Have you ever thought to yourself, am I drinking too much? If you are mulling this over in your head I would speculate that you probably maybe definitely might be. And that is OK. The good thing is that you are thinking about it and recognising there might be an issue. Now don’t for one second think that I am an expert on this or in any way judging you. After all, how could I. But what I can do is tell you about my pathway to realisation that alcohol was no longer the friend and companion I thought it was.
In my experience, I am not what you would consider a ‘normal’ alcoholic. I drank too much in short spaces of time. What the kids call binge drinking. I don’t look at myself as an alcoholic but as someone now who simply does not drink.
But what is an alcoholic? In Simon Chapple’s 2019 book ‘The Sober Survival Guide’ which I highly recommend, he tells us that, “over 90 percent of people in the western world drink alcohol, and sadly over two million of them a year die as a direct result,” that’s a scary number. Alcoholism takes many different forms and isn’t the stereotypical fella drunk in the park at 10am shouting at mysterious dragons he has been chasing all night. I dread to think what those numbers look like now following the pandemic, but they most definitely will have gone up. It’s recommended to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across 3 days or more. That’s around 6 medium glasses of wine, or 6 pints of 4% beer. Not a lot really, is it? A few months back I was drinking heavily 6 pints would have been a quick session on a weekday evening. That would have then led to a bottle of wine or maybe a few more beers later that evening. The fact I was able to get up the next day and function for work or whatever I was doing is astonishing. What a pro. But let’s face it, that is not a good thing.
I have always struggled with binge drinking, being one of those people who push the boundary of what my body can handle. I will cover a few of the drunken episodes in various other blogs but I want to focus on the specific period of heavy drinking and poor mental health prior to my recent state of sobriety. I said at the outset that I would be as honest as I can be and that is still my intention. This will be a positive for my ongoing recovery and continuous good mental health. However, there will be a small number of issues, incidents, topics I can’t discuss. I am hopeful to keep these to a minimum though.
In October 2021 my mental health plummeted to an all-time low. I can’t pinpoint exactly what sends me into the spirals of depression I suffer from, but I am working on that in my recovery and it will be a critical part of keeping my mental health solid. This particular episode had begun towards the back end of the summer and lasted roughly until after Christmas well into the new year. When you analyse it, that’s a long period of time. On October 17th my internal mental condition was at a point where I no longer wished to be alive (I did warn you this wasn’t going to be laugh a minute didn’t I?) any longer. I am going to cover the night of October 17th in a full post in a couple of weeks’ time, but I want to focus on what happened afterwards.
Everything changed after that night, I think people look at you differently once they know you have mental health problems. In some cases, I don’t think they mean to. It’s a natural reaction. There are many different outlooks on mental health, and I have encountered them all. I had a former colleague who basically denounced its existence. The old school approach of ‘just get on with it son’ was their outlook on someone having non visible symptoms of illness or injury. In other cases, people are unable to understand what you are dealing with having either not gone through it themselves or they have not been in direct contact with someone facing those challenges. I completely accept this position, and this is why conversations need to be had so as a society we understand more and develop methods to combat this critical issue. Some individuals lack the emotional intelligence or empathetic qualities to understand, and we may never get them on board. However, in my experience the majority of people are very supportive, and I am thankful for that. I certainly wouldn’t be feeling a lot better today without my support network.
The following weeks were a nightmare for me and of course those close to me. I had to take time off work. Fortunately, I couldn’t have asked my employers to be more understanding of the situation. They have been incredibly supportive, and for that I will always be very grateful. I was told to take as much time as I needed and not to worry about my job. I can only speculate but I don’t think other companies would not have been as understanding. Summit Platforms were superb, and it has made me value my employment with them even more.
I don’t remember a lot about those first few weeks, a combination of long days watching lots of documentaries. For some reason I got really into police documentaries – 24 hours in police custody, Britain’s worst murder cases and others. I guess it was a form of distraction. Most days I would do this till around the early afternoon then I would go for a walk which more often than not coincided with a pit stop into one of three pubs I had frequented on a regular basis. I found this to be an opportunity to escape my negative thoughts and feelings about myself. In reality I was delaying myself confronting my issues and blocking them out until the next day when I would invariably do the same thing again. It’s a vicious cycle, one very hard to break. The more I would drink the better I would feel at that time but then this would lead to feeling worse the day after. I became very crafty in the ways I could hide this from everyone. When I say crafty, mostly that just means lying or not being specific on what I had been doing. I feel very guilty for this now, but at the time I just didn’t care.
From October until well into January this continued even when I went back to work. I would be drinking heavily. Again, I must stress this wasn’t every night but near enough. I think I was able to process it better internally as I wasn’t getting up in the morning and thinking right where is my frosty jacks’ bottle? I need to feel better. It wasn’t like that for me. I enjoyed going to the pub even if it was on my own. I loved to sit for a couple of hours demolish a few pints, watch some sport on tv or just sit on my phone not having to think about why I was so sad. For some, this will be a really alien concept for them to comprehend. Going to the pub on your own? Why do that? Weirdo. Yes I am probably a bit of a weirdo.
The time passed by quickly in those first few months following the night I had decided Nick no longer needed to be on planet earth. Speaking in the third person now, who do I think I am? Craig David? I didn’t feel any better despite having talked to several people. I had also started taking medication along with starting my therapy sessions. Although I am unable to go into the sessions in any detail, I can talk about the process of starting the sessions and what I hope to achieve by going to them. I will cover this in one of the blogs next month. I don’t think I responded well to the ideas of therapy or medication from the doctors, but I felt that I had to try something I had not looked at before. I have had spells of depression throughout my adult life, but I had never tackled it head on. I felt I owed my family and loved ones that. I have put them through enough over the years, I needed to try. But I wasn’t prepared to give up the booze. Why would I? It was a good friend of mine. We had some great times together. The most loyal of companions or so I thought at the time. Analysing it now, old Jonny Drink wasn’t giving me much in return for such devotion.
So much self-loathing in those months from hating how I looked to questioning myself and character. I would wake up every morning and start to recall moments from my past that I am not proud of, the people I have hurt, the mess I have made, the respect I have lost from friends and family. I still thought at many times I would be better off gone, not causing myself or anyone else any pain or suffering. I felt like a burden and had done for some time. I was convinced I’d be deserted by those close to me and that I deserved to be. Christ that is a lot to deal with when you wake up, and then you have the rest of the day to contend with. I probably earned those few pints of “pilsner baby” (see the works of Bootlegger for this reference if you are confused by it) in the evening time.
The cycle was so hard to break but I have, for now. I have to maintain it, otherwise I will be back to a place I don’t want to be.
I feel conscious that I am promising to talk about a lot of things in future blogs so please bear with me. There is so much to unpack and talk about my head is exploding with ideas every week.
Remember to follow me on my social media for updates on new releases. I hope you have enjoyed the blog. Leave me your comments, I genuinely read them all and I’m touched by the warm responses.
Thanks for reading!