Age 33 – 36
Occasional drug use, daily binge drinking

By age 33 I had built myself a successful business.  Things did not work out with Emma however we are still friends.  A lot of my friends had settled down, got married had kids etc.  However I was still single.  Although I had achieved my financial ambitions I was ultimately alone.  If I carried on the way I was going I was going to die a very lonely but wealthy man.

I decided to put my further financial ambitions on hold and go get me a wife!  I went speed dating, internet dating, single nights and also went out to bars and clubs whenever there was an opportunity or I could convince someone to come along.  Midweek going out was a problem for most as they all had to get up for work in the morning however the speed dating and single nights fitted in well for this as you could go on your own and not look like a freak!

During this time I met someone called Alan.  He was also self-employed and had a lot of time on his hands.  What followed was consistent daily debauchery!  Alan liked going out as much as me.  Alan did not have the history of drinking, drugs and girls like I did so he loved going out to these clubs and bars.

However there was one strange thing about Alan.  He did not drink.

So we would go out, I would get pissed and he would be the driver for the evening sometimes till 5am!  He did make one comment once when he arrived at my house whilst only knowing me for a few weeks:

“You’re always drinking”

I brushed his comment off with something like:

“Yeah, anyway…..blah blah”

And change the subject.  That was the only time Alan brought up my drinking.

Alan was the first young person I knew who did not drink.  It was really strange. He would get his water, diet coke, orange juice etc. whilst I would get tanked up on special brew at my house and then order glasses of wine while we were out.  I would get pissed and have a laugh.  He would stay sober and have a laugh.  Admittedly I had more than a laugh than he did (as he was a bit more serious than me) however he still had a laugh.

I always remember the time when he asked me:

“What is ‘having a laugh’?”

He was asking me what I actually meant when I said do you want to come out and have a laugh and if there was some ritual that had to occur to certify that we went out and had a ‘laugh’.  We still joke today about that comment.  I remember defining ‘having a laugh as:

“It’s having a laugh init!”

I couldn’t actually define what having a laugh meant.  Technically it did not require laughter at all.  You could go out for a laugh and not laugh one bit.  The true definition back in those days for me going out to have a laugh was:

To drink.

I must have substituted the word “drink” with “laugh” to ease my conscious.  So if I were to call up a friend and ask them if they wanted to come out for a drink it would be a reminder that we were going to drink alcohol.  However if phrased as do you want to come out for a laugh then it sounds a lot better and positive.  Who could say no to going out and having a laugh?

So it was having a laugh with Alan in the week and having a laugh with other friends at the weekend.  It was in the week when Alan asked me if I wanted to come to his friend’s flat in London.  It was a girl that he sort of liked called Helen.  I said ok and I went to her flat and drunk pretty much the contents of her fridge.  It was white wine followed by bottled beer

Then after that I said come on Alan lets go out!  The night turned out to be like all the other midweek nights.  Me getting blasted, going on to a club and then grabbing a kebab on the way home.  An almost perfect night in my books!

At this time I was seeing a girl called Elizabeth who I quite liked.  She enjoyed getting drunk and doing pills.  She lived in Manchester and so my weeks started taking a pattern of spending the weekend in Manchester getting pilled up and pissed and in the week around Essex, Kent and London going to bars and clubs.

If I was honest with myself Elizabeth was not the right girl for me.  I had sort of convinced myself she was as we had a lot of fun.  I really looked forward to my trips to Manchester as I knew no matter what we were going to have fun.  It was like a holiday every weekend.  She also knew a lot of other people who liked to get drunk and take drugs so perfect!  Manchester really lived up to its reputation of being the party capital of the North West

Also at this time Alan’s friend Helen had expressed interest in me.  At first I said I was not interested as I knew Alan had sort of an interest in her and I did not want to go there

It was on a night out in London when Alan got a text from Helen.  Alan called her and said that I was with him.  I actually spoke to her and I innocently asked her to come out and cheer herself up.  We were in the Loop bar in London and it would be great if she could come down.  This she in fact did.

