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Sobriety is Never Owned, it’s Rented – Escaping the Pitcher Plant
I am 77 Years old and have been consuming alcohol for some 60 odd years, over this period in many occupations and circumstances I have been – not realising it – slowly but surely – sliding down the throat of a Pitcher plant. Just like a fly, the further down the throat you slide, the harder it is to get out – until you cannot climb out. (Allen Carr – Easy Way to Control Alcohol)
In 2013 I ended up in hospital in Melbourne Australia, being admitted at 9 pm at night, to a bed above which on a whiteboard was the legend ‘Transplant’. At that time I was yellow, and according to the specialist, I had a 10% chance of survival.
The interesting thing was that this information had absolutely no impact. The amount of alcohol I had been consuming acted like a switch and disabled any thoughts of impending doom, or ‘the valley of the shadow’, I spent three weeks in almost intensive care, had every orifice scoped till finally an internal bleed was found which had impacted on my lymphatic system, and I had at least 4 blood transfusions. The attending specialist then told me how ‘lucky’ I had been in as much that the bleeding had raised a flag before the Alcohol killed me and that in his opinion if I was stupid enough, I could accomplish the task by starting to drink again. He also told me that it could take more than two years to repair the damage.
Turning the clock way back to 2013, and looking through some hospital reports I suppose doesn’t seem a very reassuring thing to do, but in trying to remember the events as they happened there and then is giving me some reference and re-assessment points. In the hospital, I kept a diary of day to day events, and have come to realise now how fortunate I am. I am now over seven months free of booze, and things being as they are health-wise, I thought I would be feeling physically better than I am.
Going through my notes and the diary I kept I could see my progress over the ensuing year and a bit. And then the entries stopped; being stupid enough and bored with it all, I bought just one bottle of wine, the little push over the lip of the Pitcher. The result – obviously – was bloody inevitable – “a bottle a day keeps the blues away, another ensures that they stay away, but two’s not enough we need stronger stuff, so on and on, it’s never enough”- I remember talking with a friend and offering him a beer, his answer at the time amused me. “thanks mate but no thanks – for me – one is never enough and two are too many” – wise words. In retrospect I must admit that looking through my notes I sometimes feel that I have in actuality turned the clock back and made a mockery of the efforts of the medical staff those years ago.
I have been saying that I am happier being sober and in a lots of ways that is oh so true, particularly in relationships and day to day achievements, along with the support I find in the communities stemming from HSM; the noncritical fellowship and repartee, always supportive. I started this dissertation in February, trying to put down in writing reasons for climbing on to the wagon again, which I did on Sunday, March 4th, 2018 at 14:00. I tried at that time to write down some feelings and history in order to try to build a reason for sobriety.
Some of my musings in the hope of rationalisation.
What you do with your life matters ‘now’, the fire or the worms won’t give a damn tomorrow.
Taking something which destroys your life is not rational.
Rationality comes through experiences with the Irrational.
When we look at the world through a dark glass we do not see reality.
What we see is what our confused brain thinks is real.
Your body is flexible and forgiving, but it can only abide abuse so far.
Family and friends have ears – talk to them.
One look from a pet is a panacea for a sad soul.
When you are drunk, you develop an automatic mouth, sometimes horns.
I am 78 years old now and climbing back up.
I had over a year of abstinence before idiocy took over. Slowly and surely the nutcase in me fell back into the old routine – like a puppet with alcohol pulling the strings, and the strongest one was the one attached to the bottle. ‘Diet and exercise – Duh! A bottle of Scotch is all I need’, – soon to be a bottle a day. The only trigger I needed was being awake. After a time even the smell or thought of food would send me to the back room of the house where the puppet master lived. Drinking in front of my wife came later when I was invisible even to myself. Of course by then some of the consequences set in: – Nights of pain, acid reflux, a lovely thing – sitting on the edge of the bed with a basin, trying – Oh! Trying so hard to get something into the basin for some relief – excuses, reasons – Oh! It must have been ‘A’,’B’, ‘C’ – Bullshit.
I have tried to pinpoint the light that broke the spell, and there are a few – The first was a comment from a friend, a young woman, and the daughter of a dear friend. She loved to party and could get really steamed, I hadn’t seen her for some time and the woman I met was something quite different, she looked really healthy and she was now running Yoga classes. I made some stupid inane reference to partying; she smiled and said “Oh! I gave up alcohol a while ago I just didn’t like what it was doing to me”.
The second light was an elderly friend who was aware of my ‘bent’, said that I should come along to an ‘AA’ meeting – he had been going for thirty years and he was sure it would help. I politely refused.
The third and final was my wife, my invisible life-partner – invisible to me, in my alcohol nightmare that was. One day just sitting numb and watching the idiot box, she said something that managed to penetrate the fog – “IT’s just not fair”. I asked what, and she said: “You are not here anymore”, for some wonderful reason, we sat down together and wrote down all our problems, I made an appointment and we both went to our doctor. He listened, looked at the list and asked if I wanted to go into hospital, believe it or not, I said: “yes please”. That was in November 2017 and apart from a slight slip over Christmas and New-year. I have been sober.
Thinking about this (writing helps me remember and shudder). I believe that to someone with a problem, seeking help, talking, reading and writing about alcohol addiction are all the most vitally important things that you can do. I have notebooks with words, some connected, some disjointed, some poetic– but reading them stimulates and reinforces the why, what, and where, alcohol affected myself and my friends, some of whom I lost.
I can blame the Culture I was raised in. I can blame the Pubs, Hotels, the Advertising etc, etc. In the end, I can only blame myself – If you believe that you are immune – take a hard look in the mirror on a bad morning…..Today I have no reticence in discussing my past and present addiction – yes! it is still there like a whisper, sometimes loud, other times soft and seductive.
In conclusion from a personal point of view, the thought that stopping the addiction is solved in a finite period of time, to me is an illusion. A Quote I remember reminds me that “Sobriety is never owned, it is rented and the rent is due every day”. The journey continues and I can only hope that I can continue to afford the rent. As Allen Carr said, “Alcohol has it’s uses – it is a powerful antiseptic, disinfectant and you can burn it as fuel – just think what it does to your body” (Paraphrase from his book).
Always remember that you are not only damaging yourself, but you are also a link in your own and others chain. Enough blighted reminiscence just keep paying the rent – Exercise, eat well, love long, be well.
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