They say the first rule of Fight Club is “Never talk about Fight Club”. Now that vanguard reigns true, until they made a multi billion dollar grossing film about it, and got every16 year old testosterone fuelled boy moering the shit out of each other in their grandmother’s basement. So for me to talk about visiting Alcoholics Anonymous might somewhat defy the sanctity of the institution, yet maybe it could inspire one to attend a meeting? Names, locations and afflictions are obviously altered, unless you believe Judie Dench really does have a crack problem, in which case you should definitely be at one of these meetings.
“Hi, Im Kyle, and Im an alcoholic”. No. Wait. Fuck that. Im 27 years old and occasionally I like to drink whiskey and have a dance. Ok, so “whiskey” means a bottle of anything more than 42% and “dance” means open mouth kissing a gender neutral homeless person under a Foreshore bridge at 3am on a Wednesday. But im 27. That’s what these years are for. I work during the week, and then on Friday I have a beer. Look, I also love a shot with friends. We cheers, we down the tequila, we make that face as if you’ve just made a kitten eat a lemon, and then we cavort until the wee hours to techno music, hopefully arriving home safe, before falling asleep with our shoes on. We’re 27, weekends are our playthings and Sunday evenings are our King Joffreys. That’s just how life is. Right? RIGHT?
But then the bastion of malevolence breathes fire directly into your stomach when your disgruntled flatmate asks the question all alcoholics fear most “Bru, do you know what you did last night?”. Your inability to answer the question coupled with the unnamed naked girl wearing a horse mask in your bed causes a meteoric LC. Suddenly you realize that the Michael Jackson impression you did during a Destiny’s Child song might not have been the crowd pleaser you had envisioned, and regret and disparagement set in. Your only comfort is that by Tuesday your remorse shall have waned, and you can once again return to solid foods.
So this was me, week in, week out. I became “that guy”. The one no one got upset with because “that’s just how he is”. I loved wine. Loved. I adored the pre-drink. That state of tipsy where your charming wit and charisma is only matched by your unusual ability to sink almost any pool shot. Then I liked to get stuck in. Scrounging my pocket for coins, for one more Black Label because Killer Robot was coming on and I needed just a little bit of an extra buzz. The hangovers began to gather momentum. The cash flow started erring heavily towards Ultra Liquors. The negatives started to far out weigh the positives. And then, as if a great crescendo reached its precipice, at one of my closest friends weddings I got so hammered I tried to sweet talk a bridesmaid from across the room. During the best man’s speech. I was driven home before the reception, my tail sitting quite firmly between my legs.
So there I was, 27 and realizing I had a problem that was not going to go away. I had a force that was influencing my life to the point that in a social setting people knew a different me. I had become anxious without cause. I was unhappy but I didn’t know why. How could the life of the party be internally so disparaged, yet externally so jolly? And besides what any psychologist or rehab facility will have you know, the opinions of others did matter to me. And fuck if I was going to be the brunt of another joke.
But sobriety? Its that horrible thing no one likes to look at, like scientologists or your parents having sex. In a mixture of self-belief and external coercion I went to an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting. Upon arrival I was greeted by a woman who made the cast of Trainspotting look like Taylor Swift (The Dame Judie I referred to earlier). Her eyes sat deeply in an emaciated face, but her demeanor transmitted a warmth and comfort. About 40 of us gathered inside a church (although the meeting remains non-denominational), and my nerves made me visibly shake. There were young folk, older people, some of which I knew, some of which knew me. One always expects your archetypal alchie to be a balding middle-aged man in a plad cardigan smelling of Old Spice, and while he was there aplenty, the room was awash with every person from every walk. If my hands weren’t shaking and my heart about to escape my chest cavity I would have thought we were about to embark on the greatest improv comedy evening of our lives.
As a first timer I was asked to light a candle. 80 eyes glared at my quivering self, now being forced to use an open flame. But as soon as that wick was lit, my nerves settled and the tension eased. As if getting back from a first date and being able to pass a wind you’d been holding onto for ages, there was a relaxation bordering on the jovial. A central figure, an “elder” of the group, held chair and read a series of intros and mantras. And then I heard stories. Stories that brought tears, but laughs. Stories that were unashamed and uninhibited and came from a place that was so sacrosanct to the teller that I knew I was one of the few to ever bear witness to their experiences. I said nothing my first time. I just listened to veterans who had endured such pain and hardship that my trivial little sexual run-in with that fat bird at Tin Roof seemed blissfully insignificant.
The first time I left I was excited. I had my music up high as I wheel spun out of the church parking lot, probably not your standard AA exit, but one that had given me some adrenaline. These people were stimulated by sobriety. They had an exuberance brought on by a self-empowerment. The myopic view of not getting smashed on a Friday seemed rife with an opportunity to stay sober. I was excited by not being drunk. Who the fuck am I? And why are my pants still on at 2am? This was a new unchartered landscape that my life had never entered. I returned weekly for about 15 or so times. Every time taking something from others. Every time relating to my own episodes, and realizing how close I came to truly fucking up, and really hurting my life.
There is nothing worse than a preachy former-drunk. I have no high horse to disembark, that is not the purpose of me penning this piece. But I stand here now, at 28 years of age in my umpteenth month of sobriety and am glad I nearly ruined my friends’ wedding. Because it forced me to acknowledge that age and alcoholism are partners through any year, and that the reprieve of those Friday after-work beers was actually the key to a part of me I didn’t like.
Being sober is shit. I want a glass of wine every day. But if it means sacrificing that piece of me that I want the world to know, then not the finest Shiraz could break it. Many people sit where I sat. I know them personally. They are my best friends. I managed to understand my affliction early on and stop it. So I guess you could say I got lucky. A world without booze would be boring as hell. No great stories ever started with milk, but for me, for now, I get to make a new path and enjoy life remembering every little nuance, whether it be good or bad, along the way.
So Hi, “My name’s Kyle, Im not sure if Im an alcoholic, but Ive learnt that I can still be young and have a jol without getting pissed and trying to wee in a pot plant”
Follow @Stroobz on Twitter as he tries meth as a healthy alternative to Vodka Redbull, and does a nude modeling shoot for Farmer’s Weekly.