I’m lying in bed in the spare room, on sheets soaked with my own urine, unable to lift my head or open my eyes. In the kitchen, I hear the voices of my two beautiful children talking to their father. ‘Dad’, asks my son, ‘why is Mummy still in bed?’. I cringe as I wait for him to answer. Just like that, as if the question was nothing new (which it wasn’t), he replies ‘Mummy’s just tired mate, she’s trying to catch up on some sleep’.
In that very instant, something inside me snapped. It felt different to all the other mornings (or afternoons) that I’d woken up, cursing what I could remember of the night before and promising myself that it would never happen again. It felt different to the hour-long minutes I seemed to spend in the shower each morning fighting with thoughts and swearing on the life of every sentient being that today, things would change. It felt like someone had just slapped me hard and something had ignited inside me.
I remember the first time I got drunk. It was at my Dad’s 50th birthday party. I was 14 years old. I remember standing in the front yard of our house and delighting in the feeling that was rushing through my body. I remember what I was wearing, how I’d done my hair and the moment that I knew alcohol was going to be a very special and necessary part of my life. It was like I had just found my soul mate. From that day forward, alcohol and that incredibly magical feeling, became my obsession. My life began to revolve around the next time I could get drunk. Not just the next time I could drink but the next time I could totally annihilate myself, travel to that place where I was free and light and my mind was filled with inspiration.
I quickly gained a reputation for being able to drink more than anyone at the party. I was able to buy alcohol because I looked older and frequently took a bottle to school in my school bag, or mixed into something else in my drink bottle. I was the one leading my friends astray when it came to getting ‘smashed’ and I immediately noticed that I was different to them. They knew when they’d had enough or they’d get so sick that they’d swear off drinking ever again and went for long periods being disinterested in it. Not me. It didn’t matter what happened to me or how sick I got, it was never enough to deter me for more than a day or two, or a weekend at the very most.
My injury and incident list became quite extensive and my risk taking behaviour wasn’t getting any better. Early on, the stories of my woes were amusing to my friends – and to me, so it seemed – but as I got into my late twenties, I realised that nobody else was falling over breaking their bones or their face or putting themselves into potentially dangerous situations like I was. Nobody else was regularly staying up until 3am drinking or making drunken phone calls to Oprah before passing out and sleeping through their alarms, subsequently turning up to work hours late or not at all. Nobody else was ducking out of work to the pub at lunch time or going home sick just so they could drink. Nobody else was getting behind the wheel of their car when they should have been in a cab and nobody else’s life was completely ruled by a bottle.
I knew from the start that my drinking was a problem and from my late teens, I suspected I was an alcoholic. Any time I chatted with friends about my concerns, they fobbed it off. Why wouldn’t they? Our society condones most of the behaviours I was exhibiting. My friends didn’t understand just how concerned I was about my drinking and the fact that I knew it would either kill me, send me insane or land me in jail. They suggested I just try to cut back. Perhaps they didn’t realise that for decades, I had played games with the demon that ruled my life.