Today I mark twelve years since I last had any alcohol.
To people who drink normally or excessively that sounds like an awfully long time and a great achievement. But it’s not, it doesn’t feel like that to me. I guess because I got to a point where I knew that what had formerly been an obsession, a compulsion for me, had lifted and that I would have to go out of my way to have a drink – that there’d need to be a really good reason for it, and I didn’t have any reasons left. It also doesn’t feel like *my* achievement, I did it together with some amazing, generous, funny, sometimes infuriating, but always loving friends.
I had my first drink at around 13 or 14. I had a traditionally blurry British teenhood and twenties but by my thirties it was becoming boring. My alcoholism wasn’t particularly spectacular or dramatic or obvious to everyone around me. Though I had my moments. It was more that I used it to deal with feeling uncomfortable in life, uncomfortable with people, uncomfortable being me. Also, I had a great physical capacity for drinking and thought that because I could drink right up till closing time, then I should. And when I tried to moderate it or stop completely on my own, I was horrified to find that I couldn’t. I had to find a way of living with and overcoming the discomfort rather than anaesthetising it with booze.
Early in 2002, I thought that being sober would make my life boring, but life actually got much bigger – most people reading this have only got to know me since that time. It would be nice to think that I was a pain in the neck to people when I was drinking but when I stopped that stopped too, but it hasn’t been quite that simple.
If you’re struggling with drinking too much or too often or you just don’t like the person you become when you drink, you might find that total abstinence is the best route for you too. I wasn’t able to do it alone. Living in London, it wasn’t hard to find help in the company of the fine men and women of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve seen the Twelve Steps work miracles for people who were otherwise hopeless, but there are lots of ways of achieving this, don’t let anyone tell you that there’s only one path to recovery.