I have a problem …. by Ash Pryce
So today I’m putting one up myself. This was really difficult to write. It is not exclusively mental health related, but it does have an impact on my mental health. And for that reason I wanted to share it.
When I turned 18 I said I didn’t want to drink. I hadn’t had more than a glass of wine at Christmas dinner at most. I wasn’t one of those kids that bought bottles of cider at 14 and sat drinking with friends. To be fair that might be more to the fact I had few people I would call a friend.
When I turned 18 it was almost considered a thing to do to drink, I actually refused but a friend insisted on giving me a beer. It was awful. Hated it. Then a few months later I decided I wanted to see what being drunk was like. I was a pathetic lightweight- 1 Barcadi Breezer and two pints of beer and I was right royally fucked. I ran out of the bar pretending to be Superman and decided to lick the pavement. Not my best moment. But from then on I started drinking. Not much, once every couple of weeks, then that turned in to a 2 litre bottle of cider every Saturday night.
When my nan died and I found myself living by myself this regular cider soon became cheap white cider because it got me pissed easily and was only £2 a bottle. This continued and soon became a two or three times a week habit. I would sometimes wait until my pay went in at midnight on a Thursday and then headed out to a late bar. When I was on job Seekers allowance I would go to the Spar at midnight to buy a bottle of Vodka- usually with a friend, at that stage I wouldn’t drink a spirit by myself. That’s what alcoholics do.
Sometimes I’d get a box of wine and drink most of it in one night. I could, and can drink a lot. I can comfortably drink at least twice what my friends can. And some of them can drink well.
I did think I had a problem once, I was losing time at work and eventually lost my job because of the amount of times I called in “sick”. I wasn’t always a nice drunk- never violent I must add. But verbally I could be insanely vicious. I never got a punch though. And I have had some amazing times whilst drunk- one memory involves me and a friend drinking whisky in a small pub in a village before deciding to try and walk the 40 miles form Leicester to Birmingham, across fields and through deserted woods. We called directory enquiries and asked for directions and stopped motorists to ask- pretending we were in the army and on manoeuvres. Also if it wasn’t for the Dutch courage the booze gave me in talking to women I would not be as – how to put this delicately? – “Experienced” as I am now. Drunk in moderation alcohol can be part of a fun night and healthy lifestyle.
I moved to Scotland just over 5 years ago and moved in with my dad. He is an alcoholic. Been clean for a couple of years now and doing well. But sitting drinking with him some nights I was intrigued to find I could get rather close to matching him drink for drink. In the past few years I’ve tended to drink – get drunk really – twice a week on average. Previously it was two 2 litre bottles of regular cider twice a week (I haven’t touched the white stuff in years, well not with enough frequency to discuss it here.). So basically I was having around 15 pints of cider a week. Every week.
Now as an aside I should say I don’t want to discuss the “21 Units Recommended Weekly Intake” because it’s flawed and only good as a scare tactic. One person could healthily drink 40 units, another struggle past 10. As a guideline it’s not bad, but as anything else it’s not worth considering.
I can also quite easily put away a bottle of 40% spirit in one night, and since I have stopped drinking cider – on a low carb diet! – I have pretty much replaced the cider with spirits. Now that is not only damaging to my wallet but also substantially more alcohol than is in the cider. Looking at 30 units a bottle I can easily put up to 60 units a week away. And that’s not good in anybody’s book.
A short while back I wrote a poem about my feelings of drink and my dad. I suppose here is a good a place as any to share it:
“The kitchen’s in a mess again
A dark and wretched stinking den
12 litres of cider on the side
All now empty
Cleaning? Why try?
Promises made. Promises broken.
We’re out of electric. Cider or tokens
There’s food in the fridge to last us a day.
But payments at least a fortnight away.
Begging and borrowing just to get drunk.
Grammatically slurred, and breath of a skunk
Missed opportunities and screw ups in life
Wasted potential, and of course other people’s strife.
Regrets and remorse. Swearing to stop.
Tomorrow though, “promise”. Tonight just one more drop.
Sausages. Pizza. Chips fried in fat.
Too lazy to cook anything but crap.
You see I live with my father. An alcoholic. A drunk most of his life.
And it’s his kitchen. His regrets. His cider on the side.
I look at the man on the sofa. The man I’ll grow to be.
But with a heavy heart I look in the mirror, and realise that’s already me.”
Now I don’t wake up craving alcohol. Never have. I never get withdrawals, and I never get the shakes. I don’t usually drink during the day and I don’t drink every day- I can’t actually. Two days in a row is too much to take. But any sensible person would say I’m drinking too much.
As I mention earlier, this isn’t even the first time I’ve thought this. Years ago I was concerned about my drinking and made an attempt to control it. But failed. Since I started drinking 10 years ago I think the longest I have gone without a drink is 6 weeks- and that is because I had to. After a rather abusive phone call to my then partner I was ordered off the booze by her and lasted 6 weeks. Then I was back on it. Apart from that time the longest I have gone is a fortnight, that was recently. And that is where the link to my mental health comes in.
I was off booze for a fortnight, and this coincided with me feeling fan-bloody-tastic. The best I’ve felt. My depression had lifted and I felt eager, energized and back to some semblance of my “old self”. I wasn’t sure at the time just what was having the effect- was it my new meds? Was it my new exercise regime? That I’d lost weight? Was it that I was drinking less? Was it all of the above?
My meds are certainly helping, but being off the booze had a major effect that now I’m drinking again I have noticed a serious dip. And my paranoia is back (Not helped by the fact I’ve forgotten my meds these past few days).
And also, I don’t like drunk me. He’s a prick. He’s amusing up to a certain stage, but then he becomes a bit of a dick. Demanding of more booze, banter becomes rude, a bit of a lecherous old git and generally not a very nice person. Not one I’d want to spend time with. But the most devastating thing has been the way it has affected my depressive mood.
I’m almost feeling as if I’m back to square one. My mood is low, my fear of going out has returned. And I’ve done some really stupid things in the past week that I’m ashamed of. Some I’m not ashamed of, but would have happened with or without drink eventually anyway.
I don’t say I’m an alcoholic. But I do say I have a problem. And this problem is having such a detrimental effect on my health that I need to address it now. But, I don’t know how. Social situations almost demand you drink and not drinking leads to all sorts of assumptions from others. I do have a problem but I don’t want people in the pub to think that! What I do know is I don’t like feeling like this, I see the affect it is having on my wallet, my social life, my friends and my mental health. I don’t like being like this, I don’t like drunk me. And at this stage, simply saying “cut down” won’t work. I can’t cut down. I can’t just decide to have one drink in a bar, I want another and another and another. For the sake of my mental health above all I need to stop. Do I need to stop forever? Maybe. Can I accept that I might have to stop forever? No. I can completely understand the alcoholic mantra of “I’m not going to drink TODAY”. Because admitting you might have a problem is hard. Seeing how it affects your mental health is distressing.
So for my health, my sanity and my friends… I’m not going to drink today.