One year – 12 months – 52 weeks – 365 days – still sober.
And what a year it has been!
On this day, one year ago, I was preparing to go out and have a few New Year drinks with friends around the lake, before returning home to spend New Year’s Eve with Noo, who at that time had been with me for about six weeks.
Over the previous few weeks, before and after Noo came to stay with me, I had been making my usual half-hearted attempts to quit the booze, sometimes stopping completely for several days at a time, and otherwise generally keeping my drinking more or less within bounds, with the occasional and inevitable lapses when I would get totally rat arsed.
Here is an extract from my blog of 27th December 2010:
When my friend Bob departed I somehow fell into the habit of having a few glasses of red wine during the evening whilst watching TV. I confess this wasn’t one of the smartest things for me to do and as ever, it finally got a bit out of control. Christmas Eve afternoon saw me in one of the Lakeside bars with a couple of my old drinking buddies, and after a couple of coffees I got stuck into the red wine. Late afternoon turned into evening and evening into the wee hours. I eventually crawled home at around 2 a.m. where I found Noo, still waiting patiently for me.
I didn’t wake up until Christmas afternoon and was not feeling great. Christmas meant nothing to Noo and my repast consisted of some heated up Thai vegetables with pork and a couple of cheese sandwiches. I seem to be making a habit of eating cheese at Christmas as I recall having a similar repast last year. But the big difference is that last year I was all alone and this year I had the delectable Noo for company.
I continued my habit of drinking a few glasses of red on Christmas evening, but after watching the excellent ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ on Christmas evening, I think I might have finally forsaken booze forever. (Where have we heard that before???).
I may have a couple of glasses of red on New Year’s Eve, but that will be that. New Year’s Day is a great day to stop drinking and a great day to try to turn my life around and I that is what I plan to do. My drinking, apart from a couple of notable lapses has been much more moderate in recent months and I feel I am now ready to take that final step.
Predictably, my excellent intentions for New Year 2010/11didn’t exactly pan out as planned. Here is what I wrote in my blog of 2nd January, 2011:
As ever, I am not proud of my behaviour on New Year’s Eve. It started off innocently enough, at one of the Lakeside bar with two of my drinking buddies. I stuck to red wine but that didn’t stop me feeling pretty woozy a few hours later, especially as I had been drinking on an empty stomach.
Noo accompanied me to the bar but after a couple of hours watching me getting pissed with my mates, she was feeling pretty bored and decided to go to Pattaya and meet up with some friends for a few hours. So off she tooted on her motorcycle and left me to it.
I have only scant recollection of the next few hours but I did make it home, on foot, before midnight where I passed out on the sofa and ‘slept in’ the New Year. Although Noo won’t tell me exactly how I behaved and what I said to her, I can see from her mood and behaviour that I hadn’t exactly been full of love, joy and kindness. So yesterday morning, I expressed my deepest and profound apologies for whatever it is I may have said or done and I made a solemn vow to her never to touch another drop.
I think that in some perverse way, I knew that New Year’s Eve would be my ‘swansong’ as far as alcohol is concerned and it was probably this knowledge, as much as any other thoughts that caused me to drink myself into a stupor.
And the rest is history. Why? Who can say for sure? I guess I finally and irrevocably admitted defeat to the demon booze; the dreaded ‘John Barleycorn’ , as my Yankee AA friends used to say.
Earlier this year I started a debate on the Thai Visa internet forum about my thoughts, and experiences in AA and my subsequent extensive research into the effectiveness, or other otherwise, of the Alcoholics Anonymous organisation in getting alcoholics to quit drinking.
Unfortunately, the debate was cut short by well-meaning but extremely myopic and stubborn moderators who felt that the debate might deter people with a drink problem in seeking the help of AA. This was despite the fact that I stated over and over again that I still would recommend AA to anyone who had a drink problem.
Indeed, I had drifted in and out of AA for a number of years and there is no doubt that I learnt much from that august organisation.Without their help in understanding the basics of alcoholism and being able to share my ups and downs with countless fellow alcoholics, I doubt that I would be sober today.
But in the end, for reasons that will be subject to a special blog item later this year, I came to believe that AA doesn’t work for everyone; indeed for some alcoholics, they are more likely to achieve long term sobriety outside of AA than with in it, and this has been borne out by extensive research.
There are countless thousands of alcoholics, throughout the world who rely on AA to keep themselves sober and cannot exist without regular attendance at meetings. These, on the whole, are the ones who have accepted the concept of a ‘higher power’ and rigorously try to follow all aspects of the 12 step programme, which, if done properly, involves a deep spiritual commitment.
