Sunday, 3 January 2010

A Drop Taken


I got home yesterday after ten days away, first up north at my mother’s, then in Suffolk at my sister’s. I am hoping for a huge fall of snow tonight, one big enough to paralyse all rail services between here and the city where I work, just because I am sick to death of trains and glacial station platforms.

I drank a lot this Christmas, even by my standards, and as always in January, I am thinking about cutting down. Ah, fuck it, who am I kidding? Really, with booze, it’s all or nothing for me. I’m pondering this move over a large glass of chilled Manzanilla right this minute. It has a sea-salt tang and a hint of new bread and toasted almonds, it adores the cheese I’m nibbling with it, and its utter purple-prosy, pre-prandial rightness on this icy night makes me wonder how one could ever forgo it. This is the thing about booze for me and a million other soaks: never drinking again is a gloomy prospect indeed. Someone (sorry, Mr Someone, I can’t remember who you were) said that when he finally understood that he faced the choice of abjuring the booze or present death, it was like sitting in an art gallery watching workmen carry away the paintings, leaving him nothing to look at but bare, white walls. Absolutely. Wouldn’t it be like confinement to every dull, dreary, soulless thing? Boiled turnip. Military brass bands. Carry On films. The Cambridge Evening News. Golf. God's cock, get me another sherry.

Ex-boozers, however, are often very successful people. I have a friend whose mum was a dedicated piss-head. As little kids, this friend and her brother were used to getting themselves ready for school because their mother, legless on matutinal sherry, could be of no assistance. Her mum did eventually knock the booze on the head and she is now a star turn as a globe-trotting speaker for Alcoholics Anonymous. Another friend, Madeleine, spent a year or two lying on her living room floor arseholed on scotch, whilst her teenage daughter went wild all over London. Maddy is now dry and successful, as were the two people I met at the only A.A. meeting I have ever attended, convened by Maddy when she was in Greece. I did not do the ‘hi, I’m Steve and I’m an alcoholic’ bit. (‘Hi, Steve!’) The others' confessions of their actions when pissed made me realise I was not in their league. They had slept in the gutter, lost their friends, their wives, their kids and their homes,  started over from nothing in their forties, and prospered. What could I have said? ‘Well, y'know, I have a few drinks, go to bed, get up for work the next morning...’ No. If someone tells you they escaped from the Twin Towers and rebuilt their lives after breaking umpteen bones, you hardly feel like telling them you once had to climb in through the pantry window because you mislaid your keys.

It was the friend with the piss-headed mother who first pointed out to me how obsessive addicts can be; the single-mindedness of their focus is remarkable. It tends to be on whatever experience triggers their need to anaesthetise themselves with booze. Turn that focus away from booze or drugs onto something external and you have the makings of an artist, counsellor, entrepreneur or utter pain in the arse. It was not me she had in mind when she said this, but a mutual acquaintance whose dedication both to his job and to Johnny Walker was passionate, but the one got entirely in the way of the other.

I saw myself there, though, up to a point. Booze is a reward for a bad day, or a celebration of a good one. I want it, indeed expect it, in either case. It matters to me more than I want it to matter. There you go, a confession. First I have made.

15 comments:

JR said...

How lovely to find you again! I have spent a very enjoyable few minutes (ok, so I've been on for over an hour) chuckling at assorted blogs. Also forwarded it to a friend who is just as linguistically anal as I am (thought to self: perhaps "anal" is not the most appropriate word to use here...0

JR said...

Oh, and I loved the analogy of the art gallery. So far for 2010 they just about managed to remove the full-colour postcards of the exhibits before I ran, screaming, to the gallery door and shot all the bolts. A very tasty pint of London Pride on 2nd Jan put paid to the "oh that's ok, I'll just give up drink in January, just to show myself that I can." Well I suppose there's always next January...
xxx

Bo said...

I was about to comment smugly that I hadn't had a drink tonight, then realised that I had blocked out the fact I drank half a bottle of red earlier. Ooops. I know exactly how you feel.

Revd Ivan Ackeroff said...

You are absolved.

Fionnchú said...

Wonderful image to match typically elegant and witty prose. I lack the truly addictive drive in imbibing as in nibbling, except for cookies now & then, but I'm intrigued by your entry.

I heard an academic paper on AA & religious underpinnings that mentioned how it's 10% of alcoholics go to AA & 10% of those succeed. A friend who's been in AA for decades told me that estimate was exaggerated, but I am not sure which way! I wonder if the all-or-nothing approach is the sensible one; as with diets and other fanaticisms, methinks moderation. But that begs the whole motivation and nature vs. nurture condundrum...

vilges suola said...

Bloody hell, five comments at once, a comments record! Thank you for your feedback, and Revren, for your absolution.

JR, I think is Jenny? Nice to hear from you and yes, there is always next january - glad you share my view of things.

Fionnchu, I only went to one AA meeting as I said, and its effect on me was to make me a) bored and b) slightly embarrassed at the pseudo-religiosity of the thing. I don't know if all meetings proceed in the same way. Moderation is something I don't do well. I'm very glad I don't like smoking.

But half a bottle, Mark? You can try a bit harder than that, I'm sure.

Bo said...

I can indeed, it was the fact that half a bottle down had simply *failed to register as alcohol* that was the worrying thing!

vilges suola said...

I see. Yes, that happens to me too. A couple of sherries or G&Ts before a meal don't really count, do they ?

JR said...

Yes, that's me.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

Nice posting, Mr Lath - very nice indeed. I thought I was a 'mere tipler' once, until a blood test caused my doctor to mumble something about middle-aged men going to an early grave. So I knocked it on the head there and then, and now only imbibe moderately on occasions - birthdays, Christmas, etc.

Wish I could say the same for the demon weed, though. Mercifully, a packet of Winston only costs me a quid where I live, so at least it's not breaking me financially as well as in a pulmonary fashion. That way I at least get to leave the kids something in my will!

vilges suola said...

What was the blood test for? I had a series of tests done in November, and was pronounced OK - odd, as I had expected to be told my liver was like a lace doily.

Layne said...

In a film, the title of which escapes me, someone was self rightously counseling an old sot, "You'll live longer if you stop drinking." The response was, "No, it'll just seem longer."
Cheers and happy new year.

vilges suola said...

@ Layne that reminds me of another toper who said that the medical papers he read on drinking scared him so much that he gave up reading. Happy New Year to you too.

libhom said...

I wonder if they have Rational Recovery or the Secular Organization for Sobriety where you are.

vilges suola said...

I've heard of RR but not the other one.

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