In my last post I spoke of agitation, missing out, craving and anxiety, the usual heady cocktail ex drinkers often go for when they are having a bad day. I suppose I feel a bit disingenuous in that I left out something that probably also accounted for my mood. I mention it now because I do know it’s relevant and if the name of the game on here is honesty then I should tell myself and others the whole story.
Today is 12 years since my son, George died. He was 21 and had been diagnosed with a brain tumour at 19. Despite the diagnosis he studied illustration at the university of his choice and fell in love with a fantastic girl. He got on with his life, hating pity but towards the end was understandably angry and scared. Everyone loses people they love and anniversaries can be a mixed bag of emotions. I know last weekend I was thinking about George and without doubt that was the unsaid element to explain my desire to just say “to the hell with it, let yourself have a drink; some solace.”
I know I also needed to mention George because he had a direct impact on my decision to stop drinking and maybe I’ve avoided saying this because, like George, I don’t want sympathy, but at the same time it’s not fair to not mention him and his contribution to my abstinence.
Twelve years ago around March 2008, we knew the end was coming for George. Everyone deals with stuff like this in different ways. I would occasionally go off and drink to find some kind of oblivion I suppose. I tried to find a place where none of this was happening. As we all know booze doesn’t rewrite reality it just hides it temporarily under a cloak of fogginess and hangovers. One day in March I stayed overnight with a friend in London. I told George I would get the early train and be back by 11am so we could do something together ( at this time he was with his mother at her house). On the Saturday night I went out with my friend and drank. Then I drank some more, but the drink wasn’t working. The reality of the situation seemed to be growing not diminishing. More drink seemed to be the answer until I was at the point where I had lost control. I was drinking, crying, laughing, shouting and heading for the worst of hangovers. I woke up next morning unable to move with a thumping head. I knew I had to get back but I couldn’t travel. My friend gave me the usual cups of coffee followed by fried food. Eventually I could travel.
I arrived at my ex wife’s house around 3pm . I was at least 4 hours late. I lamely gave my excuses to a disappointed George. I then went to the downstairs toilet and threw up. George heard me. He knew I’d been drinking to the point of missing the train and being ill. He was angry with me. He then told me something which has stuck, he said, “I’ve got cancer, I can’t do anything about that but you’re making yourself ill, you don’t have to do this to yourself.” There it was. Simple. True. He couldn’t prevent himself dying, I could, but was choosing not to. Fuck. For days and months and years that thought replayed in my mind. George would have done anything to be in my situation, to be in control, to be able to make choices that meant health and growth.
After that day, whenever I drank to excess, George’s words came back to me. I knew deep down that the only way I could honour those words which were angry at the time but based on love and concern, was to give up alcohol. He was right of course and it took me 11 years to act on his words. In giving up alcohol I am choosing life. I guess that’s the best reason of all to give up something that is essentially a poison.
Today I shall visit the tree I planted for George. It is in a protected burial woodland near the river where he used to love sitting with his friends playing guitar and smoking a joint. I’ll go with his mother and we shall talk about the good times and probably have a little cry. Then , as George ordered me to do, I’ll go off and enjoy life; booze free of course.