This is fine for them and good luck to them. But for those of us who in the end cannot accept the dogma of the ‘Higher Power’ concept, then quite often, long term sobriety can be achieved on our own, without the need for a quasi-religious supplication. For us agnostics and atheists, long term attendance at AA meetings can actually do more harm than good, as it tends to tear our minds apart, fills us full of doubts and makes us feel guilty if we cannot live up to the AA ideals. And when this is the case, what happens? We take a drink of course.
Nobody could question the altruistic ideals which encompass the principles of the AA 12 step programme and indeed this same12 step programme has been adopted by all kinds of organisations to deal with other addictions such as drug addiction and even sex addiction…
The 12 step programme contains many worthy ideals and precepts which every decent human being should strive to live by, and as stated above, there is much in AA that I took to my heart and found very beneficial in my struggles to stay sober.
Even when I made that final decision to stop drinking one year ago, I still had plans to go back to AA meetings, once I had got 30 days of sobriety under my belt. I still felt they could help me to achieve my aim – long term sobriety, even though I had considered, even accepted (for a while), but had ultimately rejected the concept of a Higher Power.
But one month led to two, and then to three and during this time I started to do some research on AA and discovered that the stats were simply not in their favour. The plain fact is that a great many alcoholics mange to achieve long term sobriety on their own and the relapse rate of alcoholics attending AA, though frustratingly difficult to ascertain due to the AA’s refusal to release crucial information, appeared to be alarmingly high.
So the course I embarked on became the DIY route, and the longer I remained sober, the more I realised that it was the right decision – for me. I will always be extremely grateful to the AA and to some of the wonderful people I met there; especially the ones who gave me support at my lowest ever monuments – and believe me, there were many.
Indeed, if it hadn’t been for a wonderful American who came to my rescue; literally picking me up from the gutter on Beach Road, looking after me and getting me sober, after I had been on a three day non-stop binge, I doubt I would be here today.
So it is with sadness that I reflect that Thai Visa didn’t have the common sense and foresight to let an intelligent debate on the merits of AA continue.
So here I am, one year chalked up and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I will never, ever touch another drop. The reasons? Well there are several.
First and foremost, as with that occasion many moons ago when I quit smoking, the longer I remain alcohol free, the more I feel it would be a terrible tragedy, and, to say the least, it would be a dreadful waste of all my hard efforts, if I were to succumb again. Indeed, I feel in my heart that if I were to even pick up another drink, it would probably signal the beginning of the end of my life and would mean that I had effectively thrown in the towel.
Then of course there are all the obvious reasons, especially the health benefits, (not forgetting I am a diabetic with coronary disease) ,the need to find a meaningful life outside of the bars and whorehouses of the world, the increasing cost of a drinking lifestyle and the untold harm I inflict on my nearest and dearest.
While I am in the is self-congratulatory frame of mind, I will also give myself a ‘well done’ for succeeding in weaning myself off anti- depressants at the end of February, 2011.
I had been taking a high dose of antidepressants for a number of years and in spite of this, I went through a very black period in January 2010, when I came within an ace of committing suicide. I don’t know why I didn’t, for I felt there was no way out and that my life was truly over. Alcoholic lethargy, as much as anything, was probably the reason I survived although it would have been easy enough to achieve – all I needed to do was take a huge overdose of insulin and that would have been that.
But I didn’t, and at the urging of some well meaning folks on this blog, I went to seek the help of a therapist, and apart from helping me to come to terms with my situation, he also introduced me to a psychiatrist who prescribed me some new anti-depressants. These worked very well, even though I felt like a zombie for much of the time, but once I had quit the booze for good I realised that I couldn’t live the rest of my life as a ‘zombie’ and within 60 days, had succeeded in getting myself completely clear of them.
Dealing with my predilection for whorehouses and girlie bars took a little longer, and as my regular readers will know, I am still liable to the occasional lapse. But I am much improved in this respect, and have had to check back in my blog to find the last occasion that I entered a ‘den of ill repute’ – which was on 9th December. But that was my first foray for many weeks. I haven’t had any desire to return since, and have no plans to do so again in the near future.
This may sound terribly corny, but I am developing a very deep and abiding love for little Noo. Not the highly emotional, all-encompassing infatuation that characterised so many of my previous love affairs, but a love that has grown out respect for a kind, generous, honest, cheerful, easy going, lovely, sexy young lady who has succeeded in making me very happy in every conceivable way.
