Mobi’s life of Drinking – Part 1
A few days back, on 1st January, I successfully completed 7 years without drinking a single drop of alcohol.
In my blogs through the years, as well as in my novels, (which contained a lot of autobiographical material), I have written about the time leading up to my decision to quit drinking and indeed have graphically described my years of drinking.
In fact, if you go back to my very first blog in 2009 by clicking on the link under the ‘recent posts’ sub-heading, you will see that the reason I started blogging was to tell the world about my struggles with alcohol. Much of this was recounted in “Mobi’s story” which was available to read for many years on my blog.
The menu link to this article has now been removed as it is covered in much greater detail in my novel “A Lust for Life”, available on Amazon by clicking the link on the right-hand sidebar.
But on this auspicious anniversary, I thought it might be worthwhile to have a little recap on my life of drinking and how, finally, I managed to find sobriety.
First and foremost, I have to state unequivocally that I am indeed an alcoholic, and have been for many years. It is not something I am proud of, but a key feature on the ‘road to sobriety’ is for alcoholics to acknowledge their condition. Drinkers in denial will never completely recover and even if they succeed in cutting down or stop drinking for a while, they will always relapse – often drinking more than ever.
So when did I realize I was an alcoholic?
I will come to this later, but for sure it was not until I had lived through many, many years of hard drinking.
What is an alcoholic?
An alcoholic is someone who is addicted to alcohol, in exactly the same way that people are addicted to drugs like heroin. The medical experts have long agreed that alcoholism is a disease. Alcoholics cannot resist the lure of the next drink and they will suffer withdrawal symptoms, similar to a heroin addict, if they try to go ‘cold turkey’.
Most, but not all, alcoholics started their drinking careers as ‘social drinkers’. In the next stage, they progress to become ‘heavy drinkers’, but still retain the ability to stop or control their drinking whenever the situation demands it.
Some of these people can remain heavy drinkers for their entire lives, and never cross the line to become totally dependent on alcohol. To the uninitiated, it is difficult to spot the difference between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic, as there is only a fine line that separates the two. This distinction is further blurred because many so-call heavy drinkers eventually do cross that line and become alcoholics.
No two alcoholics are the same
Some alcoholics start their drinking from a very early age – some even during their pre-teenage years – and quickly develop into what we call common-to-garden drunks. These folk are hopelessly addicted and often end up on the streets and/or in the prisons. They are often so desperate for their next drop that they will lie and steal to get their hands on anything that contains alcohol – from the cheapest bottles of plonk to furniture polish or even methylated spirits.
Other alcoholics never quite reach this kind of rock bottom, but in time they will still become alienated from family, friends, and society as their addiction slowly gets out of control, and their quality of life nosedives.
Yet others manage to somehow keep their lives on something of an even keel for many years, but increasingly their behavior leaves much to be desired. Many of these will eventually suffer broken marriages, unemployment, and severe financial problems.
But however their alcoholism manifests itself, all alcoholics have one thing in common – they are unable to resist the demon booze – no matter what. The experts tell us that a chemical change occurs inside their brains that trigger the addiction. It doesn’t happen to everyone – hence we have the heavy drinkers who can take it or leave it – and the alkies who most certainly cannot.
If a hopeless alcoholic subsequently succeeds in controlling his/her drinking to the point where he/she can subsequently become a purely social drinker, the probability is that they were never real alcoholics in the first place. They were just a heavy drinkers who drank to excess to ‘drown their sorrows’ over a lost love, the death of a friend, or loved one, and so on.
For 99% of alcoholics, the only way to achieve total control over their addiction is to stop drinking completely. Many alcoholics will tell you that a single beer is one beer too many. Many will recount tales of how they stopped for three months, six months, a year, or even many years, only to relapse when they thought they had conquered their addiction. Just a single beer or a glass of wine was enough to set them off down the slippery slope once again.
I know this because it has happened to me several times. A single beer reignites the desire – and boy does it taste good! It is sufficient to bring back the long-suppressed desire for alcohol, and will soon lead to uncontrolled drinking sprees, often worse than those before we went on the wagon. The bitter realization that we were wrong, and made the fatal mistake of kidding ourselves that we were cured, often leads to even greater excesses.
The truth is that an alcoholic is never cured, and the desire to take a drink never completely goes away. We alkies always have to be on our guard against temptation. Many of us – especially in the early stages of our abstinence – have to keep away from places where the temptation may be overwhelming; pubs, bars, parties and suchlike.
But one thing is for sure – alcoholism wreaks devastating physical, mental and financial havoc wherever, and whenever it occurs. Drinking alcohol to excess will invariably lead to health complications – anything from raised blood pressure, to strokes, heart attacks, liver, kidney & brain damage and early death. Then there are the mental scars – not only for the alkies, but also for their friends, family, and work colleagues.
Every alcoholic has their own tale of how they become addicted, and while many stories may sound similar, no two are the same, and no two stories will reflect exactly the same degree of destruction that alcoholism has had on their lives.
The story of my own descent into alcoholism is fairly typical.
Before I was in my teens I well recall having the odd half glass of sherry or wine at Christmas, which was the only time of the year in those days when my father ever brought alcohol into the house. That rare taste of alcohol did not instantly lead me to a career of heavy drinking, even though I had a miserable and wretched childhood. Neither did regular trips to the pubs in my late teens with friends. In those far-off days, my drinking was well under control, and although occasionally I did become quite tipsy, addiction was still a decade or more away.
If memory serves me correctly, alcohol didn’t pay any significant part in my life until I went to work in Nigeria at the age of 23. I lived and worked there for nearly three years. During my first year, I caroused my way through the bars of Lagos before being transferred to Port Harcourt when Nigeria’s brutal civil war drew to a close. It was in Lagos where I met and married my first wife and there is little doubt that booze played a significant part of our lives.
My life in Nigeria is graphically recounted in my novel “Mobi’s African Odyssey” which can be purchased on Amazon by clicking the link on the sidebar.
Looking back, I certainly drank a lot of beer and undoubtedly developed a lifelong taste for the magic liquid, but I don’t believe I was as yet a full-blown alcoholic.
Three long years in the desert of the Arabian Gulf followed my sojourn in West Africa, and there is no doubt that it was there that my propensity for alcohol developed apace. The first year was spent living in a Portakamp in the middle of the desert and we worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. At sunset, we would sit on the concrete steps of our Portakamps, downing endless cans of Amstel and Heineken before falling into our bunks in beer-fuelled slumbers.
After a year in the desert, I moved into the newly established township of Abu Dhabi, where my drinking got progressively worse. I was all alone and in great need of female company, and it was certainly during those two years that I developed the habit of drinking alone – a sure sign of worse things to come.
I also became a regular fixture at the only nightclub in the country – a very expensive hostess clip joint on the Corniche – which had lovely young Egyptian hostesses and catered rather more for wealthy sheiks than lonely oilfield accountants.
I had a number of escapades there, including being arrested for nearly crashing my sports car into a roundabout when I was completely sozzled, and another occasion when the Iraqi bouncer laid me out cold and I was subsequently arrested for causing a disturbance.
Yes, the alcoholic writing really was on the wall, especially when my employers felt sorry for me for having to spend 3 years of almost (but not quite) sexual abstinence in Arab-land and kindly transferred me to the semi-lawless territory of Jakarta, Indonesia, in the mid-seventies.
I was like a kid let loose in a candy shop. Overnight, I went from hardly ever seeing a single person of the opposite sex, (they were all locked up at home), to living in a town where there were so many available women that I hardly knew which way to look. Pubs, bars, and massage parlors abounded and I was in seventh heaven.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that my boss – the general manager – spent most of his working hours in the massage parlors and bars and insisted on me being on hand to pay the hills and claim them on expenses…. which he approved….not that I was objecting.
It was during the eventful year that I spent In Jakarta, (which again included spells in jails and hi-jinks with a number of females), that I probably crossed the line from being a heavy drinker to becoming a fully fledged alcoholic – although many more years were to pass before I finally recognised it as such.
My non-stop carousing led to a complete breakdown in my work responsibilities and suffice to say that I left Jakarta under a large black cloud. I resigned before I was fired, but I had a few thousand dollars in my pocket and I made a fateful decision to go to Bangkok for an extended break.
My drinking continued in Bangkok, and when the money ran out, I took a plane back to London and within a few months I was back out in the Arab-lands again – this time, Libya. It was in Tripoli that I teamed up with a young German who was an illegal immigrant, and together we mass produced homemade beer and 95% proof ‘White Lightning’.
Although a burgeoning alcoholic, I had learned my lesson in Jakarta and never again was I to lose a job because of drinking. In fact, although I was drinking to excess and making loads of money by selling booze to the Arabs, I managed to handle my work tasks with great aplomb.
I had mastered the art of controlling my booze to the extent that I was able to do a day’s work even when inebriated – something that held me in good stead for many years to come.
Maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t been so adept at working when drunk, as this would have brought me much earlier to the realization that I had a serious drinking problem and should do something about it.
I only lasted a year in Tripoli, as some dastardly Arab had tipped off the police that I was selling fire-water to the anointed. I made it out of the country by the skin of my teeth, with just the clothes on my back and a briefcase full of bank notes.
There followed a prolonged spell of around 8 years in Bangkok, where I worked for two different local companies and married three local girls – not at the same time, I hasten to add. As you might imagine, booze became a major part of my life, but, as stated above, I just about managed to hang onto my various jobs – although it was touch and go on a number of occasions.
Then, just when I thought life couldn’t get much better. Wife number 4 somehow persuaded me that it was time to take her and our daughter back to ye olde country and start a life anew.
I really didn’t want to go, but I was no match for a headstrong Thai wife, and at the grand old age of 37, I returned to Blighty to embark on a new career. The fact that I was hampered with an ever-increasing dependence on alcohol to get me through each day never entered my mind.
In part two, I will relate how, in spite of my drinking, I did indeed enjoy a very successful career in the UK, and how some 17 years later, I returned to Thailand, with my alcoholism becoming even worse.
I will also relate how I finally accepted that I was an addict, how I reached my personal ‘rock-bottom’, the role that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) played in my numerous and unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking, and how I eventually found a way out of it.