Helen is a tallish girl with long dark blonde hair with very striking features.  It was on this night that I realised what a pretty girl she was!  There was a downstairs bit to the bar where music was played and we went downstairs to continue the night.

Obviously I had been drinking and some slow music had come on.  I could see that Helen wanted me to dance with her.  I looked over to my Alan to say is it ok if I go for a dance with Helen.  He gave me the nod.  I took that as his green light that it was ok to take over from now.  It was just one of those things.  She was drawn to me even though I never felt anything that great towards her.  I appreciated that she was very pretty but my mind was on Elizabeth.  But me being me could not resist the opportunity for a casual affair.

An affair did ensue and I am glad I did.  Helen showered me with so much care, love and affection I had never experienced in my life.  The kind of care that came close to it was the love and care my mother gave me.  Except Helen’s was more intense!

I continued to see Elizabeth but I soon got found out.  I was glad that I was found out.  I spent more time with Helen and within 2 months of knowing her I asked her to move in with me.  I had NEVER asked any girl to move in with me before so this must have been serious.

She did move in and I lost my urge to go out chasing girls.  The natural path emerged and I had at last chosen a monogamous relationship with a woman.  It felt weird and very final.  But as time grew it was very liberating.  I was no longer on the hunt and that part of my brain always looking for the chase shrank and was replaced with better things like how I could provide a better life for the both of us.

And here is another thing strange about Helen: She did not drink!  She was not interested in any kind of mind altering substances and was happy with her mind being exactly where it was.  What a weirdo

So now I had two people in my life that I spent a lot of time with who did not drink.  They thought it was normal to stay sober on a Friday and Saturday night.  What was wrong with these people!  Or was there something wrong with me…….?

Helen was quite a tidy and clean girl.  When she moved in the first thing she did was do a much needed spring clean of my house.  After a few days the house was spotless.  I was still a smoker when she moved in.  When I used to visit her flat I had to jump out of her window and lodge myself on this makeshift balcony and smoke out there.  Now she lived in my home I don’t think she had the heart to ask me to smoke outside so I would smoke indoors.

Smoking indoors in such a spotless place felt strange.  Smoking was so dirty.  I am not sure how Helen put up with it knowing she was such a clean and tidy person.  My smoking just now felt so out of place.  3 days after she moved in I booked myself in to hypnotherapy and never smoked again.

Now a non-smoker and a VERY occasional drug user it was my right to drink as much as I wanted.  I felt so great about giving up smoking that I proudly said drinking is my only remaining vice.  I indulged in this vice for a few months but then Helen said I should go and see someone about it.  I went to the doctors and he asked me what I did for a living.  I told him I worked for myself and he asked me how is business.  He was expecting me to say not great but actually business was doing very well.

My success in business worked as a great delusionary tool for me.  I mean how could I have a problem with drinking when my business is doing really well?  I think a lot of drinkers who have great jobs, outward success or high social standing convince themselves of this lie.  Always remember this:  There is no rule that says if you have a drinking problem everything else in your life needs to be crap.  I have heard of the term “high functioning alcoholic” which means everything else in your life isn’t crap however you drink at dangerous levels.

There are plenty of high functioning alcoholics in the world and I was one of them.  It is only when you let someone in to your life and they can see behind the scenes that everything is not ok.  Yes you are functioning alright but nowhere near the levels you are capable of.  Helen could see this.  So much so she was the one who convinced me to go and see the doctor.  I was assessed and it was recommended that I go for counselling.  This I did.

Counselling was strange.  I would walk in to the room and my counsellor would stare at me waiting for me to speak.  After about 15 seconds of uncomfortable silence I would think shit I better say something and then I would start talking.

But guess what.  The counselling didn’t work.  I know why it didn’t work.  It was because it was Helen’s idea that I gave up not mine.  I enjoyed drinking.  To give it up would be like giving up a big part of my life.  My reward system was all based around drinking.  After a hard day’s work I could treat myself to getting out of it and feeling comfortable with myself.

