I started writing about this in my previous post which you can read here.
So I ended up sitting on Sandylands Promenade, between Heysham and Morecambe, on the morning of April 22nd 1984 (I always thought it was the 21st until I checked on Google Calendar).
Anyway, there I was, no money, nothing to drink, not sure if I had any baccy or papers but I certainly felt as though I was at the end of something.
And it was then that things changed.
Why? I don’t know. It wasn’t as though being thrown out of home was the worst thing that had happened to me. I’d been locked up in a psychiatric hospital, gone through horrendous withdrawals (which I’ll write about in another post), been terrified almost out of my mind. So this, in itself, wasn’t a particularly big deal. But I think, looking back, that all those other experiences had got me to this point, to this ‘moment of sanity’.
Because that’s what it was, a moment of sanity. Sitting there on that bench, looking out over Morecambe Bay, I saw that I had a choice, a chance, something I’d never had before. The choice was, I could carry on drinking and die (not then, but at some point in the not too distant future I was certain that the life I was living would kill me), or put down the drink and try to change. Up to this point alcohol had always been an option. Although I had stopped drinking numerous times, there was always the thought, somewhere in the back of my head, that if things got too bad I could have another drink….. but next time I’d do it differently, next time I wouldn’t let it get out of hand. But I knew now, for the first time, that that wasn’t going to happen. As far as alcohol was concerned I was beaten.
Some other things also started to become clear. I’d always blamed other people or circumstances for my drinking and drug use and that the drink and drugs were my way of dealing with things. Self-pity was my overriding emotion; it wasn’t fair. But I realised then that it was me that had got me to this place; nobody else had poured the drink down my throat, nobody else had made me do the things I had done.
Also, nobody was going to come along and save me. As a child my mum had done everything for me and I still somehow expected (or hoped) that someone was going to look after me, take this all away. But now I could see that it was down to me. I was the only one who could change things
And I started to see the pain I’d caused to other people; for the first time I could get glimpses outside my own pain, my own suffering, and begin to realise that I’d done a great deal of damage along the way.
So I rang Karen, probably reversing the charges, and asked if I could come home. She said I could, but that if I drank I was out. I accepted and went back to my mum’s.
What’s amazing is that the desire to drink had gone. Whereas every other time I’d stopped drinking it had been a case of what AA calls ‘white knuckle sobriety’, hanging on each day thinking ‘I won’t have a drink, I won’t have a drink’, now I didn’t want one. And I haven’t wanted one from that day to this. I was still using Valium and a drug called Heminevrin (clomethiazole), which I had been prescribed while in Ridge Lea Hospital drying out and had persuaded my GP to keep prescribing. Oh, and I was still smoking cannabis, But the alcohol had gone and I knew I would need to deal with the other drugs at some point.
As you can see this isn’t the beginning of a textbook recovery. It took me something like two-and-a-half years to finally get off the Valium (I had been taking about 140mg a day) and I’m not sure about the Heminevrin but I think I was off that in a much shorter time. The cannabis was, in some ways, a more difficult one as I liked the effect generally and wanted to be able to carry on smoking it. But in the end it didn’t fit with the way I was trying to live now (honest, responsible etc. or at least trying to be), so it had to go.
I didn’t go back to AA meetings straight away but I did start trying to put what I’d learned into practice. After two or three months I realised that, if I wanted to stay in recovery, I needed that support so eventually went back.
But I’m still not sure why I managed to recover while others didn’t. In the end I can only think that it had something to do with grace. I’m not religious although I do believe that there is something beyond the everyday, mundane reality we experience, some greater meaning to it all. And possibly my recovery was a gift, something I was granted, not through merit or belief or any of those things, but granted to me when I was ready to receive it and when I was willing to try to do what I needed to do.
So I went back to AA and did two or three meetings a week for about the next fifteen years and things got better. I haven’t been to a 12-step meeting now for over fifteen years and I sometimes think about going back. Not that I’m thinking about drinking or anything like that but it’s easy to just coast along from day to day, doing all the ordinary things; cooking, cleaning, shopping, blogging, reading, and not make time for the things I need to do to continue in recovery.
After all, without my recovery I’ve got nothing. But with it, I’ve got a life I never would have believed possible when I was in the middle of my addictions.
Sorry if this is a bit heavy (early seventies language again), but I’m just writing it as it comes. And, as I’ve said before, this is just how I see it; I don’t expect everyone to see it the same way.