29 years of sobriety

In my early 20s I had a reputation for being trouble but then the alcoholic troubled often are. I was nasty and got nastier the more I drank. I wasn’t physically violent but people were nice to me in a wary kind of way. Had it been possible I would have crossed the road to avoid myself.

Like all alcoholics I drank to change the way I felt and alcohol changed me into a person I despised so I drank to forget her. A perpetual cycle.

On April 23rd 1991 a GP sat me down in his surgery and told me that if I didn’t change my lifestyle then I’d be dead before I was 35. I was 32 years old.

I knew that he wasn’t telling that it would be a brilliant party with great booze and equally great drugs but that my major organs would fail, that I wouldn’t be able to drink enough to stave off the DTs (Delirium Tremens) and I would die painfully and alone.

I wanted to live more than I wanted to drink and working out notice running a pub during my first three weeks of sobriety was one of the worst experiences I’ve had.

As I left the pub for the last time I began a period of mourning. Alcohol was my lover and I had left them without saying goodbye.

It hasn’t been easy getting to this point. A divorce then two bad relationships, being at the point of suicide more than once and so worrying to my GP that he gave me my medication daily. A police officer friend took all the sharp things from my home. A diagnosis of Bipolar I was devastating. I’ve at the point of drinking many times but, believe me, alcohol doesn’t solve problems it makes them worse.

A brief dip into Alcoholics Anonymous taught me how I didn’t want to be and that friendships within “the rooms” could be as unhealthy and destructive as those without.

Twenty years ago I moved to where I’m living now and finally realised that I was allowed to be who I am.

I am a photographer and a writer. If people don’t like me then that’s fine, it’s no business of mine what other people think of me. I don’t want to have more friends than I can count, I don’t need a hectic social life and I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations including my own. I embrace my eccentricity, my imperfections and my tendency to live like a hermit.

As I sat outside last night and wrote this it was still warm from a bright spring day. I listened to some music and sang along to it a bit too loudly. I read my words back to myself and I am both pleased and astounded with how far I’m away from the woman I once was.

Today I’m alive and sober and that’s all I want and need.

I leave you with these words of hope by Leonard Cohen:

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

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