Tuesday, 14 November 2017

One Is Never Enough

"I'm an alcoholic. I don't have one drink. I don't understand people who have one drink. I don't understand people who leave half a glass of wine on the table. I don't understand people who say they've had enough. How can you have enough of feeling like this? How can you not want to feel like this longer? [pauses, sighs] My brain works differently. Leo Mcgarry...

"I will never understand why people smoke, don't they know its killing them?" Or "why cant you just drink one and then stop" These are the sort of questions that are constantly asked of people who are addicted to cigarettes or alcohol. They are sometimes asked in anger, through tears or in deep frustration but they seem genuine questions to level at someone who seems hell bent on self destruction. Yet, to an addict, they are some of the most blatantly ridiculous questions you can ever waste words on. Why? Why? there are so many answers but none of them would make any sense to you because you aren't an addict and your brain works differently to ours, We flip the question and we fire back "why would you only want to stop at one" and "because they keep me calm" or " I just like it". As someone that has used alcohol to numb the unbearable pain of loss or simply to nullify the constant stabbing agony that floods my brain, I can tell you that I honestly don't understand the questions either but neither do I understand the answers. Addiction is insanity and it defies logical explanation. if it were to make sense some smug self help guru would be revoltingly rich by now. Contrary to what scientists or experts will tell you this is an illness, a sickness of the mind and the substance of choice is merely the outworking of something that originates from a brain that is wired dangerously differently in our heads. As a man who has self medicated on spirits and wine I can tell you that I did it for that fuzzy, tipsy feeling that floods over me and makes me impervious to pain. For that blissful moment my cares are carried away on an alcoholic cloud of fluffy and for that moment I am happy. To maintain that moment between sober and falling down stinking drunk is what every addict craves and yet it is the most fickle of mistresses. The exact amount required to reach alcholic nirvana depends on so many varying factors, and I don't just mean how much I have eaten beforehand. What is my mind set, how has my day been? How tired am I? all of these questions and the answers to them will have a bearing on how much alcohol is required. When you add in the common problem of alcoholic forgetfulness I have concluded that it is impossible to maintain the required dosage before falling into the abyss of alcohol induced depression. That is where the danger lies because I don't feel pain and I don't abide by the normal rules of preservation of my own life. I simply don't care anymore and I think this is where many people's issue lies with the addict. Once we reach the point of no return we are transformed into creatures of the night who can turn from bumbling love sick, slurring idiots to spitballing volcano's of hatred. "Why don't you just stop?" I have answered that question through shuddering tears of self loathing and the answer is always the same "I don't know"

I love the West Wing for so many reasons. For Sorkin's ability to move me from laughter to tears, from a moment of incredible emotional patriotism to a moral crash of titanic proportions. I love how he builds characters with all of the flaws and strengths that you find within a person and I love Jed Bartlett as President. But Leo McGarry (played by the sadly departed John Spencer) is outstanding as the Chief of Staff and, in one episode, he perfectly explained the mindset of an alcholic but also of anyone addicted to anything.

"That's because you think it has something to do with smart and stupid. Do you have any idea how many alcoholics are in Mensa? You think it's a lack of willpower? That's like thinking somebody with anorexia nervosa has an overdeveloped sense of vanity. My father was an alcoholic. His father was an alcoholic." Leo Mcgarry

At the moment it has been months since I last drank anything but I no longer treat alcohol with the casual attitude that deepened my last breakdown. I don't go so far as many alcoholics do and say that just one drink will always lead immediately to a bout of binge drinking, but it is a distinct possibility. With every fall from grace I load the chamber of my addicts gun ready for another game of Russian Roulette. With every new squeeze of the trigger the real possibility that, this time, the chamber will be loaded becomes stronger and stronger. Why do people smoke? Why do alcoholics drink excessively? because our brains are wired differently and it is something you will never ever understand. So next time you shake your head in anger or disbelief at someone lighting up or at someone staggering down the street just remember, they aren't stupid or ignorant but they are not well people at all and they don't need your patronising attitude levelled at them. We are addicts and we know that the illness we have running amok in our heads is a killer and we struggle everyday to contain the monster from breaking out. Help us, support us but never ever pity us.

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