Not drinking is hard. Maybe for some it don’t bother so much. But for people like me, where it can consume them, it is bloody hard. I’ve been sober now over two and a half years.
I started drinking early in adolescence, and it was my main vice to escape issues I was too young to really understand and too absorbed by to deal with. I was so insecure and when I was drunk I wasn’t. It seemed the perfect answer to something that being sober never could handle. Then I got into drugs at seventeen, blah blah, and the rest was history. But the drugs were never the issue. It was the drink. Or so I thought.
My life fell apart and the booze was my fallback. I would drown the sorrows, as it always goes, then wake up in the morning hating myself more than I ever could’ve the night before. And then the cycle repeated. And repeated. And repeated. I would black out, never remember anything. Then mooch about nursing a body that was being abused, doing fuck all. But I had so much I wanted to do. So I made the decision to go sober New Years eve, going into 2020.
I had to relearn everything I knew. I had been obsessed with drinking for so long that I didn’t know a life without it. I didn’t even really know myself. I had to learn what I liked doing all over again, what evening’s were for now that getting pissed was out the window, how to go on a night out, how to walk down the street without feeling insecure unless I was a pint of wine in, how to talk to strangers but also how to talk to my loved ones. How to talk to myself. How to change my reputation, which was of a drunk mess. But I did all of that. I did relearn, but I also grew and evolved and gained a wisdom that only does come from making monumental changes like that. My whole navigation of life re-centred and I was more confident, active and inspired than ever. It was amazing, and suddenly the state my life had become started to clean itself up and things skyrocketed into success. I started sharing my poetry, working on music, writing more, painting, smiling, laughing. And all was balanced for a long time.
And then all those mates who I had drank around but never really got into it themselves, the ones who had to babysit me on my benders, got to the age where its normal to go out, get wankered and have fun. And I sat at the sidelines wondering if I had fucked up by committing myself to a promise of sobriety. We were druggies, not drinkers. I didn’t know how to handle this switch up in my community. I felt left out, yes, but also I felt boring. I felt like I had stunted my own fun by getting all sensible so young and it scared me. This does sound like I wish everyone was sober like me, but that’s the last thing I desire. I want everyone to have fun, let their hair down. But I am incapable of doing that when I drink. I love seeing people who can. Good for bluddy them.
I came off the contraceptive pill a few months ago. I have been on it since I was thirteen, taking a few breaks here and there through teenhood, but basically being period-less my growing up. Now that I’m off the pill, however, my hormones and moods have been rather wild. I’ve been feeling things that the pill suppressed for years, and it’s a lot to handle. The lows are low and the highs are high. Anything that tips a bit off balance can send me spiralling, making me feel like I’m twelve again; a complete fruitcake. But I am feeling stronger than I have in years, too. I feel quite in tune with it, even if I’m not yet an expert on how to approach certain internal bubblings. Yet with these extremities, I want to drink. For the first time since being sober I really thought I was going to go into the corner shop, buy a bottle of Jack Daniels, and neck it all in bed on my own. And ruin fucking everything.
I wrote this poem explaining these feelings:
I don’t want music
Tv or poetry
I just want some good old fashioned
I want to be spineless with my legion
And rhymeless in my reasons
I want to turn my brain off
Find some freedom
Put in folds without caring
About the creasing
And satisfy wants
Without tending to the real needings
I want to eat
Then still be hungry post
I want to solve
By doing the most
I want to find a solitary issue
And turn it to a host
I want the walls to just crumble in on me
So I can boast
About my hardships
As I find my scapegoat
I want to set a blazing fire
Tip in all my good-days’ gloats
Wave feet above water, thrashing for help
When everyone knows
I’m good to float
In moments of alright
And in moments of shite
Because when life chokes me out
I just want to drink it away
I’ve been above surface for a while now
But I’m willing to drown it all
I feel that explains it better than I can write it not in poem form.
So with all these intense pressures pushing into me, I felt lost. None of my mates have suffered from addiction, or if they do, they haven’t pursued healing from addictions, and they don’t really understand what it’s like to go through cravings like this. Except for one friend. I went to meet him on a Friday in Soho Square and after we had our usual Kiki, I, without much thought nor resistance, poured out all that has been bothering me. We discussed it, he shared his unbelievable wisdom, and invited me to an AA meeting. I went the Tuesday after.