You see I still did not think drinking was bad for me.  I was only being told that drinking was bad for me.  I used to think that the government guidelines of 3-4 units a day were over cautious.  They had to be.  So what the government were really trying to say was at least double was safe.  If it was that dangerous they would not make it so easily available if it was that dangerous would they?  As far as I was concerned the amounts I was drinking was safe.

The lies we tell ourselves sometimes!  So as you could see giving up drink had no benefits and only a downside of crushing my one source of fun.  It really was my only source of fun.  Having a good time was drinking.  Drinking round friends, at a wedding, in a club or at a picnic.  I believed that if I could not drink then I could not do these things.  No drink = No life.

Helen was good however.  She could see I was trying to make an effort to give up but could see my heart wasn’t in it.  She backed off and let me drink.  She would even buy the alcohol for me when she went shopping.  She showed me that it was me who was deciding to drink.  It was 100% my decision to drink.  Once I knew it was 100% my decision to drink then it has to be 100% my decision to give up.

For 3 years I carried on drinking.  My intake was going up.  For 10 years 2 cans of strong lager would do it for me.  However I was finding myself finishing my 2 cans (or 1 bottle of wine) and looking for a top up.  I would either open up another can or open another bottle of wine.

So now knowing this buying 2 cans of lager or one bottle of wine could leave me wanting more.  If I had nothing left in the house it would mean buying either 3 cans or buying one bottle of wine and one strong can.  This was definitely a shift in my mind.  My dosage was increasing like they said it would.

You hear that an alcoholic’s intake has to go up as they build a tolerance to the alcohol.  Obviously this is what was happening to me.  From age 15 to 25 it was one can, age 25 to 35 it was two cans and now age 35 onwards was it to be three cans?

A well timed documentary was on channel 4 about Paul Gascoigne, Gazza, the England football player.  I will never forget his ex-wife saying that up until 5 years ago he just drank like a normal heavy drinker.  You know the type, the football supporter who goes to the pub, drinks with his mates, sings and comes home at midnight and falls asleep in front of the TV.  But she said it suddenly changed.

It became a more severe addiction where he started drinking in the day and he turned in to a full blown alcoholic.  As she remembered it was sudden but it probably happened over a few months.  That turning point can happen to any normal heavy drinker.  I was what you call a heavy drinker at this point.  Could I actually turn from a heavy drinker in to an alcoholic?  Could it be that sudden? I suppose so.  I had turned from a two can a night person to a three can a night person.  I can say, certain but rare nights I have had 2 bottles of wine or 4 strong cans in one session so I knew my body could take accommodate it.

The shame I was building up drinking was culminating.  I did feel bad.  I was letting down Helen.  I decided to try and get help again.  I had a liver test and they found that my liver was enlarged slightly and one of the tests was showing an abnormal reading.  It was nothing serious and it certainly did not make me give up.  Even though they told me all this I thought I would just take it easy and not drink so much.

I decided to go for counselling again.  This time I wanted to go.  Over three months or so my counsellor spoke to me and with a combination of my determination, her words that would drop in my mind and wanting more for myself I gave up drinking on the 18th December 2008.

The 18th December 2008 was 10 days before my 37th birthday.  I gave up getting drunk for good.

I went without alcohol for 6 months solid.  I have had the occasional episode when I have got merry, 3 to be specific, in the 3 months following my period of abstinence.  I am still undecided on whether I want to be completely free from alcohol or have the occasional drink where I do not get drunk i.e. less than 4 units.

I am no longer controlled by drink.  I feel so liberated and clean.  However I also feel a bit stifled.  I have run away from myself for so long I have not dealt with my issues like normal adults have.  I certainly feel a bit immature for my age as I haven’t worked through things that normal adults have.  I have simply reached for the can and partied.

I am on the road to growing up now.  I had always felt like a little boy inside a man’s body.  For the first time I am starting to feel like an adult….and I LOVE IT!

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