How Did I Stop?
I made several attempts to give up drink during my 17-year drinking career. Some lasted a couple of weeks, others several months. I had no quality of life when I was drinking. I could only see as far as my next binge. I’d be ‘dead’ for several days after so there was really no life on the far side of each session.
In my early thirties, I trained myself to drink every 6th week. I thought that this would give me some quality of life. I realised that when I started drinking I wasn’t able to stop so I would give myself a full week to recover and then 5 weeks of freedom between each session. This would make my life more manageable, I thought.
I always found it very difficult to tell myself “right, that’s it, I’m off booze forever”. Given that drink was a significant part of my life, I thought that a life without it, and all the badness that it brings into my life, would be impossible. I’d go into shops, see a shirt I’d like to buy and then tell myself “how can I buy that shirt if I don’t drink anymore?”.
Drinking also made my work and family life difficult. If I knew I was out next Thursday night, I couldn’t schedule business meetings on the Friday as I knew I’d be dead in the bed. If I was out on a Saturday night and my parents organised a family get together on the Sunday, I wouldn’t be able to attend.
My life was a series of ups and downs. I was able to live it in a limited fashion. I had a life up until my next binge, but my life ended momentarily after each session. There was no plain sailing on a clear path into the future. The future was obstructed. It was like a horrible obstacle course.
One day in my late twenties, my dad handed me a piece of paper with the number of an alcohol counselor on it. I initially ignored it but put it in my room somewhere. When I got back from Chernobyl and vowed to never drink again on account of what happened on my final day there, I reached into the bedroom drawer to find the man’s numbers. I arranged an initial meeting with him and ended up seeing him for at least a year. The man’s name was Dr. Ian McCabe.
Dr. McCabe was an ideal fit for me as he was an alcoholic himself and his own son was gay. Alcoholism and Homosexuality, and the relationship one has on the other, was a particular area of research interest for Dr. McCabe. He taught me many interesting things about the disease, such as the fact that one in three homosexuals will have problems with alcohol, but the most important thing he told me was that I, indeed, was an alcoholic.
It was two months after my last session with Dr. McCabe when I started drinking again in Spain, as mentioned in Part Three. I allowed the inner demon in my head tell me it was ok to go back drinking ‘normally’ again. You have to be ever so careful of this demon. I watch out for him every day. If I let him take over, or even get into my head, there’s a fair chance I’ll be back drinking again.
To help me stay clean this time around, I’ve been seeing a counselor by the name of Michael Murphy. Michael himself is gay and runs a psychotherapy clinic in Sandyford with his partner Terry, who is also a psychoanalyst. Michael has been absolutely excellent in helping me with more deep rooted issues such as sexual identity and social anxiety (adoption). He is the one man I will always thank for teaching me how important it is to be able to embrace how you are different to other people. He always says “it’s the individuals in this world who change it by being who they are”. Running with the herd is not something Michael taught me to do. He taught me to be me. Embrace me. Love me. Be proud of my differences. The fact that I am gay, adopted, alcoholic makes me who I am. I am no longer ashamed. I embrace it.
I have been to a few meetings in the past few years. To be honest, they never really did it for me. There is a huge emphasis on God in these meetings. I don’t believe in God. They tell you not to get too hung up on the God element, that it’s not necessarily God, it’s God how YOU perceive him. I don’t perceive God as anything. I don’t believe in him, period.
I like the sharing side of the meetings, hearing other people’s stories, but I don’t particularly like the holding hands and reciting the prayer bit at the end. I’m also not too fond of the bit in the AA Big Book where it says that people who thoroughly follow their program, who end up failing or falling off the bandwagon, have some sort of mental illness. The program doesn’t appear to be too practical and doesn’t really allow for the proverbial ‘shit happening’.
I am sure meetings have helped countless individuals over the years. I don’t think I’ll be one of them. If only there was some sort of AA that was a little less cultish and that didn’t always have to be linked to fucking God!!!
My Eye Opener
Of all the events that took place which drove me to give up drink in the past, none of them were as powerful as the one which led me to give up this time round. For the first time ever, I saw the drunk Paul for myself.
It was Sunday 31st July 2016, the café had been open one full year to the day, and we needed to celebrate. Jason and I went out for a meal that night with the intention of ending up in Bukkake, a gay club that’s on in different venues every bank holiday Sunday. It’s always a great night and always packed.
I always felt a little uneasy during the hours (days) leading up to a big night out. Sometimes I even felt a little physically ill. Maybe this is because I’d know I was going to get completely wasted and then my life was going to end temporarily. It was possibly a nervous reaction. It was almost as if my body was feeding me a tiny taste of what was to come, and giving me a chance to turn the night down.
I don’t remember any of Bukkake that night. I am told by Jason that I fell about three times in the club, that I went missing and came back with my top off and that no taxi would take us home. My top being off would suggest that I took pills when I went missing and that I was overheating.
