In April 2003 I knew I had to do something about my drinking, since coming back from NYC after Sept 11th 2001 I'd been on a mission of self-destruction hanging around with others who helped enable my drinking and helped at times cover for it at work. However I was a manager of a group and redundancies were looming and I knew I had to help make the decisions over who stayed and who went. I knew I had to try and do that dry (I would have thought sober to myself at the time but that was way beyond my true comprehension then). Also I'd confided in a friend at work about how I was feeling at times he was the first person I chose to have a conversation like that with who didn't drink like me. He looked me in the eye and said "You've got to stop drinking". BANG! That was like a hammer hitting me, most "friends" said "In moderation", "You need to slow down" etc. but this guy was straight in; like a kick in the nuts.
So I signed up to a web site about cutting down your drinking. See I wanted to drink normally of course... not that I ever had but I thought that was the problem. I ignored the advice of the programme I was following and actually did stop totally. I was lucky my withdrawals weren't that bad, some shaking, sweating and feeling generally crap. I kept going to the pub and drinking non-alcoholic lager or coke or whatever but I had stopped. I did the redundancy thing and was pleased with myself. So after some weeks clearly I didn't have a problem I could drink normally now...
So I started again. Maybe a few days, maybe a week it was sort of okay then suddenly I was on a bender. As bad as ever. Confused I went back to the drink diary and trying to control it. Same pattern. Oh complete with lying to myself on the drink diary for an added touch of clear insanity... "Two pints whilst lunching with friends". NO! It was more like 6 pints on my own in a boozer I knew no one from work would be seen dead in! By the way the only person who saw the diary was me - how's that for complete madness?
Okay - change drinks that'll help. So to drinking bitter that'll work. Same issue i.e. few days alright then a bad day without any real reason just the weather or some comment from someone at work or at home and I was off drinking unreasonably again.
So I stopped altogether again. I did about 6 weeks I think then I went on a pub crawl I'd organised. Brilliant that isn't it? A man supposedly not drinking arranging a pub crawl for a cold, wet Thursday in Ramsgate! Not one drop of alcohol passed my lips. Clearly therefore I was cured; it was all over. The next day I had two pints of lager (another change of drink you will note) to celebrate. How mad is that? Within a week I was worse than ever and was banned out of a pub for life simply because of the speed I was drinking, the landlady knew me as a regular and was trying to help me. I never saw it like that at that time sadly.
At that point I gave up giving up - I couldn't do it. Clearly this was all nonsense. I simply had to accept that I had to drink to continue to be, but I hated me and everything. I never seriously considered suicide apart from one day I stood on top of a cliff but frankly if life had just stopped that would have been a fine solution for me it had become a morose, mundane, miserable existence by now.
My wife and I went to Dublin for her 40th birthday - this was a year on from the first decision to cut down/stop. We had one great day on that weekend and one terrible one where I had my "must drink" head on and she was not happy at all. I was back to Guinness by now my preferred weapon of self destruction.
A month later we had some good news and my wife texted me a simple line "tonight we can celebrate". I saw that last word, considered this great news and thought - "My life is still utter shite" and I went off on an all day bender. At home that evening my long suffering wife instead of ignoring me finally bit back and we had the most almighty row which is not how our relationship functions - we don't row. In the middle of that with the swearing and threats etc. I gave up. I lay down and cried and cried. I just wanted it all to stop. That was the moment I made the decision that I had to do something dramatic about my drinking I couldn't continue in this way.
From that day to this I've luckily not taken another drink.
Next installment will be Friday since I'm out and about all day in London tomorrow