I was nervous. I kept a level head all weekend, but come the day, I got those jitters well and proper. I walked to Great Portland Street and met my friend, then we walked to the meeting as he explained what to expect. It helped a lot having a tried and tested person that I trusted leading me, but writing this from a post-meeting perspective, even if you walk in there solo, there is nothing to be afraid of. We turned up, chatted to some of the others, then took our spot in the seats. Again reiterated was the fact I didn’t need to say anything if I didn’t want to, so I didn’t even bother about worrying what to say. I decided to choose if I would or not come the moment, and sat doing another thing that was strongly advised; I listened. One bloke shared his story first, and it really touched me. Two others followed on, then I was offered the opportunity. Being the attention slut I am, I just couldn’t resist. But the lump in my throat as I touched shallowly and briefly on my sobriety, alcohol and drugs journey, and self-esteem issues, was unexpected. It felt so good to get out the issues that usually only my poetry truly sees. I must’ve cried at least three times in there. Not full on bawling, but my lower lashes did get a splash. I got my 24 hour chip, more as a novelty to celebrate my first meeting, but it will always mean a lot to me. Afterwards we chatted amongst ourselves again, and it felt so good to be welcomed, encouraged and hugged by people who just get it. I needed that.
One of the fellas shared some advice he received when he first joined: in the morning, make your bed. So that no matter what happens in the day, you can get into that and be reminded you achieved something. I told him how in the days leading up to my attending the meeting, with all the cravings and temptations at boiling point, and due to moving house, my bed was a mess. I had random things at the foot end, most of the sheet had fallen off so it was mainly exposed mattress, my duvet had come out of the cover and was a tangled mess, and I was just getting into it, exhausted, on the little sliver of ‘made’ that remained, right at the edge. I had made it the day before, and had already felt better. His advice seemed so apt. I’ve ensured to make it every morning since.
I never thought I would need to go to an AA meeting. I thought I had it all under control. Then suddenly I fucking didn’t. Suddenly I was immersed and I was terrified and I was lost all over again, as if I had only just gone sober. But this journey is not linear. It is so complex. I’ve been having to face some dark parts of my past recently, and I am finding answers to issues that have long been neglected. It doesn’t mean I have gotten over them issues, but it means I know where they rooted from and that helps identify triggers, reactions and feelings in those areas. Due to intense problems that were present when I went sober, which I worked through then, I thought I had fixed it all. But, actually, all it did was address the current situations, not the traumas that still deeply effect me. I went to this meeting and it helped so much. I had no idea the drugs were such a large emotional escape for me until all of this. In the meeting a few others said how they would justify the drugs because they never got as out of control on them as they did with the drink. I thought, fuck, that’s what I’ve been saying for years… but now I’ve cut them out too, I’m terrified and all I want to do is go full out and bloody shoot up. If you are struggling with addiction, and have the opportunity to attend a meeting, I do recommend it. Even if you walk out after and say FUCK DAT. I’ve been twice now and both times I’ve walked out feeling better than I did walking in.
Summer can influence the cravings. Everyone is in the boozer, got cans in the park, day drinking. There’s motive after motive. Special events. It has probably been one of the best summers of my life, and I’ve done most of it sober. So why now am I desiring to ruin it all for a hangover? If I start drinking I will stop living. When I went sober I finally gained the confidence to share my poetry. I started this website, put out my first book, formed a band, released an EP, performed for strangers and mates alike. I didn’t fall asleep on pavements, wake up in random beds, cry about being born, cut myself, forget nights I should remember. Wake up in a pool of my own piss with makeup smeared down my face and no clothes on. I didn’t end up in hospital for the fourth time due to alcohol. These are the things I need to keep reminding myself of. Low self-esteem destroys you, and in turn makes you want to destroy everything good because you think you don’t deserve it. But is it worth it? This is what I have to keep reminding myself of. No. It’s not worth it. I always said drugs had no power over me, only drink. But I realise now that, yes, I can get high without it spiralling. But as soon as I said ‘no more’ all I wanted to do was drop my face flat into a pile of cocain, neck three pingers and roll a number. I started to hate myself for not doing drugs. So maybe I have been a bit misguided all along. But I understand that the root of the issue is my own insecurities, and that the substances are only lusted after because I want to escape that lack of self love.
I haven’t drank for 2 years and 8 months. I haven’t done drugs for 1 month. I am doing my best to keep on the straight and narrow but also serve what I need and want in this time. Love to anyone going through a similar journey; it is fucking hard. But it goes back to that vital question… is it worth it?
For me, yes it is.
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: I’m Not Coming by Lucy Lane – I had the total pleasure of seeing this amazing lady perform in Hackney a few weeks back. She totally blew me away! She performed this tune in an acoustic style and did say the recorded version was different. I counted the days until it arrived and it came (pun intended) full force. What a brilliant, funny yet clever, empowering tune. I just love it.
Book: Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson – my dear friend borrowed me this book. She read it in a day. So did I. It is so beautiful, tender, raw, new, honest. It is a black love story that expands on the effect of police brutality on young men of colour, as well as exploring black arts. It is magic. Nelson is a brilliant writer; merging modernity with literature’s traditions and I recommend this to anyone.