I've been reading "Pour me, a life" by AA Gill who died nearly two years ago now, and it is by turns hysterically funny and full of dark comedy. In the book, he talks about how "normal" people drink for light relief and how we hardcore drinkers drink to escape reality. It's a slow death that can only be arrested by not drinking at all.
I look around me, and I see some of my friends and family who drink more than I ever did. The next-door neighbour who started drinking at 8.30 am on Xmas day. My sons' workmates who are all plastered all day every day of the holidays. My daughter who drinks vodka most days. Her alcoholic friend who starts on the extra strength cider upon waking every day.
I have mostly happy memories of my drinking days up until the last desperate struggle to break free. When drink had me in its vice grip. That struggle lasted eight years. Starting, stopping, disappearing when I gave into the AV, coming back crying and feeling ashamed and worthless.
It's around this time last year that I managed to trap my foot under the front room rug, lurched forward trying to save my drink in one hand and headbutted the TV, smashing the screen. I have another six months until it is paid off. A few months before that I slashed my hand when I fell on my whisky glass. Three years ago I was fooling around in the garden with my son when I keeled over and smacked my forehead clean on the concrete paving. I could have killed myself. I explained away the egg-sized bruise at work with a feeble "playing cricket" excuse.
A litany of burns, scrapes, A&E visits, lost wallets, poor finances, blackouts and self-loathing pepper my "fun" drinking times.
I'm sad. I'm sad because who I identify so closely with the drinking maverick that I liked to think I was. I spent so many years cultivating a persona that revolved around drink and now its all gone. I've killed off the drinking me. Never to return?
I really thought I would be able to go back at some time in the future, but I turn around and see the door has closed behind me. I could hang around the doorway and try to open it again, but it would be like something out of a Poltergeist movie. The sudden descent into drinking again like falling into a massive tornado and no escape. Twirling round and round in chaotic madness and spat out when life has no further purpose or meaning.
I feel much better today. I've been morose as I contemplate a life without the booze. Drink makes everything easy, it fills the time, takes away the responsibility. Without it, I'm like a little-lost boy wandering the streets looking for my mates to play football with. They're all sitting in the playground drinking strong cider and laughing.
When I was seventeen, I worked in a garage. The guys took me to the pub for my birthday at lunchtime. I necked Gin and Orange one after the other, and they thought it was funny. Until I spent the afternoon curled around the toilet bowl and they had to hide me from their boss. I had no idea what alcohol was then, and that was the start of my drinking career.
I resisted the temptation to take my son to the pub last April for his 18th, last week, reasoning that I shouldn't be encouraging him to drink. For eighteen years I'd waited for that moment when I could buy him his first pint legally and then when the time came I realised with horror that I shouldn't be doing it.
So with one of my favourite movie lines "And now I have to turn my back on you" drink is part of who I was. But not who I am.
It's a fresh canvas, a new start. A chance to make new friends who don't consider sitting in the pub a valid way to pass the time of day.