“I believe that actually admitting to it is crucial. I want to show that perhaps people’s perception of alcoholism isn’t as severe as they may think and that perhaps alcoholism is a lot more apparent than most people may first think.”
I didn’t think I’d find myself agreeing to interview an alcoholic. I didn’t think they’d be coherent enough to say anything interesting but those words struck me. As with any interview I do, I ask that you read this with an open mind. This interview is part of my series, Does Normal Exist? A series of articles and interviews on those who appear normal but lead odd lives. To read part one click here.
When did you realise you were an alcoholic?
When did I realise I was an alcoholic? I’ve worried for a good few months.
I told myself I was about 2 months ago, but I wouldn’t have dared admit it to anyone, or I suppose really to myself. I’m not reliant on it in the sense I wake up and need a quarter bottle of vodka next to the bed. It’s a more social thing. I’ll go to the pub with mates, for something to do, pass the time and have fun around people. Throughout, you make a couple of trips to the bar, fine. A couple of pints are to be expected when out at a bar. The trouble I find is, I find myself boring sober with most people. I only “connect” fully with a few and bring myself to be happy-go-lucky, witty and I suppose outgoing and laid back around them no hassle. Others however, the majority, I began relying on alcohol to help loosen myself up so I can be like…myself I guess- around everyone, not just those I connect with.
So a couple pretty much 90% of the time turns into 6 or 8. That tenner you take out with you for that strict couple lasts as long as you realise there’s a cash point around the corner. That’s another thing I hate about alcohol. Take away the money I spent in bars and clubs over the past year- I sincerely reckon it’s 4 digits. Imagine what you could afford with £1000 (thinking over the past 3 or 4 years- it’ll be WAY over that)? I wish I had £1000 disposable income right now. The funny thing? Well, more tragic- I deemed alcohol a way to blow that amount of money. I chose to throw it away in such a wasteful manner. That’s what is in my mind right now- you spend money to forget your night essentially. Would it not be worth remembering memories, cherishing life? Instead of making it impossible to remember part of your life?
The main effect I really despise now is the day after. You may have had a good time while it lasted the night before, but I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve came home, got into bed and been lying there thinking about how much I hate life, the way people act, the way I act and what motivates people. Then you wake up the next day with no energy, no motivation and unable to do anything productive. So now I’ve forgotten times of my life, and wasted days of my life. I’ve, fortunately, still got things to fight for though. I’m close to becoming a graduate and my studies are about real interests of mine. I have an amazing girlfriend that somehow continues to stand by me- I need to come to terms with my problem and defeat it or risk losing her and that in itself would be devastating. I hold real ambition to succeed in life and to use that drive, I need to have my motivation and energy in top gear, not sapped in a hangover.
Anyway, I feel I may have sidetracked slightly. My main point I’m trying to get across is I count myself as an alcoholic, yet I’m not out drinking every night. A couple of nights a week usually, and that’s a lot less than some people I know. Why then, am I the alcoholic and not the others? I can tell you why- because they do it for fun. Don’t get me wrong, I do it to have a good time, but I use the alcohol to aid me to have a good time. It’s that use (abuse), that’s what makes me the alcoholic.
Who else have you told? Do you intend to tell anyone?
My partner knows, she’s very concerned. I’ve spoken to my dad as well as he’s a recovering alcoholic and I think he could help me. My mum’s concerned too, I haven’t admitted it to her yet. She’s been concerned for years.
Are you stopping drinking completely?
For now, I’m completely not drinking. Even for the next few weeks, I’m not going to go anywhere with a bar. We’ll see in future, but I don’t see why I would drink even in moderation once I’ve stopped.
When you you initially approached me about this interview, you spoke about denial and the excuses you gave yourself. Can you go into more detail?
The denial comes from denying I have a problem. I’ve promised myself and my girlfriend I would quit drinking. That I’d only go and a have a couple- that I won’t get drunk… and I’ve broken those, in the past few months alone at least 4 or 5 times. I like to believe my overall personality is an honest one, where if I say I’m going to do something, I do it to the best of my ability. I guess that helped me recognise this as a problem, because time and time again I’ve failed. Recently I’ve started using occasions. It’s a birthday, a celebration, a victory- “I’ve earned it.” There are better ways to celebrate life’s triumphs. Ways that will help the occasion stand out and be remembered in an even greater light.
How has it affected other people in your life? Has it at-all?
Not a lot of people really know. Obviously, friends have just seen me as a guy having fun that can occasionally go too far- I think they see it as a more malicious side where I can have some proper venom to spit, but generally it’ll be aimed at something that has pissed me off, so people can see where I come from at least. Though again, generally I don’t see myself as a guy to draw on others downfalls, and to be honest it’s a bit hypocritical when I know my own.
There are a select few around me that now know the extent, and that deeply concerns and affects them. I know they can’t and won’t suffer through quietly and consistently be there if I don’t change. It’s unfair to expect them to do so, especially when one closest is your partner. There is no obligation for them to put up with it, and to be honest, I truly do care for her- putting her through the pain and worry it causes doesn’t prove that feeling for her, and if she doesn’t see that effort, then what proof is there I feel it at all? My word? That’s already been thrown out with the promises I would quit before. So that’s one motivation to stop- to put those closest to me out of their misery and show I care.
Addicts, whether it’s to drugs, alcohol or even recently, sex are generally seen by the public/media as being pretty scummy and usually considered to be low-lives. There’s not a pretty picture painted and certainly not much sympathy, does this worry you at-all?
This could prove controversial. Addicts; I’ve generally looked upon with contempt. I have an outlook on life that we all live our own lives, we make our own choices and it is up to the individual to accept when to throw their hands up and take responsibility. Equally, they need to look for and actively engage when looking to change their lifestyle. If you don’t like something, do something about it- don’t expect sympathy or to be spoon-fed.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see myself as a low-life, or “scum.” I’m not stealing from people to fund an addiction, I’m not hopelessly desperate- yet here I am. I’m not sure “addict” is the correct term to describe myself, I’d say more “dependent.” Don’t get me wrong, if I don’t change my habit, the way I abuse alcohol- it will become an addiction. However, I still firmly believe that even as an addict, you need to take responsibility. Don’t wait for people to carry you. They always say “do it for yourself” so why should you need someone else?
I’m not sure how that comes across really, callous or merely providing my opinion. I guess people can judge for themselves.
I don’t think it’s callous. How long have things been this way?
That one’s a difficult one to pinpoint. I’ve seen it in myself especially in the past few months, but I’ve been going out, getting extremely drunk, and worried people with it on occasions for probably about 5 years.
I’ve turned to alcohol as a means to celebrate, numb and socialise for as long as I’ve been able to get my hands on it. It’s my birthday? Let’s get drunk. Split up with a girlfriend? Let’s get drunk. What are we up to this weekend? Let’s get drunk.
There’s been a few occasions when people have grown concerned and I know admitting it now will not surprise a fair few people.
Do you feel remorseful or ashamed?
My perspective on life is everything I’ve done in the past has led me to where I am now. The alcohol dependence aside, I have a lot going for me right now. If I changed something from the past, I may not have the elements of my life I have now. So in that aspect, I don’t regret anything.
There are things that perhaps I acknowledge I could have/should have handled better. As mentioned earlier, I can spit some venom. When I’m drunk and someone or something has angered or frustrated me, combined with my way with words- I can be harsh and merciless. In relation to that, I acknowledge I have reacted in ways I perhaps could have been more diplomatic.
When you’re drunk to the extent I get, you don’t take that moment’s hesitation to analyse how you’re choosing to react. You have a sense that you’re right and therefore move forward with no brakes.
Just under a year ago I said to you that I got so drunk I just lost sense of who I was, I said I felt ashamed and you said that if I start thinking about those things, I’m taking the fun out of it.
I don’t think I realised as much about myself as I do now. There are nights when you go out, drink too much but still have a good night. However, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been brought down by it. I mentioned earlier there’s time when I arrive home and everything just annoys you and you literally hate everything around you, including yourself. That isn’t fun. Alcohol is a depressant and I think people forget that when they’re having a good time.
Alcohol isn’t a healthy thing- drinking too much can damage you and I don’t think I’ve come to realise the physical aspect of that, but I’m definitely seeing it wear at aspects of my life. It hasn’t broken me yet, but it will if I don’t defeat it now.
You drank to have a good time? Therefore you don’t want the thoughts that drag you down- otherwise the whole purpose of drinking the alcohol has failed. If it fails too many times, that’s when the damage occurs.
How do you feel about this realisation that you’ve experienced? Are you relieved? Upset?
I’m disappointed in myself for letting it get to as far as it has. Talking about all of it is part of me confessing it, so that people can see how easy it is to fall into. That’s not an excuse, I said before everyone makes their own choices in life. I’ve made mine, and now I’m making the decision to change it. So in that aspect, I feel stronger- I’m motivated and I have the determination to see the change through to make my life better. How I want it to be.
Drinking is such a huge part of British culture, we all do it quite a lot and as well, you are friends with a lot of big drinkers. Do you think you’ll successfully refrain from alcohol?
I have to. Those I’m scared of losing won’t give me endless chances, and I’ve used up a fair few already. It’s completely up to me to ignore the temptations around me. As for my friends, they’re entitled to do as they please. I don’t expect people to alter who they are just because I’ve made mistakes and am now needing to fix myself. I would however ask for the respect in return of what I show to them, and they’re not my friends for no reason- I know they will.
You seem really confident in your own willpower, are you certain that’s enough?
Honestly…no. I’ve said it before and if my willpower was enough, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I have a great realisation now, that’s the difference. I’m talking here to put all my thoughts out there, so I can actually see my thought process. So I can see my weaknesses and equally strengths. I need to construct a plan and follow it to the letter. The motivation of not losing those important to me- that’s enough.
My ambition and drive- the only way I will succeed is if I can push forward with clarity and my full enthusiasm that only comes with not having such a thing wear me down.
Are you scared?
I’d say I’m more nervous, because I know what’s at stake. I can’t afford to not succeed- I see it as more of a challenge than a foe. A challenge can be beaten by anyone, a foe can overpower anyone.
Do you feel you have lost some part of who you are or come close to it due to your dependency?
I think as I’ve came to realise my dependency I’ve managed to save myself slightly. I was in a much worse way a year/2 years ago when I didn’t realise. I spoke about those I can connect with sober earlier- those people know me, but perhaps those that do not really know me as well have missed out on a part of me. They know me, but through some kind of alcohol infused artificial way. I guess I will find out if my dependency has robbed me of the ability to “connect” with new people.
If somebody reads this interview and identifies with everything you’re saying but doesn’t think they have the strength to just stop and take control, what is your advice to them?
Look around themselves. If they identify with what I’ve said they may feel like they’re responsible for themselves, and therefore it is up to them if they want to take control or not- but while you may continue the way you have been…others around you are suffering for your choice and take a moment to really think about if you want those people to suffer solely because of yourself and your decision. If you truly care about them, that would be your worst nightmare.
On a final note, I’d just like to repeat it is better making life memorable than not remembering it. You can have great nights out, but when you can’t remember part of the night, you’ve just wasted time. I’ve found it difficult to come to that conclusion but I really believe it. I can also only hope those that have shown concern for me see this, accept it and are still there to see me come out the other side of this and share in my ambitions becoming reality. Which is up to me to make happen, it’s my choice.