When I was young my dad drank beer from glasses he kept in the freezer & poured it from the big brown bottles. I thought it looked wonderful & surely better tasting than any soft drink. My disappointment when I found it was bitter tasting was compensated by the realisation that it gave you a pleasant buzz & a dreamy feeling of relaxation. I soon decided that I would like to have more than the glass I was allowed at dinner occasionally to see if I got more of a buzz. One night I stayed over at a friends & thinking this was the perfect time to get drunk as my parents wouldn’t find out I skulled down a bottle of Muscat wine. My plan to escape detection was spoiled when I fell down splitting my head open & was taken to hospital where they pumped my stomach.
Figuring I needed to go further afield for my next experiment I took a bottle of bourbon to Rottnest Island (for those not familiar it is a small holiday destination some 15 miles of the coast of Perth). Planning on making it last a week I tried to drink it all the first night, blacked out & was arrested for disturbing the peace, spent the night in jail & was deported from the island the following day under police escort. I went to children’s court but was let off with a warning.
Subsequent efforts saw me picked up for under age drunken driving & involved in fights. It all sounds too predictable but I really wasn’t that sort of kid. I had been brought up well, given love & attention, excelled at sports, was popular with my peers & did well academically so the anti social behaviour was right out of character. I see such things now as simply typical alcoholic behaviour but it took me 20 years of trying to drink like others before I understood this.
After I left high school with a university matriculation (just) I decided that a few years of seeing the world were in order & promptly entered the hospitality industry. Now there’s a good trade for an apprentice drunk. Under the guise of food & wine appreciation or industry shmoozing I dined out or partied out 7 nights a week, often drinking through the night before coming in to work for a split shift, to sweat it out in the kitchen, before doing it again. Some nights I drove home with a hand over 1 eye to make the road behave while others I just slept in my car down the beach so I could fall into the water to wake up next day.
During this time I also travelled round Australia extensively with a guitar & backpack getting into drugs up in Northern NSW & generally doing the hippy thing. I remember others thinking me odd because even when stoned or tripping on LSD I still drank alcohol. Eventually I gave up mind expanding drugs because they interfered with the effect of the drink.
After my 3 year Hospitality Industry phase I enrolled at U.W.A to do Arts. My plan was to get a Music degree but I spent most of my time chasing Catholic girls & drinking at the Tavern. Toward the end of my first year I joined a Rock & Roll band & dropped out. From a motorcycle accident, a year or so before, I received a $10,000 compensation payout & proceeded to live the life of the idle rich. I earned cash money from my band jobs & made up the slack from my bank account when I felt my lifestyle needed cranking up. I was pretty popular with the others in the band as I would always make sure there was a case of cold ones for band practice. At this stage I didn’t yet NEED the booze I just wanted it there all the time. This ten year period of my life in the music industry could fill a book with anecdotes but it’s really just a gradual decline.
I took a trip after the first 4 years, to India, where the alcohol was expensive & of bad quality & I remember noticing then that I needed my drink of a night or I got very cranky. Others who I drank hard with at home would forego it as it was too expensive to buy quality & they would rather smoke a cheap joint but I needed it.
My last couple of years in the music business got pretty messy. I had become like the drunk in the Big Book “More about Alcoholism” who begins to use a combination of booze & high powered sedatives to get through the day. One occasion in Melbourne, after a fight with my girlfriend, I drank most of a wine cask then got on the tram down to St Kilda for a gig. I feel asleep on the tram & woke up back in Richmond. I took a taxi to the gig & started drinking again when I got there. My memory of performing is vague but I stumbled around playing lots of bum notes & generally let the team down. If we had not been on tour with no replacement handy I would have been fired next day & believe me it is not easy to get fired from a Pub Band.
I had started also to hit the detox centres as I could not stop drinking under my own will any more. Morning drinking was the norm rather than the cute party trick I once thought it. The last phase of my life as an active alcoholic was in some ways the hardest. Controlled drinking. I was fortunate enough to be granted an opportunity to get off the Rock & Roll merry go round when a friend offered me a position in a fledgling electronics company. I had gotten in to a relationship that I wanted to keep & all in all it seemed a good chance to start again. I entered a detox for what I hoped would be the last time, went on a health food diet & moved in with my girlfriend to a lovely house in Fremantle. Well anyone who had tried controlled drinking knows the hell I went through. Suffice to say that 3 years later the girlfriend was gone & gradually, or in fact quite quickly, everything else decent or good about my life followed her out the door.
I entered a period of purgatory which was to last 2 years. A nervous breakdown, several detoxes a suicide attempt & black black depression which accompanied my every waking moment. If I ever get the slightest bit complacent I think of this period & literally shudder. Faced with the choice of a fast death & having to live through it again the choice would be simple. Toward the end of it my body began to fail. Constant vomiting, wetting the bed, fevers, shakes, nightmares all the symptoms of late stage alcoholism. I read an article with a list of symptoms & there were very few to go before wet brain or death. AND YET I STILL KEPT TRYING TO DRINK LIKE OTHER PEOPLE!!!! Clearly I was insane.
There had been some contact with AA during the final year & I had a Big Book & some tapes but until I surrendered unconditionally these were of no help. This surrender came after the suicide attempt was aborted. Realising there was no longer a quick way out I had to face the prospect of continuing to live this way. During the withdrawal of what was to prove my last detox (yet) I simply surrendered my life to God & AA.
Looking back from what is, today, 16 months & 18 days of sobriety it seems puzzling that I ever drank. Once the physical withdrawal was gone I began to get well very quickly & all the AA knowledge I absorbed began to flourish. It is really like a demon was exorcised & I have trouble recalling the person I was at the end. I have not had a desire to drink in this time. Having said that I will emphasise that I have a home group, a sponsor & attend a minimum of 3 meetings a week, 1 ID, 1 Steps & 1 Spiritual Concept. Almost all of my friends are in the fellowship as is my housemate. I have a position of service at 2 groups & always stick around after a meeting to help clean up & chat.
It is my observation that those I admire & try to emulate in AA are invariably in the centre of things & they are the ones who seem to enjoy their lives & carry their serenity with them. As it says on Page 25 of the Big Book. “The great fact is this & nothing less: That we have deep & effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionised our whole attiitude toward ourself, toward our fellows & toward God’s universe.” Now if only I can give up smoking” 🙂