Darren McGarvey: I'm sober and life is going well, but drink is still calling

I've been thinking about drinking lately. Which is not good for me, because I'm an alcoholic.

Darren McGarvey. Picture: TSPL
Darren McGarvey. Picture: TSPL

If I were to lift a drink today, there is no telling what might happen. Once I reintroduce alcohol into my bloodstream, I have great difficulty regulating both how much I will consume and my behaviour while I’m intoxicated.

There aren’t enough pages in this paper for me to adequately express the true extent of my destructive drinking, or the emotional interior that fuelled it, but what I can tell you, is that no matter how bad it got, I’d always sober up and decide it was OK to drink again.

That’s why I’m worried. This idea, an obsession of sorts, has burrowed its way back into my waking mind. There it will wait for an opportune moment to reveal itself. It speaks to me in different ways, sometimes as a friend or confidante, other times it’s a shoulder to cry on. The obsession will adopt whichever tone it deems as more persuasive.

As I go about my life, feeling increasingly besieged by the pressures of work, parenthood, family, all couched in constant financial insecurity, the obsession lurks patiently in the background.

Of course, the very fact I allow it to fester is proof of my insanity. The madness that I would even entertain the notion of drinking again, let alone allow it to reanimate itself and set up shop in my head. The reason it’s insane, is because of all the evidence that exists that I cannot drink safely, no matter how I try. But those once excruciating memories, of making a fool of myself, of saying cruel things, of causing trouble and letting other people pick up the pieces, of hurting my family and friends, now feel so distant. So distant that I question whether those things really happened.

How bad would one drink be? I’m away from home, my career is going well, my son is healthy, my relationship is back on track after a rough patch, my family is stronger than ever, why not celebrate all this with a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, a couple of drams, eight cans of Stella, two bottles of Buckfast, a bottle of whisky, three grams of cocaine, a blister of dihydrocodeine and 32 valium?

This is the madness of addiction. The foolish idea that somehow, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I would be able to control and enjoy drinking. For addicts and alcoholics, this is an idea that never goes away. Recovery is hinged on coming to a state of complete acceptance about that.

The obsession to drink and use can be removed, but it requires determination, support and brutal self-criticism.

One day, I realised that I need never drink again. Not only that, but that I would one day be able to walk into a bar and the thought of buying a drink wouldn’t even cross my mind. But the freedom that comes with sobriety requires commitment, gratitude and humility, which are three traits that do not come so easily to someone like me. Thankfully, I don’t need to worry about whether I can stay sober for the rest of my life, I just need to stay sober for one day – today.

Poverty Safari, by Darren McGarvey, is published by Luath Press, £7.99