06 May 2005

Hotel California

Some of you will know of my alcoholism from my comments left on your blogs, others will have realised from my last 2 posts. I haven't blogged directly about my addiction before but I should take advantage of my confessional mood before it changes. For the record I last took a drink on 9th September 1993.

When I admitted my alcohol intake to my doctor he told me to 'stop drinking before it stopped me.' One hundred and twenty units a week for the previous ten years had taken its toll. He signed me off work for two months with 'nervous exhaustion.' I had a lot to deal with. I was in a high pressure sales job, I had abandoned my mistress, the love of my life and returned to my wife. I needed to stop drinking to minimise the damage to my health. I walked home from the doctor with a pain in my side, short of breath and sweating profusely.

I closed my front door to the outside world and pulled out two fresh bottles of whiskey. I cracked the tops and upended them into the kitchen sink, watching with an air of detachment as the fiery amber liquid slipped from view. Next I collected twenty four cans of Carlsberg Special Brew lager from the refrigerator (for the uninitiated that's 9.2% by volume - suitable for tranquillising rhinos.) I sent them the same way as the whiskey then poured two pint glasses of water and settled into my armchair.

I had just ditched around £50 of alcohol, a ration that could have lasted me about five days. I drank eight pints of water that first evening and sat upright in bed all night, unable to sleep. The next night I drank water, and the next, and the next... Eventually I slept the sleep of the dead. During the days I shook and sweated and shouted and screamed. My boys and wife gave me a wide berth while I snapped and barked at every minor irritation.

Three weeks went by and the bathroom scales barely registered one hundred and forty pounds. I had lost twenty eight pounds in weight. No one at work saw this exorcism taking place. I asked for no help and no one offered me any. I sweated the poison from my system, doubling up with stomach cramps and eaten up by a craving for booze. Yet I persevered. Three weeks became six and soon I felt ready to start work again.

Over the next twelve years I learned to live without the numbing reward of booze. Now I avoid all contact with bars and parties. It's easier that way. People know I am an alcoholic who doesn't drink any more and I think they respect that. I hope so.

 You never recover from this disease you just enjoy remission for as long as you can. The Eagles sum all this up rather well in their haunting observation on alcoholism, "Hotel California" the lyrics are powerful.

"You can check out any time you like,
but you can never leave."
The Eagles – Hotel California


Jen said...

Virg, You are so strong.

Perfect Virgo said...

Jen - I once made the mistake of fearing for your fragility. You are strong too my friend.

Maybe I'm single-minded (hell maybe I also analyse too much)((double hell! if I don't analyse it who will?))

yours truly said...

Sounds like a horrible thing to go through. I am not so strong, I usually relapse once a day w my drug of choice.

Perfect Virgo said...

YT - yes it was pretty grim. I never relapsed once, not once. My strength (if I have one) is that I am 'all or nothing' thankfully even in abstinance!

yours truly said...

Yeah I'm definitely down w the all or nth but sometimes... I have to pick the lesser of two (or three, heh,) evils ... oh man that sounds like such a cop-out. You mo' bettah ;)

Perfect Virgo said...

Excess in everything is my motto, can't help your make up I guess. I even manage an excess of 'nothing.' There's dedication!

RuKsaK said...

Seems flippant to say I'm glad your blog is up and running again and I'm happy about it.

I'm also not being flippant when I say the following, but I was in the taxi the other day and thinking about the blogs I frequent and the people who write them. I asked myself:
'Which of them would you meet?'
Myself answered:
'Not that many of them to be honest.'
I replied:
'Yeah I know - but which?'
Myself answered:
'If I was in the UK, I'd meet that Perfect Virgo bloke for a pint.'
Sorry about that, but I'm good with several non-alcoholic beverages too, so maybe we'll do that one day.

recoveryroad said...

Good for you, PV. There are some similarities in our drinking it would seem (I know well the alcoholic properties of SB and other electric soups!).

Great post, mate.

Perfect Virgo said...

Ruk - sometimes the pint reference is simply proverbial. No need to apologise, and your comment is very touching indeed. I'm keeping my diary free.

Roots - I'm not surprised you know about SB. I get tense just seeing a gold and white can lying in the gutter. It's the most powerful reminder of all for me. I drank it like water.

Grace said...

Strangely enough, the first time I ever got drunk was on SB, at the age of 17. I have NEVER been able to look at, smell and certainly not drink it again. If it were the only alcoholic drink on offer I would say no thanks!

Perfect Virgo said...

Grace - I first discovered SB at a school-friend's party and I was 17 too! How about that then!

Although I drank most things the one constant was Special Brew. Instant gratification and syrupy sweet. Each to his own.

doughgirl said...

Powerful stuff PV

Thanks for sharing your story. I was wondering if I would ever know. You are strong to have done it by yourself. THat is determination indeed.

Im glad you were able to quit and stay that way. You strength has been an inspiration to me :) Thanks for all you do !! and say

Perfect Virgo said...

DG - I am glad you think I can provide any kind of inspiration. Now you know the reasons why I relied heavily on drink and the way I chose (was told) to stop. I am very pleased to share my story with you DG.

I still can't say why I started though, because I don't know. I drank from school age and realised by my mid twenties that I had a problem. It might stem from a rebellion against my up-bringing. I would need to ponder that one a lot more.

finnegan said...

Who's to say you'd even be here enjoying blogdom had you continued dousing yourself?

I've had the cigarette demon howling at me on and off for many years, but have hopefully crunched its skull under foot once and for all.

Your winning battle is inspiring all the more because you've been going it alone. I'm fairly convinced that one is never more alone than while battling an addiction.

Perfect Virgo said...

Finnegan - thanks for your deep thoughts. I am always keen to hear your views. I was utterly alone in my drinking hell, both while drinking and during the giving-up period.

I stopped smoking in 1997. With both booze and fags I have never slipped even once. But I will never say never again. You can't can you? You can only try.

Even now I still feel alone. The greatest opportunity to open up has come through blogging, so I am pleased to be here to tell the tale. As with everything else I can't even do that by half measures, I have to tell the whole world!!