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FIRST PERSON: The Algebra of a Downward Spiral

It’s a perfect storm. 

First, beer, for that is my poison. I have the occasional G&T or glass of wine, but it’s always been beer. I drink too much anyway, but usually keep a lid on it. But as pressure has built elsewhere in my life, I have another beer, which always seems to lead to another.

Second, work. I spent two years doing an impossible job. I did some good stuff and tried to fix things that where unfixable, but it was like getting into a boxing ring every day, blindfolded. I was exhausted and it felt like I’d failed when I started a new position earlier this year. Part of the new deal involves two people (me being one) doing the work of three and the workload is crushing. I’m also having to relearn basic skills that I seem to forgotten, or maybe never mastered. It’s been an uphill struggle and I’m not sure I’ve got enough strength, or talent, left in the tanks.

Third, my relationship with my wife has never been worse, which is made even worse by the fact that it’s always been so good. We’re soul mates, best friends, lovers, the whole shebang rolled into one. But, without realising it, or ignoring it, I’ve been damaging that little by little.

Then I drink more, because that will make things better or least block them out; then I go to work but I’m not on my game, because of the night before; and, because I seem more interested in my next beer than my marriage, I hurt the thing I love most, even more.

The formula would go something like this, where B is booze, W is work, M is marriage and L is my life…

B x W x M = L

(B+L) x (W+L) x (M+L) = L2

(B+L2) x (W+L2) x (M+L2) = L3

(B+L3) x (W+L3) x (M+L3) = L4…

{Repeat to coda}

And Sammy, the rescue dog we adopted eight months ago, while beautiful, good natured and intelligent, is more damaged than anyone could have predicted and has taken a lot more work than expected. Another stick with which to beat me. It just feels like I’m failing at a lot of things.

Eventually everything got too much and I had a proper meltdown. Things became overwhelming and it felt like me head was imploding. I sobbed like never before and couldn’t stop.

I’d had a week off work, but my wife had to go back to her job. I was determined not to mess up and had been out one morning with the dog. I’d bought a couple of magazines and was about to get a coffee before lunch. Then I bumped into a mate who said he was going for a beer. Of course, I didn’t need asking twice. What possible harm could there be sitting in the sun and having a couple of pints at lunchtime? I was on holiday after all. Of course, that’s not what happened. I made it home at 9pm, absolutely wasted. I still had the dog with me, but only after a sober friend had helped when he got off the lead and ended up in the river. Needless to say, my wife wasn’t massively impressed. And, it’s far from the first time, very far…

I drank as usual throughout the weekend so, while on my best behaviour, still a lot more than most people. I se off for work on Monday morning, with a little trepidation and a bit of a hangover (not unusual). Got through the morning, but things haven’t been great at work and it seemed like things had been running better without me. So I headed back home at lunchtime, always aware that I have to walk Sammy and get back to work within an hour, which is possible, but only just. Got home and the dog popped up at the window, as he always does and as I opened the front door he jumped up at me, tail wagging furiously, and running around woofing as he always does. And then, I just broke down (maybe something to do with the unconditional love of the dog); sobbing, weeping, rubbing my head, rocking backwards and forwards, almost wailing… This went on for about ten minutes before I got myself together enough to take him for a walk. Managed to get through the walk and got back home. I’d forgotten my wife had to nip home at lunchtime and was surprised/delighted when I saw her car outside.

The dog bounded up the stairs to see her and I followed. Then she innocently asked how I was, as you do. I paused, trying to hold it together, but couldn’t. It came over me like a tidal wave and, again, I was inconsolable. My wife had to go back to work; there was something she genuinely couldn’t get out of. I managed to book an emergency doctor’s appointment for later that day and he signed me off for a week, and now a further week.

The doctor has been really good and I made a deal with him last Friday, the ultimate goal of which is to knock the grog on the head, for an as yet unspecified length of time. I’d like to be able to go back to drinking in a controlled way but, if I’m honest, I don’t trust myself yet and might never be able to do so. Deal was: no pubs; buy beer every day and only drink that; gradually reduce the amount of beer I drink every day; and self-refer myself to an organisation that is there to help with this sort of stuff.

I went back to the doctor today and I’d kept my part of the deal. He was pleased with progress. In four days, I’ve halved my booze intake and has asked me to hold it at its current level until I see him next week. Still waiting for blood test results, though, which is a bit scary. I have also self-referred to the recommended organisation and, after an initial assessment, have an induction meeting next Friday. Not entirely sure what happens, but I have to go with an open mind. 

Reckon I’m at the start of a long road, but have at least taken a few steps in the right direction.


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