real life

"For me, alcohol is poison." A letter from the former life and soul of the party.

Today I read Keith Richards has given up booze.

“It’s been about a year now,” he told Rolling Stone.

“I pulled the plug on it. I got fed up with it. It was time to quit.”

Yay Keith. Then I read the rest of the story. The hardest man in rock and roll still drinks: “A glass of wine occasionally, and a beer.”

Whatever, Keith Richards is 74 and knows addiction inside out.

He famously freed himself from cocaine and heroin in the late 1970s . I couldn’t care less about whether Keith Richards really is sober or not. Lots of people will, of course. But for me, reading that he was fed up with booze made a lot of sense.

I’ve recently been searching for reasons about how and why I’ve managed to make it three whole years without a drink when before that I struggled with three alcohol-free days.

“I got fed up with it,” from a wrinkly rocker seems pretty close to my truth for two reasons. By the time I stopped drinking, I WAS fed up with it. I was fed up with being addicted to something, being sick all the time and being pretty close to messing up the really great stuff in my life.

Also, this isn’t my first attempt at recovery. A decade of trying everything from support groups, medical assistance, professional therapy and in-patient rehab has shown me we’re more likely to find freedom when we look for similarities in each other’s stories rather than differences.

While Keith might still dabble, for me, there’s no such thing as an occasional drink. For me, alcohol is poison. Three years since my last boozy night, I’d no sooner pour myself a glass of wine than I would unscrew the cap on a bottle of bleach and tip it down my neck.

alcohol and anxiety depression
Three years since my last boozy night, I’d no sooner pour myself a glass of wine than I would unscrew the cap on a bottle of bleach and tip it down my neck. Image: Getty.
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There’s just no safe way for me to drink any alcohol, ever. If I did, it’s not going to be fun, exciting, relaxing or any of the other things we associate with drinking, especially at this time of year when Christmas and summer holidays collide.

To get graphic, one sip of bleach or wine could result in an ambulance ride, a stomach pumping and coming to in hospital with no idea what’s going on or where I am. I’ve been to the emergency room before and it wasn’t on my final boozy night out.

It also wasn’t the famous rock bottom of books and movies. It was just another time I drank more than I intended to. Even still, I wasn’t done with drinking. I wasn’t done with the danger, the sickness, the drama and the devastating toll it was taking on every part of my life. Until somehow I was.

The last time I stopped drinking the feeling of being fed up stuck with me. The cravings for freedom from addiction were finally stronger than the cravings for booze and oblivion. Being fed up led me to relief, liberation. I’m not at war with myself the way I was when I was drinking. I’m no longer fed up of everything.

I’m different now, of course. I’ll no longer be the life of your party. Or think I am. I won’t make you question why we’re even friends when you have to argue with me to leave your house long after every other guest has gone. I also won’t steal your wine glass when I finally go because there’s still some liquid left in it. And I won’t collapse in a heap as I fall through my own front door, possibly stinking of the vomit I’m covered in that I have zero memory about.

If you recognise yourself in any of this, you’ll know what it means to be fed up too. Hold onto that feeling. Being fed up might be enough to help you give up the booze. If Keith can do it...

This article originally appeared on The Wayward and has been republished here with full permission.

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