We managed to get a rickshaw back to the hotel. The rickshaw driver and Jason helped me over to one of the outside benches in the front garden. Jason left me there to go inside to get some water. When he went in, an American guest came outside for a cigarette. As I was sitting on the bench, I collapsed to the side. The American guest ran over to help me back up. She couldn’t lift me up herself. Jason came out and helped her lift me back up.
If you think about it, ladies and gentlemen, there is something very wrong with a guest of a hotel having to help up the owner/manager off the ground due to his intoxication.
The reason I can recount the last few details so clearly is not because I have any memory of the night. It’s because I saw it for myself. As some of you may know, I have a pretty advanced CCTV application on my phone which gives extremely clear images, both in real time and playback. I saw everything that happened in the front garden that night. Being helped by the rickshaw guy, falling, being helped up by the guest and then brought home by Jason. This was my real eye opener. This was my real wake up call. There is no going back from this. It was an app that saved me.
Where Do I Get My Strength?
Giving up drink is not easy. Sitting around with a group of people on a night out is not fun. Here are some of the things that helped me to get this far.
Don’t Drink For Today
Telling yourself you can never drink ever again is extremely hard and you’ll be less likely to stick to your sobriety if you have this mindset. That’s why I never see it that way. I think in the moment. In the day. For today I’m not going to have a drink.
Get Strength From Others
When I think about a life without drink, I sometimes get down, then I think of all the amazing people who are also in the same boat who have done so well in life. Gabriel Byrne, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hardy, Chris Martin; these are all people who don’t drink. And look at them now! I could sit for hours listening to Gabriel Byrne on his alcoholism and depression. The man gives me immense strength. He is a personal hero of mine. So articulate. So solid. Such a legend.
I also think of people like Pat Phelan from Cork who is an alcoholic himself but founded a multi million dollar business once he gave up drink. People like Pat also give me huge strength.
Swap Your Addiction For Something More Productive
If you are an addict, there is a fair chance you can put your addictive personality to good use. Look at what happened with me. I gave up drink and some months later I took up Snapchat. The Best Snapchat in the world never existed while I was drinking.
Love Yourself For Who You Are
Remember that the drinking you is not the real you. Drink made me a different person. I was an asshole on drink. I now embrace myself as I am. I am the real me. The honest me. Not the fake fucker you would meet on a night out. A life without drink will make you a truer, much more honest, nicer person.
Keep A Diary
I find it easier to stay off drink if I put it in some form of time frame. My last drink was 31st July 2016, meaning I’ll be one-year clean tomorrow. On the 31st of next month I’ll be 13 months and so on and so forth. Always remember the date of your last drink. It will help you remember how far you have come and how awesome you are.
Get Yourself A Dog
My three doggies help me every day. They are my buddies. When I’m feeling down they put me at my ease. Walking your dogs is a great way to clear the head.
Remember The Clear Path
Remember, a life without booze is a clear path life. You can see ahead into the future, with no ups and downs, no obstructions. You’ll be hangover free. You’ll be able to conquer the world.
Shut Up The Inner Demon
The reality of the situation is that the disease may creep back into my life at any point but the key is to keep those inner demons at bay. They will always try to convince you why one drink is not bad for you. Why you could go back to being a ‘controlled’ drinker. On the night of the 98fm Best of Dublin awards, where we won our first ever award, I was so tempted to have one or two. I was nearly going to let the demons win, but Jason stopped me.
You need support, whether it’s an AA meeting, a counselor, your best friend, your family, or whatever. Get the support you need.
Write About Your Experiences
I don’t do AA meetings, but writing this bog provided a great outlet for me and was a great source of therapy. If I ever find myself in trouble again, I will be able to read back on this for strength.
Thanks for reading
I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read my story on drink. I set out to write it with the intention of helping people who might find themselves in the same situation as me, and the feedback has been incredible. The number of messages I am receiving on a daily basis from readers who tell me I have helped them and/or their nearest and dearest is overwhelming and humbling. Thank you to you guys. You don’t know it but you are all giving me an incredible strength to carry on too.
Thank you to my family for supporting me so much over the years. I’m sorry you have had to put up with some of the things that have happened but thank you for being there for me throughout it all.
Thank you to Jason, my wonderful boyfriend for being there for me too. You have seen first-hand how the disease has made every effort to destroy me but you have helped me battle it off by being there for me at my side. Thank you for all the love and support you have given me.
Having given up drink, I have no problems in my life anymore. I could be in trouble with the Data Protection Commissioner, I could have the Guards banging down my door, I could be the subject of an abusive cyber attack by thousands of vegans, the hotel could even go up in flames, but do you know what? I’d still have no problems.
People often tell me that they think I’m fearless when they see me do the things I do online. In many ways, they’re right, I am fearless. Once drink is gone from my life, I have no fears anymore.