I’ve spent a bit of time recently mulling over the reasons that I ever got into this unhealthy relationship with the booze. When I look back at some of the lads I grew up with, and have known since being six or seven years old, there’s no huge difference in the way our lives progressed. So why was it me that ended up taking the whole thing a bit too far? Why did I think it was funny to drink an entire bottle of Jagermeister and then expose myself to a packed room of rock fans in a pub in Scotland? Why did I get landed with the drinking problem? Why not them bastards?
Well, from what I’ve read, the first thing people usually look towards is any kind of trauma that preceded the onset of ‘enthusiastic drinking’. Something which may have happened to cause the drinker to want to blot out the past. There are two things I reckon a shrink would pick up on whilst digging through my grey matter – one that I personally suspect had little-to-no effect on my drinking choices, and one which definitely may have had a bearing:
1. Parents split up – This happened when I was about 12 years old, so the numbers stack neatly, but honestly it didn’t really affect me in any way that left me twisted or bitter towards the world. I like to think I’m a pretty logical lad, and I specifically remember thinking to myself that it was just one of those things – and that it’s better for my parents to be apart and happy than together and sad. I did, however, use the whole ‘boo hoo my parents have split up’ thing as an excuse to start acting like a proper little cunt. I got into punk and metal music and started copying all of the brattish things that snotty punks are meant to do – spitting and smashing windows and smoking cigarettes. Punk music did also link me in to the world of drinking – it goes together perfectly right? But at this point I was just drinking with my mates on a Friday night, bottle of White Lightning and 10 Embassy at the local park, and I don’t think I was any better or worse than those guys were. Nah, I’m pretty sure I can’t pin this shit on my parents.
2.Girlfriend Troubles – I found my hardcore drinking groove in my early twenties, and by that point I’d had two proper girlfriends. For the sake of anonymity let’s call them ROMANTIC COUNTERPART NUMBER 1 (RC#1), and ROMANTIC COUNTERPART NUMBER 2 (RC#2). Catchy.
Be warned – my brain is old and fucked, therefore the below details are sketchy and not to be relied upon…
I dated RC#1 in my last year at school, and slightly into my time as an engineering apprentice (an apprenticeship that didn’t last long as it was shit and wank). It was a relationship that just sort of started as a drunken fling in a park. She was a friend of a friend, we’d been sipping cider and vodka together one night and one thing led to another, and we started spending more and more time together until it became a thing. As I imagine it is with all first relationships – it was a huge learning experience for me. Unfortunately one of the main things I learned, in my naivety, was that this girl couldn’t be trusted. She stood me up one day, waiting outside her work at 12pm on a Saturday afternoon like I always did, only to find that she’d already left work and vanished. The police got involved and she turned up around midnight, stinking of whisky and covered in love bites from her much older co-worker Paul. Understandably, things couldn’t be rescued from that point. I wasn’t all that bitter towards her, but definitely disillusioned with the concept of meaningful romantic entanglements – which is why RC#2 came as such a blast of loveliness and euphoria. A grenade launcher full of happiness fired point-blank into my chest. Awww.
RC#2 was the first girl I really loved, and the last one for quite a while. And oh dear did it fuck me up when she left! I think we were together a couple of years, maybe a bit longer, and the demise of the whole thing sits squarely on my shoulders – I spent a large proportion of our time together being a bit of a dick. I got drunk, did silly things, lost sight of what was important, and ultimately was given my marching orders – fair enough – but things didn’t end there. