As the noise from outside permeated the single paned windows of my little flat I could feel the anger and frustration rising inside of me and deep down that desperate, burning craving. Yet another fiesta was now in full swing. I was not aware when I had rented my little two bedroom flat with it’s leafy balcony, shuttered windows, pebbled street and quaint filigree street lamps that only two doors up was a social centre where my neighbours would gather each and every fiesta weekend to drink and make merry whilst a brass band played through the night just outside my bedroom window until the sun crept up over the horizon the following morning. Now of course I understand the very affordable monthly rent. The nature of my work of course requires above all else peace and quiet and so naturally the shocking realisation that the full vibrance and violence of the fiesta in all it’s drunken, noisy glory would be played out directly outside my front door caused me a great deal of anxiety. Much as I love my new found country and it’s fascinating and delightful idiosyncrasies to say I was pissed off would be the understatement of the century.
A prisoner in my own home, I paced up and down across the wooden floors of my living room. I closed the shutters and tried to calm my shaking cat. Poor little guy, he has no idea what all this noise is. The arrival of Armageddon itself perhaps! I played my own music to try to drown out the dreadful sound of drunken teenagers playing trumpets and banging drums but to no avail. The sounds merely merged together into one great syncopated soup and my stress levels reached boiling point.
I pulled on my trainers and grabbed my wallet and keys angrily slamming the door in protest as I left. My local coffee shop offered a brief refuge but I knew they would be waiting for me there, outside my front door, upon my arrival back home. And as I sat there, my frustration and anger once again rising inside of me like a monster I felt it again. That craving, there in the dark. That voice that once again whispered… “Drink…”.
Six weeks previously I had stepped into that room at the back of the Social Centre behind the town hall and the little tram station on the line that ran between Denis to the north and the bustling resort of Benidorm to the south. It was to be the first of many AA meetings I would attend during that time.
As a teenager I had experimented with alcohol and drugs as I’m sure most teenagers do. But as I grew older I realised that other people did not drink in the same way that I did. That switch, that dreadful switch had not been flicked in their heads. For them a few drinks would suffice, but not for me. My thirst was deeper and alcohol seemed to affect me in a very different way. It was the same with drugs. They transported me into a very different place, some kind of higher mental plane upon which I would feel like the most creative and amazing individual. Drugs and Alcohol have always affected my mind in powerful and profound ways. Not only releasing me from the agony and awkwardness of my insecurities and seeming to bolster my confidence, but actually changing the very world around me.
Colours seemed brighter, the sun would burn in the sky warming my skin, the sounds of the world around me seemed to crisp and become ever more vibrant and clear and magical than before. Most of all my intoxication would cause time to slip by in the most pleasing and delightful way. Hours rolled by like waves on the ocean and as the vodka slipped down my throat and the candles burned silently in the background I felt a kind of peace and tranquility that I had craved so desperately as a child.
Then the darkness came. Rolling in a like a storm at sea. Depressions like I had never known before came upon me. The alcohol that had once been my best ally now became my nightmare, my monster, my nemesis. The voice that had once whispered such soft and encouraging words in my ears now tormented me like a sadistic torturer chipping away at my very soul. The sadness, the hopelessness, the guilt, the disgust with one’s self is indescribable. And worst of all I had created this prison of loneliness and self hatred myself.
Hangover after hangover, drink after drink, argument after argument my life continued in this terrible rhythm. The lower I sank and the more hopeless life seemed the more I wanted to drink to try to release myself from the pain. It was all I knew. You see, as crazy as it sounds, the reason I believe that alcohol addiction is such a hard, terribly hard monster to overcome and to free oneself from is that regardless of the horrible destination one will invariably end up at with each drinking session, the first drink provides relief and release from the torment of one’s thoughts and one’s fears.
It works so effectively and the irony is that one can simply walk to the supermarket or bar or cafe and for a few euros purchase that glass of pure, unadulterated pleasure, that shot of morphine for the pain that one is suffering. It is everywhere and is so freely available. Unlike drugs which one must hunt for, needing to know the right people and places and nightclubs and of course needing the necessary funds to get a fix of the desired substance, alcohol is legal and ubiquitous in the world today.
But back to my story and the fiesta. That hunger took hold of me in the isles of my local supermarket and that afternoon I purchased a bottle of red wine. I arrived home, lit some candles and incense and found my bottle opener. It had been six weeks since my last drink, since I had sworn never to drink again and yet there I found myself pouring a glass and feeling the red, warm, velvety embrace once again. And that first glass gave me peace. I exhaled lying back on the sofa with my cat on my lap purring softly and the noise from outside seemed to melt into the distance. All I could think of was the feeling. I drank a second glass and poured the rest of the bottle down the sink determined that that was all I would have. It’s now 6 days later and I have been drinking every day. The monster has me in it’s clutches once again and will not let go. I am going to try to get to an AA meeting on Saturday and I shall read these words and pray that I find some way to release myself from this.
I know what you are thinking right now.. Why? Would would a relatively intelligent person do this to themselves knowing how much damage it has caused them before. After being sober for more than 50 days? Why? I’m searching for that answer myself. There could be many answers.. Fear. Weakness. Curiosity. Boredom. Frustration. Perhaps deep down if I’m honest the fear of losing my old self, the fear of sobriety, the fear of not having that release valve. All I know is that fear plays a very big part in my life.
My greatest fear right now.. Judgement. It is almost worse that the fear of the dark slippery slope that lies before me if I cannot stop drinking. Alcoholism is an illness we are told, an illness like any other for which we should feel no guilt. But I can tell you from my experience of the past week there is not a great deal of sympathy outside of organisations like AA for the alcoholic who relapses and finds himself once again in the jaws of this monster. The world has a long way to go in it’s acceptance and understanding of this illness. The psychological effects for me have been so profound and frankly devastating. I want to scream for help and at the same time want to isolate myself as if I have contracted a contagious and life threatening disease. It’s horrible, dark, lonely and soul destroying. I find myself thinking of suicide most days. It seems the only way to release myself and my loves ones from this beast inside of me. And the knowledge of the pain that action would cause only increases my feeling of shame and guilt and despair.
I hope these words help others who find themselves in the darkness, suffering and feeling alone. The truth is you are not alone. There are so many of us out there fighting the same enemy, the same wicked and cruel and manipulative illness that is addiction. As I write these words I am so tired of punishing myself and I am so tired of the fear. The fear of my addiction, the fear of myself, the fear of judgement and most of all the fear of fear itself.