She has put up with a great deal from me during the past year, and for the future I will do my best to make her happy and do the right thing by her. I hope that I can.
So one year under my belt and where do I go from here?
Well I think I have achieved much but there is still a way to go to completely turn around my life.
On a mental level, I know that I spend far too much time worrying about things: my investments and my pension; the state of world economies which may have a disastrous effect on my income; how to be more productive and improve the quality of my daily life; my low blog readership levels, the slow progress of my novel, my health problems and how Iam going to pay for costly operations; all the myriad world problems – Arab uprisings, the riots and all the unbelievable evil in the world, and so on….
My new year’s resolution will be to stop worrying so much and try to enjoy what I have. I may be dead next year, so why worry about something that may never happen, and if something does, there’s nothing much I can do about it?
I must try very hard to live the Buddhist concept which is to live for ‘today’. Now is the time to be happy – not tomorrow or next month or next year – for it will never come. I know that, but it does take a great deal of mental adjustment.
At least I am in the right country to try and do this – as the Thai Buddhist culture is steeped in the live for ‘now’ philosophy. Through the years I have often wondered how Thais manage to stay so cheerful and happy-go-lucky when they do not know where their next meal is coming from, and I came to realise it is all down to their deeply embedded Buddhist philosophy – something I will try very hard to emulate in 2012.
But ‘living for today’ doesn’t mean that I abandon all attempts to put structure in my life. I know that I am weak- willed and at the slightest opportunity I will procrastinate.
I believe that as a recovering alcoholic I must try to organise my time, whether it is purely allocating a period of the day to read, or going shopping or taking Noo out for a meal, or getting down to slightly more serious pursuits such as keeping my personal and financial affairs up to date and properly organised, and keeping my blog going, and last but by no means least, continuing with my somewhat neglected novel.
There are other activities that I wish to do persevere with, such as photography, exploring Thailand, and taking regular exercise amongst others. So in theory I shouldn’t get bored – or depressed – or hanker for a drink or to go back to my old degenerate lifestyle.
I will be perfectly honest with you; I am not deliriously happy and there are still not infrequent occasions when I wake up feeling quite low. But I know that trying to make such major changes to my life at my age, with a lifetime of drinking behind me, is never going to be a ‘walk in the park’, and that I must soldier on and hope that eventually I will start to feel better about things.
I do know that when I start to procrastinate and put off doing the activities that I have previously decided I would carry out on a particular day, then I get depressed. The opposite happens when I succeed in sticking to my resolve and achieve something worthwhile.
I especially feel good about myself when I get stuck into my novel, and also, to a lesser extent when I am writing my blog, as these are ‘creative’ pursuits, which I now understand help to take me ‘out of myself.’
Whenever I – or indeed anyone – is totally immersed in a worthwhile activity, be it creative or whatever, they can free themselves of their ‘egos’ and truly live for the present. All their worries, fears, hopes, dreads, prejudices, hates, loves, resentments, emotions and all the other stuff that makes us not at ‘one ‘ with the world, disappear for those precious moments when we are totally immersed in ‘doing’ something we care about deeply. These rare moments are similar to the state of mind some people achieve when meditating; they are uplifting and are the very antithesis of depression.
So its onwards and upwards for 2012 and I will re-double my efforts to find a happy and contented life with my wonderful new partner.
My successes and failures will be faithfully recorded in this blog as the year progresses, along with my usual pithy comments on current affairs, Thai affairs, arts reviews, my Mobi-babbles, my outrageous comments and diatribes on just about any subject that takes my fancy to write about on any given occasion.
Not forgetting, of course, to continue to entertain you with more of my selected Asian erotica….
On 2nd January I have a ‘long lost friend’ and his girlfriend from my teenage years visiting me for a six day stay, en route from Australia back to the UK. This will be his first time in Thailand and I may take the opportunity to take the pair of them, plus Noo, out to a few places – night and day spots – so it will be a bit of a holiday break for all four of us, to celebrate and to start off the New Year in style.
Tonight, New Year’s Eve, Noo and I will spend the evening in, as the fireworks will be blasting into the sky from every conceivable direction, and our dogs will be beside themselves with terror.
So it will be an evening on the sofa watching telly with our three pooches, lying amongst us for protection from the wicked world of thunder flashes.
So it only remains for me to wish all my highly regarded and treasured readers a happy and prosperous New Year.
Don’t let the bastards drag you down…
BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot!..