I will now conclude my tale of how I finally made the transition from a practising alcoholic to a recovering alcoholic.
From 2004 to 2009 I lived with an unfaithful wife who was also a binge-drinking alcoholic who made my life a total misery.
During the 5 years of this marriage, I made several serious attempts to leave her – I once left her for over a month – but I always ended up going back to her. Each time she would promise to behave and change her life around. I was still totally besotted with her and she knew it, so all she had to do was to smile her beatific smile, tell me that she loved me, needed me, and would change her behavior and I was slap bang back in the nightmare.
It was at this time that some friends introduced me to “Alcoholics Anonymous” in Pattaya and I started to go to regular meetings – usually every day. I made new friends at AA, and during the early months, I made a lot of progress in my attempts to quit drinking for good. I accepted the AA teachings and I believed that the 12 steps could work for me. I even started to accept that there was a “Higher Power” who would ultimately help me to find the “true path.”
I suppose I was ready to accept their philosophy because I was desperate and was in a very vulnerable mental state.
One of the best parts about belonging to AA is that you can discuss and share your calamitous drinking experiences with other alcoholics. This is undoubtedly AA’s strongest feature, as their meetings are really group therapy sessions – all the people there all have similar stories. Most of the attendees have been on the wagon for some time – some for 10 years or more – and a few were like me, just taking their first tentative steps and often going into relapse.
The negative part of AA – for me – was that many of the members were mental ‘bullies’. They try to control you and if you accept one of them as a sponsor (which is part of the process) they tended to impose rules on your behavior, which for me, was like a red rag to a bull.
I kept changing sponsors and I remember one particular man who insisted me having a private meeting with him at a time when I actually wanted to attend an AA meeting. If it was the only time he was free then I would have accepted it, but he was free all day. He just wanted to control me and make me meet him when he wanted to – no matter that it meant me missing an AA meeting.
I was without a sponsor for a while as nobody wanted to take me on, but eventually an elderly and much respected American guy offered to give it a try. His name was Hank and he was a really nice person. He let me do things in my own time and didn’t put any pressure on me to work the 12 steps.
Then one day he said to me: “You know what, Mobi, it really is time that you should think about getting a bit serious about working the 12 steps. What d’yer say, my friend?”
I looked at him, and smiled and said: “You know what Hank? I guess you’re right. How about meeting up next week”
We arranged a time and date and left it at that.
Two days later I was alarmed to find that he was absent from our daily morning meeting. It was very odd because Hank was always there – always the first to arrive, when he would chat to people with problems over a cup of coffee, welcome newcomers and encourage them to attend the meetings.
Later that morning we all learned that Hank had suffered a heart attack and had died on the way to the hospital.
We were all totally devastated. Hank was one of the nicest men I had met in recent years and he was the mainstay of Pattaya AA. I couldn’t imagine a meeting without him there to give us his wise words of encouragement.
For me, it was the final straw, and I started to drift away. I completely accept that the AA helps thousands upon thousands of people all over the world to stop drinking, and I know that their meetings are a lifeline for so many who cannot exist without a regular meeting to go to.
But I decided it wasn’t for me. Although during my time with AA I had succeeded in stopping drinking for various periods of time – once for over six months – in the end I always went back to the booze. I suspected that the very structure of AA was, for me, an impediment to total abstinence.
Every time someone upset me in an AA meeting, I would go out and get drunk. I also lost my belief in the so-called higher power, and I realized that AA is a cult. It works very well for those who want to be part of a cult, but for others – like me – it doesn’t work.
Don’t get me wrong – I learned a lot about my drinking problems and how to deal with them through the auspices of AA and I will be forever grateful to them for setting me on the path to sobriety. But for me – like millions of others – I eventually found an alternative path to sobriety.
Readers of my blog from the very beginning will know that I finally left my wife for good in July 2009 and moved into a beachside condo rental in downtown Pattaya.
I knew the decision to leave her was the right one if I was ever going to get out the downward spiral I was in, but for the first few months, things continued to get worse. I was still in love with her; and I tried to lessen the pain in my heart with booze and by sleeping around with any girl I could find who would sleep with a drunken old fart for a small fee.
I wanted to find a new relationship to blank out the last one but was looking in all the wrong places. The seedy bars of Pattaya and Jomtien were not going to produce my longed-for saviour – and deep down, I knew it.
During the next 12 months I had short periods of sobriety intermixed with long periods of extreme drunkenness. I had several short-lived, very bitter affairs, and every time I moved on, my mood became blacker.
It was the New Year of 2010 when I think I hit my rock bottom.
I had somehow lived through Christmas without taking a drink but by the time January 1st arrived I was drinking more than ever. It became a very vicious circle. I would drink from morning to night and crash into my bed around 3 or 4 in the morning, only to wake a few hours later feeling absolutely dreadful and shaking like a leaf. The one sure way to cure my hangover was by taking ‘the hair of the dog’. I’d drink a few morning beers and start to feel better and of course, it wasn’t long before I was back into the drunken spiral.
