I fear, dear reader, that I have an alcohol problem. That I am, in fact, an alcoholic.
After twelve years working with and around the Devil’s Urine, coupled with what is termed “an addictive personality”, this is not a particular surprise. I’ve often reasoned with myself that I am not an alcoholic: I’m a drunk, alcoholics go to meetings, I don’t pour cornflakes on my vodka, I can stop any time I like, et cætera ad nauseam. However, the plain truth is that I have an abusive relationship with alcohol.
True, I don’t drink every day. I don’t wake up and reach for the whiskey, nor do I hide bottles of booze around the flat for surreptitious tippling. And I won’t drink while working: after all, I do have some instinct for self-preservation and impaired motor control while dealing with naked flames and incredibly sharp objects is something of a liability. I burn and cut myself enough by accident when I’m sober, and I dread to think what I would be like after a few pints. So I don’t fit the profile of your classic alcoholic.
My problem is a lack of control around alcohol. As an example, I generally have “a drink after work”. Now, given that the kitchen at The Bear closes at nine, one would expect me to have had one pint and then be on the bus home by ten. Instead, I generally have three or four pints and only leave when the pub closes. When I was at O’Murphy’s, it was not unusual for me to go for a drink after work and not get home until five the following morning. Even further back, when I was working at the chippy, a “swift half” after work ended up with me on a park bench in the snow at six in the morning, swigging rum straight from the bottle and spending the following day in hospital on a morphine drip for alcohol poisoning.
Of course, I could be blowing things out of all proportion, as normal. As I’ve learnt to deal with being bipolar, the tendency to self-medicate and the irresponsibility associated with periods of mania have become less severe. I no longer habitually pick up a bottle of wine to consume on my way home from work, for example, and I am (slowly) beginning to recognise when I’ve had too much and it’s time to go home. This concern, this sudden epiphany that I am an alcoholic could just be yet another tool my psyche has found that I can beat myself up with.
Something that my psychiatrist once noted is that there’s a somewhat fundamental tension in my personality, an opposition between hedonism and ascetism. Don’t get me wrong, I like booze. A good wine, ale or whiskey is a pleasure, in much the same way as a good meal is, or ogling an attractive man. However, at the same time there is this revulsion for all of the above, this gnawing, flesh-hating guilt which inevitably follows indulgence in any of the above. I tend not to suffer from hangovers, simply a sense of torpor conmingled with a really miserable guilt.
So, perhaps I’m “an alcoholic”, or perhaps just fucked up. Not sure what to do with that, however. I think that twelve-stepping, support groups and abstinence might be precipitate at the moment, treating the symptoms rather than the causes. I’m going to go read about Breton soundchanges in order to distract myself, I think.