Friday, 4 December 2009

Two light ales, please

It seems that it takes about a week for the physical cravings to pass, that peculiar longing inside to sit down with a pint and read the paper in a quiet pub. The thought normally crops up during moments of boredom or anger, when it seems by far the easiest and most comprehensive solution to whatever problem is at hand. However, once this week or so has passed, during those times it isn't the first though that comes to mind; instead, it seems to be "so what can I do with my time instead?" I'm glad to be over the first hurdle - physical craving.

Exactly the same thing happened last time I stopped drinking normally, and I remember thinking how easy it all was. As ever, with experience you notice differences, though, and one thing I'm learning this time is to spot the first signs on complacency creeping in. It seems to be a natural response I have to how (relatively) easy I find it to just stop getting drunk - "well, that was easy enough - you can't have had a problem at all!"

Of course this is flawed reasoning as my problem has never been an inability to pack it in when I choose to, but a serial failure to recognise when I've had enough and stop drinking before I disable one too many of those switches in my head that keep me as the normal me. To this end I haven't been congratulating myself in the slightest and indeed my perception of the situation is that I'm about four battles into what may be a hundred year war.

Those four battles have been won, I should say though; I've put myself in social drinking situations four times in the last ten days and either not drunk at all or spread a couple of pints out over a course of hours. I've been to the Rovers twice and somehow avoided my usual impulse to abuse the occasion as a drinking opportunity with the odd bit of football crammed inbetween. I've been out in a pub and had a night in, and not touched more than a shandy. So, I suppose, I should take mild encouragement from that, but not to the point of overly reassuring myself as I can feel the temptation to.

Some time this week I should be hearing from the alcohol team about getting a case worker, and from there going to some kind of sessions. I don't know exactly how it will all work, but I'm finding the whole thing pretty intriguing. It's the kind of thing normal people never get to know about beyond the immediate preconceptions of what it's about (some of which I'm sure I wrongly subscribe to myself) so to actually be able to go through the system and see what it's really like is, in a perverse way, a bit of a gift.

I suspect the hardest part about it I'll find is that I'll feel "above" it and a big part of me will want to dismiss these people's advice as weak. I got that feeling the first time I went, when I was sat in a room of four or five smackheads, and I thought, "Jesus H Christ, all I do is drink too much now and then, I don't belong with these people!" And I could see how a drug counsellor would be able to help someone coming off heroin, but I couldn't imagine for a second what use they'd be to me. Quite a few years ago, a friend said that there didn't seem much point in going to see a counsellor or therapist since they just help you see what your problems are, and if you've already spent all your life cataloguing those problems precisely then they've nothing left to offer you. I worry this forthcoming experience of mine may go along the same lines so I'm not going into it hoping to be hand-given some blinding piece of wisdom that will blow me away, but really just to use them as people who won't belittle me when I talk about all the difficulties I've had around drinking, and who I don't have to worry about affecting my day-to-day life.

I guess to summarise, this stage can be tricky for me as a small part of me is rebelling and trying to convince me there was never a problem in the first place. That, however, would be to forget the mistakes of the past decade so I've no intention of going there.

Tomorrow's weekend special: send your kids to the 'sitter and draw the curtains, as your screen comes alive with a writhing, groaning mass of flesh and ale.

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