I knew I was at rock bottom but couldn’t see a way out. I had terrible depression, and I felt that there was no point to carrying on with my life. I became suicidal and actually worked out how I could do the dirty deed. It would be quite easy – all I had to was take an overdose of insulin, and being a diabetic, I always had a ready supply to hand.
The only thing that stopped me was the twisted notion I had of ‘Don’t do it straight away – why not kill myself in a few of weeks’ time – after I had one last, mad, non-stop drinking spree?’
So while I was seriously contemplating suicide, someone, somewhere along the line suggested that I find a therapist to treat my depression and alcoholism. I found one in Bangkok – a Belgian gentleman – who was actually a great help. We talked about my marital problems as well my depression and alcoholism. He gave me a lot of good advice and also referred me to a psychiatrist who prescribed some effective anti-depressants.
So with the assistance of the therapist and the medication, I managed to drag myself up from the floor of my ‘rock-bottom’. I was still drinking and still seeking solace in bars, but for the most part, I kept my drinking under some kind of control.
But there were still too many occasions when it got the better of me. It was during 2010 that I wrote off my BMW, fell over in a drunken stupor and smashed the tendons in my wrist requiring a major operation and had a nasty brush with cops when they accused me of leaving the scene of an accident.
My suicidal tendencies had lessened, and it was around July or August that I first met Lek, the latest and final love of my life. Although I saw her on a regular basis, it wasn’t until October, when I moved out of my condo rental and rented a house on the outskirts of Pattaya that she agreed to come and stay with me.
It is no exaggeration to say that Lek was the kind of woman I should have met 40 years ago. I soon realised that I had found a very wonderful and exceptional human being and she was by far the best thing that had ever happened to me in my life.
Yet I very nearly lost her. Even though she had moved in, I was still drinking quite heavily but tried to confine my drinking to nearby bars where I had a few friends who drank there regularly. Lek tolerated the situation and often dropped by the bars for a few minutes to check up on me and make sure I wasn’t misbehaving.
Then along came Christmas and I went completely off the rails. Lek remained at home with the dogs while I went off on marathon bar crawls – arriving home in the small hours, absolutely paralytic.
The final blow came on New Year’s Eve when I disappeared in the afternoon and arrived back home on New Year’s day at around 4 a.m. Lek and the dogs still waiting for me in the living room. I collapsed on the sofa and the next thing I knew it was 10 o’clock in the morning and Lek was packing her bags. She had had enough, and I didn’t blame her. She deserved better than me.
I knew I was about to lose the best woman I had ever known and I begged and I begged. I vowed that I would never, ever take another drop of alcohol.
I had finally accepted that it was impossible to keep my drinking under control and the only way out of my nightmare and keep hold of Lek was to quit drinking for good. God knows I had tried hard enough through the years to stop. I could go for days – even weeks –drinking moderately, and I could even stop drinking for days, weeks, and even months at a time. But I always went back to it and every time I relapsed, I thought: This time I will just drink in moderation…’
31st December 2010 was the last time that any alcohol crossed my lips. The first few months of 2011 weren’t at all easy, and there was many a time when I was sorely tempted. I even used to go and meet my friends in nearby bars and sip on a Diet Coke while they were slowly getting drunk, but somehow I succeeded in exercising total restraint.
One of the things that kept me going was my promise to Lek, and the thought that kept running through my head: ‘I have got through the worst, why give in now?’
I kept myself busy writing. It was during this period that I wrote my semi-autobiographical novel – “A lust for Life” – which is 75% factual as it is only the last part of the story that goes into the realms of fiction.
Like all my books – both before and after I quit drinking – they haven’t exactly sold very well, but at least they have kept me away from alcohol. I never attempted to write while under the influence. I always stuck to my golden rule that when I write, I must be 100% sober – a rule I have adhered to throughout my chequered alcoholic career. So for me, writing was a great way for me to keep sober.
Eight years later and I am still completely free of alcohol and there is not a chance in hell that I will ever relapse. The temptation is always there – it will never completely go, but I am sure I can handle it.
A message to would-be ‘quitters’.
To those of you out there who are looking to quit drinking, I really recommend that you start your quest at AA. You will learn that you are not alone and there is much in AA that is good and they will give you some valuable advice and tips that can help you to stop.
As you can see from my story, the AA is not for everyone, and I have done enough research to know that as many people – quite possibly more – succeed in quitting outside the auspices of AA than within it.
Many, like me, do it completely alone, without making a big fanfare and without my colleagues at AA continually asking me how many days, weeks or months I have remained sober. I didn’t need them to keep telling me that I will soon relapse if I don’t work the 12 steps and accept that there is a higher power.
The medical experts say that it takes over a year before the chemical parts of your brain which crave alcohol will change and the temptation starts to recede. But understand that your addiction will remain with you for the rest of your life and you must always be on your guard. There is absolutely no doubt that for a vast majority of alcoholics, just a single beer will drag you back into the frightening world of bars, beer and whiskey. The first drink is one too many, so beware and the very best of luck.
You CAN do it, I did.