In 2011, under the recommendation of my Doctor, I started to attend drinks counselling. I was far too guarded to discuss any of the problems in my chaotic mind. I used to tell the counsellor what I thought she wanted to hear. I wasn’t ready for the truth. I would try and one-up her intellectually. I’d turn the session into a game. The aim of which was to get to the end of the session without actually talking about my drinking problems. I was the only loser. I was so ungrateful that this service had been offered at the time. Where I should have been trying to work through my problems I was wasting time. I naively assumed that just by attending and pretending, I would somehow magically cure all my problems.
I attended the sessions for twelve weeks and stayed away from alcohol but became obsessive about exercise and food. I made no attempt to find the reasons why I drank as much as I did. I did nothing to address the carnival constantly dancing through my mind. In the end, I drank again. I should have told her how I felt. I should have told her about how I viewed myself as worthless, good for nothing and that alcohol was the only thing that brought light into my miserable existence. Maybe I thought she’d make me stop drinking for good if I told her the truth. I was too scared to lose the only enjoyable thing in my life.
So during the sessions, I would talk about anything except my actual issues. This avoidance of reality had been my problem for years. After the twelve-week counselling had finished I left with a sense of having cheated the system by not telling the truth. I had only cheated myself. It was like I had managed to keep it hidden. I was like a schoolboy who had got away with smoking behind the bike shed. I eventually drank again four months after the counselling had finished. I implore anyone in the same position to dig deep and be honest. That slip up lasted two years and ended with me being broken.
One of the few things that did improve throughout the twelve-week counselling was my health. Not only due to stopping drinking and cutting out junk food but also down to my new obsession with exercise and healthy eating. It was quite clear that I had just swapped my obsession with drinking for an obsession with fitness. I was convinced that if I looked good then I would feel good. This was true for a short amount of time but eventually, once I got to a point that I thought I looked good then I got bored. With boredom comes drinking. Well, it did for me. The voice of temptation constantly whispering into my ear. “You’re bored? Alcohol would make it more exciting.” “Just one.” It was never just one.
Also, during the seven months of sobriety I managed to achieve a few things;
Skydiving; What an experience skydiving was. The sensation of free-falling offset by the serenity when the parachute opened combined to make a remarkable experience.
Passed my driving test and bought a car; At twenty-nine years old I passed my driving test and bought a car. I had never needed a car before this point. I preferred getting the train everywhere so I could drink on the way.
Got a new job; Or should I say I started a career in a field that actually interested me.
Managed to pay off some debt; With the new job and not blasting my entire wages in the pub it seemed a lot easier to re-balance my finances and start to get on more stable ground.
Started training for the El Camino de Santiago; A work colleague told me about a pilgrimage in Spain/France called the El Camino de Santiago. It is a five hundred miles (769km) hike/walk from St Jean Pied De Port in southern France to Santiago de Compostella in Galicia, North West Spain. I started looking into it and then I was convinced that is what I was going to do next.
Lost a lot of weight; When I was drinking I eat appallingly and paid the price as I was always ill. Either hungover or just rough. The swimming, yoga & meditation I started doing, combined with the change in diet made me feel great.
The changes had been great. I was feeling fantastic but I still hadn’t dealt with the reasons why I drank so much previously. Subconsciously I was looking for an excuse to drink again. A guy I was working with developed a tumour that the Doctors were sure had formed due to stress. He was thirty-four years old and his life would now be completely different forever. It scared the shit out of me as I wasn’t much younger myself. I can remember thinking what’s the point in not drinking? I might be dead soon! A week later I was watching a friends band on a nondescript Wednesday night. I’d had three cokes and thought if I keep drinking Coke then I won’t sleep and I’ve got work tomorrow. It seemed to make a lot of sense at the time that the only other option was to have a beer. I was convinced that it wouldn’t end up like last time. How could it? I was much wiser now. There was no alarm when I got the drink and there was no explosion of dopamine in my brain. I just sipped it and carried on watching the band. I finished the beer and ordered another. After that, I went home. Easy I thought as I made my way home convinced I had it under control.
Two days after those first two drinks, I was back to drinking how I had done before. Recklessly. Almost as if my addiction had been dormant just waiting to seize control. Within weeks, people started to comment on how I looked ill. They would also mention how I smelt of drink. I would make up some lie about a party the night before when really I had been home alone. Soon my financial situation would again become precarious as I was now drinking away my wages and I started borrowing money to feed my habit.
The dream of walking the El Camino de Santiago began to slip further away from reach. Every week of drinking made it more and more unachievable due to the damage to my body. My mental health began to suffer as I shelved problems again and I could no longer afford the plane ticket to France.
The positive changes I had made over the seven months were destroyed within a few weeks.
Thanks for reading,