This October if I make it to October, because I take it one day at a time, I will be sober for two years. Back then, I was working full time in an office in the IT industry. I lived alone in a foreign country and entangled in a very co-dependant relationship with a friend who was not very well. We were not lovers but spent a ridiculous amount of time together. I saw my two kids only at the weekends, (luckily for us all) and I had debts that I couldn’t manage. I couldn’t understand where all the money was going. At one stage my bank card was cancelled because of my consistent over draft. My bills lay unopen for weeks, and I wouldn’t even open the letter box until I really needed to.
I have failed at two long term partnerships, each lasting about seven years. My work life was terrible. I was being abused by my boss in a foreign language and couldn’t defend myself. Half the time I was probably so mentally exhausted I just took the easy option and let many things slide that I shouldn’t have. I wasn’t capable of taking responsibility for my life.
I was coming home every evening and before my coat was off, my glass was full. I spent the evening in front of the pc playing games, on facebook, or watching porn – sometimes all three at the same time.
The previous summer I found myself with a girlfriend who moonlighted as a hooker. One night in her company, I watched her, two other women and a guy snort coke from a kitchen countertop. As I observed, I felt like my life had become sleazy and completely opposite to what I wanted for myself. I had never touched coke in my life. Having an addictive personality doesn’t mean that you attract lots of people who like you. It means you get addicted to stuff. I knew coke would be no different for me. My lover drew her fingers together and pursed her lips, making the French sign suggesting I was anally retentive – in other words scared. I explained away my fear, and told her it made logical sense for me not to do coke – but she was right – I was terrified of the consequences. If I had coked that evening I believe I wouldn’t be sober today.
The evening deteriorated into a feast of drink, drugs and sex. While I was all for having a threesome with two girls, I had no interest in having another guy watch. We retired to the bathroom and had our fun. For a few days afterwards I had a queasy feeling. My mood was off and I tried to bury my discomfort in alcohol. As the summer moved on so did my partner, but not before she came to dinner with her kids. My children talked with hers around the table as she and I drank in the kitchen. We moved out onto the balcony and had sex in view of the whole neighbourhood. I was conscious of the kids on the other side of the glass-curtained door, but we were quiet, fast and furious. Despite laughing together about it afterwards, inside the shame I felt at possibly exposing our kids to something they didn’t need to be, was overwhelming.
When I realised she had moved on I assumed I wasn’t crazy enough for her. I had noticed for some time sex didn’t hold the same interest for me. It was difficult to be stimulated for long, and basically I was at the point where I didn’t really give a fuck anymore, literally as well as figuratively. Her moving on was more of a relief than anything else.
I found myself with no money in my pocket to celebrate my upcoming birthday and all my accounts were in the red. I had never not celebrated my birthday and the previous year I had invited everyone from work to celebrate with me. Now they hated me and I hated them back. But I needed a drink and was down to my last litre of wine. I drank the speciality of the local supermarket known as Chateau Cardboard, or plonk in a box depending on your level of sophistication. I got onto social media and launched a birthday event where I introduced the French to the term BYOB – bring your own Bouteille. It worked a treat. About 20 people turned up and being generous brought two or three bottles each. My friend with whom I shared the co-dependant relationship, got very ill from drinking too much. As usual she performed her usual drunk antics of pushing her ass up against me and sticking her tongue in my mouth. We partied all night. She slept on my bed. My kids slept in theirs. Yes they had witnessed the joys of an adult getting blind drunk. They had witnessed me get hyper. I had managed to keep myself more or less together, till I got them to bed.
The fact that I had easily drunk four or five bottles, control or lack of control wasn’t really a factor as far as I was concerned. I had developed a tolerance to alcohol that I now find incredible. There was so much booze in the house for the next couple of days it felt like paradise. Each morning I would get up to go to work and see the line of rose bottles in the fridge. Instantly my tongue would itch. I would rub my hand over my mouth telling myself to at least wait till lunch time. Each evening I would come home and my glass that held about a half pint of wine, would be full before I sat down.
Then it happened. The very last day of September, 9 days after the party, at 3am, I placed my glass on the table. I remember distinctly giggling and saying goodbye to it as I stumbled to bed. I woke up as normal about 6.30am to get to work. As I fell against the wall getting out of bed, I realised I was still drunk. My very next thought was “I need AA.”
The thought hadn’t come out of the blue. Since I was a kid I had known and heard about AA from extended family. Fifteen years ago I had what I considered a bottom, when I pissed myself in my bed. It was enough to scare me off alcohol for six months. But I had no program, no higher power, no sponsor and I gave in again. I found the number online and I rang AA. The person on the other end told me someone would contact me later.
When I got to work I was almost immediately called into the office. I was informed they were cutting down on contractors and I had been elected to go. Despite what was said, I knew it was personal. It was a huge relief, almost a gift. That evening I had promised to take photographs for an artist I knew who was having an exhibition at a local hotel. There was a lot of free wine on offer. I was shaking like a leaf. I knew if I touched it I was finished and I would never get to AA. I took my photos and discussed my concerns about drinking with a lady friend who was there. She encouraged me, with a glass in her hand, not to drink. That evening, after several missed calls, I made contact with an AA member. It was October first – 23 hours since I had waved goodbye to that drink on the table.
It was still sitting there. I poured it down the sink and looked around my grotty apartment. Life was looking pretty grim. I was on the point of losing my job. I had given up my sports life because of the effects of alcohol. My sex life, emotional health, financial situation and living conditions were complete shit. My only saving grace was that I showered regularly and kept myself clean. I could feel the alcohol leaving my body already.
I walked into my first meeting and some guy gave me a filthy look. Despite the urge to leave, I took a seat anyway. I was shaking and white as a sheet. I had no problem saying “I am Colm, I am an alcoholic.” I didn’t even see the steps hanging on the wall until my third meeting which happened to be the next day at lunch time.
I had already done the first step when I made that phone call and chose to sit down rather than run away. I am doing it again now writing this. I admit I am powerless over alcohol and my life was totally unmanageable. I mean when you read through this, does it sound like I was managing anything?