book, and sip on a nice cold beer. Just the one!