The hallmark of my life was running. Not as in the fast movement. Unless it was last orders at the bar or the off licence was closing. I used alcohol to run mentally and when that became a problem, I would move. Usually, I would change jobs but on many occasions, I would up sticks and move towns. With a car full of possessions and a head filled with bullshit promises of how it was all going to be different this time, I would hit the road. Usually looking for the thing that alcohol was taking away; peace of mind.
After seven months of wellness, it hadn’t taken long for the old ways of drinking to return. My whole existence revolved around drinking. I would go to work purely on the basis to earn money to drink and when not working, I would be drinking. Most of my friends settled down and started families. I was still slumped against a bar trying to figure out what was going wrong with my life. The answer to that question was masquerading as the solution the whole time. So now I was back to where I had been for most of my life and like all those other times I chose the same option I had done previously; time to move.
This was it, a fresh start, a new beginning, clean linen, this is where it all came true. The excitement I felt purely from the delusion that it was going to be different was what made moving all the time so appealing. The sense of wandering into the unknown like an explorer in search of a new life. So many possibilities, so much potential, new sights, new friends and new lovers. It is the thing that dreams are made of.
It wasn’t. In a new town with no friends, I would wander to the pub and drink excessively in the belief that I would meet a new friend Or even more delusionary, a beautiful partner by being in the pub. I would stand in an empty bar on a rainy Tuesday night convinced that I had to stay in there because I would soon meet the woman of my dreams. This brainwashing by washing my brain with alcohol became expensive, even if I had scouted out the cheapest bar in town. The wages I had left after paying my bills would all be spent on drinking. When I had spent my wages, I would use a credit card. When the credit card was at its limit I would get a loan and pay the credit card off. Vowing never to do it again… until the next time. I knew it wasn’t sustainable but I couldn’t stop. The alcohol would block out the reality which in turn made reality harder to face. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This continued for two years. Over that time; I destroyed friendships, relationships, I was on the verge of bankruptcy, I was physically broken, mentally ruined and emotionally stunted. My days followed a similar path; work, drink, blackout, repeat. In the pub, I would stand and talk about the wonderful, exotic places in the world I would love to visit. Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, Nepal, plus many more. I could never make the connection between my drinking habits and my circumstance. I used to moan that I couldn’t visit those places because I was skint all the time. Any suggestion of stopping drinking was scoffed at. I was like a child clinging to his mums’ apron strings refusing to play with the other kids. But deep down I was miserable, isolated and lonely. Drinking was my only friend and felt like the only friend I needed.
The people I drank with were associates who were there to normalise my behaviour. I felt like a prisoner. I wanted a change but I had no idea how to go about it. I begrudgingly accepted that this life of working and drinking was my only option. It was getting to the point that people were commenting that I was wearing the same clothes as I had been doing the previous day. This was because I left work, got drunk, blacked out, woke up and drove back to work. At the end of the workday, I would walk around the car park looking for my car. When I eventually quit drinking, I heard a story of a woman who crashed her car into the wall of her workplace on the way to work in the morning. She had been drinking the night before and lost her license and her job. I was lucky.
On May 31st 2014, I was watching a boxing match with some friends. I was drinking whiskey as that is what we used to drink when we all started going out together when we were younger. The irony isn’t lost on me that I was trying to act like I had done when we were all sixteen. After the fight had finished, they did the sensible thing and went home to their wives, girlfriends and children. I went out with mine; alcohol. With no one to distract me with chatter, I was consumed whiskey at an unprecedented rate until it was time to go home. I can’t remember much of the night but I remember walking down the street after the club had closed and felt a paralysing pain just below my right rib-cage. I had never felt pain like it before. It was so severe that it created a memory even in a state of blackout. I slumped against a wall clutching my side and asked a group of people who were passing to get me a taxi, which they did thankfully and I made my way to the hospital. I always had a rule that if something hurt then I would have a few pints of lager. If it still hurt afterwards then it must be quite bad because alcohol is an anaesthetic. So now I was worried.
In the accident and emergency ward, I waited to be seen by a doctor clutching my side and rolling around the floor in agony. I genuinely thought something had ruptured. I prayed to Gods I didn’t believe in and made promises that I couldn’t keep, all out of desperation. After four painful embarrassing hours, I was seen by a Doctor and after a shit ton of tests, I was told that I had an enlarged liver due to the amount of whiskey I had drunk that night. He advised me to lay off alcohol for two weeks and it would return to its normal size. It was the second warning my liver had given me and I was only thirty-two years old. I knew something had to change but I had no idea where to begin.