Death of a drinker.

Death of an old friend.

It is always sad when somebody passes away but even more so when it is relatively early in life. It is a real shame when addiction is behind death, as it is something that can be beaten. It is always a reminder to us in recovery, of how serious drink and drug problems can be. It is a hard reality check for those of us who have struggled in the past and managed to stop. Recovery is not easy, especially at the start and some people just don’t manage to change. They cannot face life without drink.

An old friend from my drinking days, died recently, from substance abuse related issues. He was under no illusion that he had a problem and had been in hospital before, after a drinking related stroke. Many people had tried to help him and he was introduced to different support groups and medical treatment, but nothing really helped. He would tell his friends he had stopped, but we knew that this was not the case. His drinking cost him a couple of marriages, and destroyed relationships with his family. He was amazingly talented but was not nearly as successful as he could have been, because people realised he had problems and would not employ him. He lost a huge amount of money feeding his addictions, and the stress of this caused his problems to accelerate. It is the type of story that I used to hear a lot, when I went to AA meetings.

Praying

It is strange to know he has gone. We had some great times in the past and were very close for many years. He did some great things and could be very generous and kind, but the was always a wild side underneath. He was generally well liked amongst the drinking community, but that was part of the problem, as he was always surrounded by fellow abusers. We drifted apart after I got sober. I knew it was not good for me to hang out it drinking environments in my early days, and by the time I had a couple of years of sober time, I had moved on, and had no real interest hanging out with people who were drunk. It was no longer something I wanted, I had started viewing drink as poison rather than something I craved.

Over the last 10 years a few of my little group have thankfully managed to change their ways. Not all are in recovery, as some have just changed, after middle age has played its part. A few others are still pushing the limits and sadly they do not look well. It is quite odd bumping into them again, as I realise I have changed. I don’t feel I have much in common with them any more. It is almost that getting smashed was the most important part of our friendship and nothing deeper which is what have with people today.

A death, does bring into focus how dangerous the drinking lifestyle is. You can get away with it most of the time when you are young, and many would consider it normal behaviour. Some people just can’t get to a stage where they are motivated to stop. No matter how hard they suffer, or how chaotic their life becomes, they cannot find a solution. I don’t judge them badly, I realise how hard it is to stop. Drink and drugs are all around us and in the UK, there is a big binge drinking culture. It is not glamorous and it is not fun. Although I certainly partied hard in some great nightclubs and other trendy spots, that was not what I was doing by the end. I was drinking in dumps that stayed open late or chains such as Wetherspoons that sell cheaper pints that attract people with drink problems. there is nothing glamorous spending the night in one of those places and you always run the risk of annoying the wrong person as closing time approaches and many pints have been sunk.  Some people say AA is rough, but they should try Wetherspoons near a south London Council estate one evening, if they want to see what drink does to people.

Who is next?

I think more of my old drinking friends will pass away over the next few years. We are over fifty and our bodies cannot take the pace any more. There are always exceptions to the rule such as Lemmy, or Keith Richards, but most can’t take that pace. It is a shame and I hope that things will change in the future and people will value their lives more. The problem is acute in deprived areas, and sadly, I think, that thanks to the actions of our government, there is more deprivation on the way.  I understand the effects of unemployment and lack of opportunities. Life feels very unfair at times and this drives addiction. Other people like myself and my friend were party animals, who let things get out of control. He used to tell me, I was boring for stopping that lifestyle, and I hoped he would change and stop as well. I thought he would do it at one point, as he seemed to be ready. He was influenced by one of our acquaintances who had managed four years of sobriety and this was somebody he looked up to. Sadly, despite having a stroke the still could not stop, and the effects of long term cocaine abuse added to his problems.

I feel very sorry for him, and was shocked when I got the news. I had to tell quite a few people it had happened and they were also shocked. It is a strange feeling, as I was expecting this to happen. He looked awful the last time I saw him, and he wanted a lift to score drugs. I have given him lifts in the past, but refused this last time. He looked too frail and I did not want to feel responsible, if anything happened. I bought him lunch, but it was not what he wanted. I recognised his hunger, as I used to have the cravings and wanted the safety and anonymity you can get in some sleazy pub.

Life can feel so overwhelming at times, especially when drugs and drink add to your paranoia. It is a horrible place to be and people who have not experienced the desperation do not normally understand it. I read a lot of crap about beating addiction, from people who have no idea how hard it can be. I respect anyone who tries to change, especially those whose lives have really fallen apart. I have heard some amazing stories of recovery I the past, especially in the sort of rough recovery meetings that I preferred. I had no time for the posh meetings and the trivial sharing. Most people have many attempts at stopping and have a few disasters along the way before they make it. Others just seem to give up and can find no peace without drink or drugs. Nothing seems to make them change their ways. I can understand that as well. There was a time when I did not want to recover and had really had enough of life. I did not want to kill myself but did not want to live a long life. My existence had become meaningless and I was suffering from bad depression. At that time I felt that drink was the answer, but it was only after I had spent some time with others who were attempting a sober lifestyle that I realised many of my problems were driven by drink. My whole perspective on life was wrong.

Relief at getting Sober.

I am glad I got away from all that, and am thankful for all the people who have supported me. I would not have done so well in the past, when there no suitable books and no internet to find help and solutions. I keep the blog going as it allows me to keep a little bit of contact with the recovery world, without taking part in formal groups. I feel comfortable with my sobriety these days, but it still brings you down with a thump when you find out about somebody who has passed away. It is very sad. I wish there was some way of stopping this happening. The drinking and drug culture in  the UK is bad, and not enough is being done to change this. It is no good waiting for people to get into problems and then offer them a few counselling sessions and a pack of antidepressants. We need a big change in values, in the way that people have gone against smoking. There will always be some that get into trouble, but many could be helped.

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