So. That’s how it feels to lose a football match. I was in danger of forgetting so I suppose I should be grateful that the wide kaleidoscope of human emotions has been restored to me. Or at least one dark painful part of the spectrum. We oughtn’t to be surprised and I certainly shan’t dwell, enough breasts have been beaten since Tuesday. The simple equation which we learned as children that all which rises must just as surely descend is all the lesson we need draw. Instead I find myself in reflective mood. I suppose counting one’s blessings in moments of adversity might sum up the thought process.
Those of us who have travelled the rocky road of addiction and abuse are all too familiar with the downside of our habituation. It is a familiar tale and one with which the unaffiliated should also be tolerably well acquainted. The inevitable decline, the adverse impact upon the close friends and family of the addict, the erosion of all the better human traits such as fidelity, honesty, reliability and trustworthiness are a story well told. What people reflect less on is of course the positive side, the joys of the life. The ability to shrug off a despairing guilt ridden midweek hangover with the promise of a big session on the coming weekend, being an obvious example. The way a mundane nine to five every day existence can be infused with anticipation. I refer to the simple anticipation of going home and getting trollied at the end of it. Don’t knock it – it’s all that sustains some people. But no, we prefer to focus on the downside.
It is certainly true that while my every waking thought was not taken up with drinking, that would make any kind of functioning existence impossible, just about any undertaking requiring my participation was envisaged through the prism of the alcoholic. ‘Yes I’d like to go but will there be a bar? If not will it be acceptable to bring drink with me. If so would wine be suitable? It’s three for a tenner in Sainsbury’s right now, but would three suffice for the duration of the event? Or would the trousering of a few discreet hip flasks be more the thing? Will I need to drive? If so can I stay overnight or is there anyone available to drive me back?’ And on and on. And this applied as much to an evening at a friend’s house as to a child’s school sports day. The thing becomes all consuming.
We might also consider the company I chose to keep. This is, I’ve since discovered, a universal trait. The trick is that in order to maintain the delusion of normality in an obsessive one track lifestyle utterly twisted and distorted so that every decision is in some way informed by your addiction, you need to similarly distort the surroundings in which you live out your crazy existence. How do you do this? You envelop yourself with like minded people. Simple when you think about it. If everyone around you reinforces and reflects your behaviour then within that little bubble you can feel normal. An unspoken siege mentality would naturally form within your closed community. Deep suspicion of anyone who wasn’t as serious about their drinking as you and your buddies would be underpinned by a plethora of dubious quotations viz; never trust anyone who doesn’t drink, I drink to make other people more interesting, I am drunk today madam, and tomorrow I shall be sober but you will still be ugly, I cook with wine – sometimes I even add it to the food, Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, I feel bad for people who don’t drink; when they wake up in the morning that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day, and on and on. The purpose of this is to at once belittle and demonize those who do not behave as you choose to and strengthen the camaraderie between those who do. At all times you must cast your scorn outwards and thereby avoid ever looking at yourself and seeing what others must see.
Of course I am one of the lucky ones. Like the Mafia it isn’t an easy life to leave but I got out and at the moment I’m still out. I am now entirely free of the kind of errant behaviour I used to think of as usual or at least conventional. There is no part of my life now that in any way resembles that which I have above described. Of course not. Why would I go through the trauma of quitting smoking, illegal and prescription drug abuse and ending the obsessive metabolising of ethanol just to replace it with similar behaviour, albeit a stimulant free one?
On a totally unrelated topic a friend took me up on the offer of a favour recently. Just yesterday in fact. I’ve been waiting for him to say when would be best for him and his family for me to come round and help them out. He has suggested a Saturday. Straight away I started to race through the possibilities of going around and getting the job done by two thirty pm so I could be back by three. Or if I needed to be home by twelve thirty then maybe I could persuade him mid afternoon would be the best time. Of course it might be I need to be home by five thirty or should I just say any Saturday is out unless we convene later in the evening. Or not. Because of course I might be completely free that Saturday. It could be Sunday where I can’t do a simple favour for a friend without it seeming paralysingly difficult or his entire family having to fit in with an arbitrary schedule to suit me and over which I have no control.
I’m also planning a week away, just my wife and myself. Saturday to Saturday is the plan she fancies. We’ll have next to no internet connection, no pubs nearby and no television. Which is part of the appeal. A lovely distraction free restful break. Unless I can persuade her that Monday to Friday would be better. And I might need to pop home on the Wednesday or Tuesday night. But then I’ll just say I want to check on the kids. Or the house. Or something.
At least I can go on twitter or a blog and chat to people who would understand my dilemma. You see, just about all of the people I talk to these days understand the nightmare of fitting everyday life around the simple and understandable and above all commonplace hobby of fanatically supporting your football team. There are some who think we’re a bit odd, take things a bit too far but we just make up funny sounding names for such apostates and all agree that they are the weirdos and not us. I never trust anyone who doesn’t like football. Or who does but doesn’t like Arsenal. Or who likes Arsenal but not as much or in the same way as me and my friends do.
I’m so glad I got clean. Living a normal life is so much less stressful.
Thanks for letting me share. Who’s next?