Pool Fulla Liquor Pt 3



It's Wednesday today. 



I'm hungover. 



Not a completely incapacitated hungover. I'm the level of hangover where i can take thoughts by the hand and toddle them to a conclusion, but my sight. If i don't make a choice on what to focus on my vision doesn't hang attentively in the middle-distance, it blurs into a soup of light and shadow. I've drunk so much water to flush out the alcohol that i need to relieve myself every twenty minutes, which is a drag. And still my mouth is dry like a desert at three in the afternoon. This has become an ordeal.






A pretty good state in which to finally conclude my trilogy on alcohol. I wrote the first part fifteen months ago, in the grips of sobriety. The second part this time last year, having jumped off the wagon at high speed, and now the denouement, one year on, sitting here staring out of the window at summer unrobing herself, sozzled, fed up, and in fervent need of unsozzling.


I don't have a problem with alcohol. 



Honestly.



*


In the first two parts, which you can read here and here, i detailed the stages i passed through in the aftermath of giving up drinking. First came the unbearable smugness of waking up on the right side of the bed, not just on the odd morning, but permanently, without a trace of hangover. Of seeing people in supermarket aisles with shopping baskets laden with tinnies, and shaking my head disdainfully as i watched them throwing their lives away. Of turning into a sanctimonious dick. Of increased productivity levels, increased self confidence, of glass half-fullness. I was the me i wanted to be.







But the thing is, it didn't continue. After four weeks the novelty wore off. The mist cleared, and the abyss that had been there in front of me all along revealed itself. And i realised why we drink. I think we drink to not feel alone. Over night, my self-satisfaction had morphed into something very sinister. As if loneliness had crept up behind solitude and tapped him in the shoulder discreetly. My turn. And they had switched places. It still felt like me against the world, but my outlook was no longer one of defiance, as it had been when i was basking in the glow of my own righteousness sipping San Pellegrino. It was one of fear.



I was alone.



It wasn't that i needed to be with people, it was more in the sense of an awareness of the crushingness of how totally alone i was. Every single thought process which led to another thought process which led to another, was mine alone. If i had employed someone to a permanent position of listening to me speak my mind for twenty-four hours a day, an ocean would still have remained present between us. Which led me to feel an ocean away from everyone.







The wool had been pulled back from my eyes, and i saw what was actually going on. Without the drink, the distraction, the mood-altering elixir, i was forced to sit there with my demons. Instead of reaching for a pint whenever things got heavy, i had to welcome in my darkest thoughts and sit in them. I had to meet and greet the worst parts of myself and befriend them. Just a little something to take the edge off please. But i didn't have access to that. And i learnt that a lime cordial doesn't take the edge off. At all.



That first plunge into a cold, crisp, obscure craft beer, medium-hopped, easy-drinking, the one with that cool lick of condensation running down the outside of the glass, invaded my dreams. 







I read somewhere that we ask ourselves the wrong questions. The question is not why do we drink. The question is why aren't we all lying on street corners drowning ourselves in booze around the fucking clock. The question is not why do we get anxious. The question is why aren't people terrified out of their skulls every second of every day to the point where they can't even move. Anxiety isn't a mystery. The mystery is how we ever achieve brief spells of calm. The point of drinking is to relieve us momentarily from the unbearable suffering of being alive.


And so the second month of my sobriety was characterised by a month-long depression. I had broken the shell, and i stared out across the cinders of the world with naked eyes. I got up to 8 espressos a day, my San Pellegrino intake quadrupled, and i went into isolation. I no longer looked down on drunks, i envied them. They had taken what i so coveted, and i was jealous. Swilling their cheap malbec and baring their sediment-stained teeth, they laughed at me.



*



My mate Tom said that when he stopped boozing, he didn't miss the drinking so much. What he missed was the binge-drinking. He missed the oblivion. Some people need an escape from their brain much more than others. In his brilliant autobiography The Story Of The Streets, Mike Skinner, no stranger to self-destruction, said the following:




That’s why i insist that my psychic deterioration was down to a lack of drink and drugs, rather than anything else. As bad as those things might be for your longterm health, they’re still down-time. Which someone who gets as caught up in his own head as i do, desperately needs.


I had drawn back the curtain, and i was encountering exactly what it was to be caught up in my own head, all the time. I had eliminated the most obvious, in your face, socially acceptable, by far and away most entertaining way of achieving down-time, and in its absence i was left pacing the floor of a room without an exit, and the inescapable, slowly creeping feeling that...



This is all there is.



Once i'd processed this, i came out of my depression. And my hangover from it, was this fundamental understanding of how alone we all are. Totally and completely alone inside the prison of our own minds, going over and over and over the same thought processes, the same ways of seeing the world, the same anxiety and paranoia and the same fear of never being enough. Small wonder we need a fucking drink now and again. These are mood-altering substances for a species in desperate need of having their moods altered.







I lasted another couple of months, with less and less enthusiasm, and one Friday i went for dinner with a friend in Soho, sat through a litre of Highland Spring, something in me broke, i screamed E N O U G H  O F  T H I S  M I S E R Y and went and got annihilated. I've never looked back.



*


I said before that the whole experience of giving up drinking was one of the most confusing things i've ever done. The reason it left me so confused was because i didn't learn anything from it. Well i kind of did and i kind of didn't. But strangely the lessons i did learn seemed to vanish into the ether pretty quickly. The whole exercise had some point to it, whilst simultaneously proving in the end somehow pointless. Like a joke that you get, but just don't find funny.







I have a feeling it belongs in the company of those lessons we have to learn over and over again a number of times in our lives, because we'll keep forgetting them. The clarity that sobriety brought was terrifying, i preferred the murky lie. I still do. The truly insidious thing about alcohol is that it is blinding. It blinds us to the truths waiting there for us to stare them square in the face, but don't have the courage to. Mental discomfort is an alarm bell signalling we're getting closer to the stuff that truly needs our attention. But who the hell wants to go there when you can shuffle down to your local instead. As Giles Coren said...


Alcohol is addling the brain and persuading people in awful jobs with dreary lives that everything is okay and there is no need to get up and challenge their status quo.



*



I never thought sobriety would be so difficult. I never thought i'd have to get so lost to find myself. And then realise i preferred being lost. I never thought i'd have to start drinking again to save myself from being sober. And more than anything, that alcohol has very little to do with any of it in the first place. 


The tough thing about booze is that it's the angel and the devil. The beautiful and the lethal in equal measure. And life without it is a bore. Of course, there is such a thing as drinking for pleasure. There is such a thing as moderation. But those who don't admit that line is a blurry one are probably the ones who need the most help. Or just another drink.



In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway wrote:






When i stopped working on the races i was glad, but it left an emptiness. By then i knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good, you could only fill it by finding something better.



You could only fill it by finding something better.



*



That's about it really.



No comments:

Post a comment