I remember the day I first realized that I had a drinking problem. What? Two hands – one mouth? What kind of fucked up anatomy is this?

Kitty has a drinking problem

In the middle of a hot summer in the mythical land of Belgium I woke up in a pile of stinking garbage. I was down a narrow back alley in some small town I’d never heard of. The heat was oppressive and the air was still. For some reason it felt like someone had put a railroad spike thru my skull. Twice. My throat was pretty dry and sore so I picked up what was left of a bottle of vodka and rinsed my mouth out. When I rubbed the aches out of my muscles (sleeping in garbage can leave a crick in your neck), I noticed that my hand came away wet and red. Uh oh…

Being a drunk is a bit rubbish....
Ah… home sweet home…

It took a little investigation to discover that, although I had blood on me, I wasn’t cut. I don’t really remember if I considered that a good thing or a bad thing at the time. My shirt was ostensibly white; the dark staining was really obvious. I took off the shirt and used the material as a cloth to clean the blood off my jacket and skin. Then hid the stained rag in the trash and put on my jacket. I zipped it right up to the top to hide the fact I wasn’t wearing a shirt.

Walking up the street was really uncomfortable, the jacket was hot and the sun was unrelenting. I walked in the shadows, partly to try to keep cool and partly to keep the light from stabbing my eyes out. I took the bottle of vodka with me and sipped it as I walked. It’s one way to cure a hangover.

I remember a middle aged woman, bulky and wrapped in cotton, pushing a little wicker shopping basket on wheels. She paused to glare disapprovingly at me from the safety of the other side of the street. I didn’t even have the energy to glare back.

Then I noticed a cop car had inched alongside me; He had slowed right down. There were two cops sat inside with peaked hats with little silver shiny bits on. The car’s wheels rumbled on the cobbled street and their heads slowly turned in unison to keep me in view. I remember thinking, oh fuck.

I was too messed up to do anything. I hadn’t even noticed them approaching. I was suddenly scared. I realized they’d probably bust me. Then I’d either get jailed or worse, deported. For the first time I saw that I was too messed up to take care of myself. Too weak to run, to drunk to think, too blind to survive. That’s the point I realized that I had a drinking problem.

Is that police car watching me?

Now, with a little hindsight, I’m sure there were a few other little clues that came before that moment, but nothing registered until that point; that instant of realization. Two cops in a car, one with one hand resting on a holster and one hand on the handle to the car door; both watching me stumble. That’s when I knew.

The cops drove right past me and left me standing, shaking inside. I made a decision right then to get my shit together; to make things better. Drinking was making me slow and soft – body and mind. They say you’re 80% water – I was probably 80% proof.

It sounds pretty dramatic – but I reckon those two cops probably saved my life. I have oddly conflicted feelings about that.

The trouble with being dead is that it spoils your good looks....

Of course, cleaning up my act didn’t just happen overnight. It’s not like I haven’t touched a drop since that day. In fact, I think that very day I drove to meet up with an old friend, got completely drunk and behaved in a way I’m surprised he ever forgave me for. But that’s beside the point. The point is that it took quite a random event to shock me into noticing that I was in trouble.

So why is that? Well, I figure that it’s hard to see the things that you do that are self destructive. You rationalize your behaviour. With alcohol in particular it’s a vicious cycle, because the more you drink, the more whacked your rationalizations can be because you’re too drunk to realize.

I’d been having trouble sleeping and found after a few drinks I slept more easily. So when I was tired and couldn’t sleep IWait.... did that snake just twitch? drank. Some days I really couldn’t sleep and so I just kept on drinking. Vodka is one of those subtle ninja drinks that sneak up on you. You take an inch and it tastes like nothing much (unless you have cheap shit – then it tastes like licking a gas tank), then you get that warmth for a while, then it’s gone. It’s not till about half an hour later that you start noticing you’re getting drunk. That means that if you stop drinking when you’ve had a bit too much – you’ve got another half an hour of drinks still to catch up. That’s probably a lot too much. The drinking made my sleeping worse until I couldn’t sleep at all – I just drank till I passed out, then when I regained consciousness I just did it again. It was pretty much a way of life.

I thought at first that the only reason that I managed to get that far gone was due to being on the road alone so that there was nobody to shake me out of it. But I’m not sure that’s true. If anything I think having friends round you can make it worse.

I once lived with a guy called Ed who also used to drink a lot of vodka. At the time there were quite a bunch of us all living in collection derelict buildings. Often when times are hard the drink flows a little more easy – I guess because you need to just blow off steam, get drunk, and forget your troubles a while. Ed drank more vodka than anyone else. He was well known for it. So, you know what the guys did for his birthday? They fitted an extra tap in his room, connected to a long copper pipe up to the roof. Then they stole sixty litres of Russian vodka, filled up a barrel and hooked it up. It was pure vodka on tap. At the time it was funny. He laughed. They laughed. Everyone had a drink. Sometimes I wonder what kind of friends would provide vodka on tap to a borderline alcoholic.

What Johnny didn't know is that they had swapped his whisky for cat urine...

The answer is easy. Pretty much anyone is capable of that. Why? Because your friends are not responsible for your drinking. Your friends are not responsible for your life. Come to that, the social services are not responsible for your life, nor the doctors, or head shrinks, or counsellors, or family, or whoever else we might find to prop up our fucked up world view. It’s a hard fact to learn, but there’s only one person who really, honestly gives a shit about you. You know who that is?

You.

You’re the only person that cares. Nobody else.

If your life is mess, nobody really cares. Your friends may help you out if you ask; your family may help you out even if you don’t. But they’ll probably only help if you’re fighting hard yourself. They can’t fix your fucked up life if you won’t fix it yourself.

But how can you try to fix it if you haven’t noticed you’re in trouble?

Quite simply: You can’t.

So what can you learn from this?

Well, firstly you need to keep an eye on yourself. Take a moment right now. Are things going in the direction you have chosen for yourself? If your life isn’t the way you think it should be, just know this: You can never blame your problems on anyone else. No one cares if your life sucks and no one cares if it isn’t your fault. It may not be your fault – but it’s your problem and you’d better deal with it.

Once you’ve done that, maybe also look to those you love and see if they might need a shake. You can’t be responsible for their life, or for their fuck ups, but maybe you can be two cops in a car. Put one hand on your holster and one hand on the door handle; just drive by.