– ODO- 18287-18394km
– Location- Unknown Highway Town
– Weather- 20-29 overcast most of the day
Cycling all day every day gives me plenty of time to reflect. Often I’m reflecting on great moments of my life. Loves, laughs and times with family. But so too come the intrusive thoughts. The doubts that can break my confidence and memories that make me cringe then look around the check if anyone noticed my facial tick.
Today is spend the whole day listening to one audiobook. It’s a rare thing for me. I tend to switch around from podcast to music to a book then back again. Today though I started Drinking- A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. The book is a deeply personal account of the authors journey through alcoholism, not as a rock bottom drunk but a successful journalist working, building a career and a life – always in the shadow of drink. Hearing how it shaped her every relationship and every interaction with her family fundamentally breaking her ability to have and keep a consistent identity.
My own journey with alcohol appears to have reached its paradise island with this trip. I have none of the peer pressure of competitive London to drive my keen desire for substances. My every day is build around an activity that even a beer or two the night before can effect. Cycling 100 miles against a head wind is hard but against a hangover headache is even less desirable.
I’ve not always been here though. My journey with alcohol has taken me to dark places. As a teenager alcoholism was an accepted, even lauded lifestyle. Choosing to move from my home town to London at 19 to work for a music and media company brought me into another culture keen to support weekly binges and nightly pub visits. At the time it was all part of my social awakening. In a new city with no friends and painful shyness, alcohol was the only way I knew to connect with others. The only issue was I often woke up feeling further from my friends and colleagues than the night before, with no memories of our interactions, only that faint dread of not knowing how I acted or who’s trust I had broken.
The city and the startup bro culture combine into a toxic mix of alcohol as the default. You meet new clients for a drink, after work socialising with your boss over a drink, conversations on deals and promotions are all done over a drink. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed myself more than I ever had alone in Norwich. But with each excess high came a compensatory low. A deep sense of anxiety that I didn’t truly fit in and everyone only liked me when I was drunk.
My low point came barely three years ago from today. I’d been up partying for a girlfriends birthday – in my days living in a warehouse the parties were plentiful. We returned to a room in the early hours and drunk and tired she fell straight to sleep in the bed made from pallets on the floor. The party was winding down outside with most groups leaving to checkout more bustling units in the complex. The remaining bodies lay slumped over chairs and sofas around the open central floor space from which the 16 warehouse rooms adjoined.
I left my girlfriend asleep and closed the door quietly so not to wake her. I took a spare bottle of rum full but for two fingers at the top, and headed for the toilet. Checking nobody saw me go in and locking the door behind. I sat against the bath and over the coming hour drank the whole bottle, trying to reach the euphoria of pure oblivion on the dirty bath mat. I couldn’t sleep. I had no desire to follow the party. All I wanted was to drink.
Over time this event and other occasions linked in me with a desire to work on my pervasive anxiety and monthly bouts tonsillitis until I’d had enough. Over these months and years my perception of alcohol began to change. Now I no longer feel the need to drink. Ive lost some friends because of the change and I’ve made some new ones too. Now it seems so alien to want to that oblivion but whenever I see an open bottle of rum on the table my heart begins to race.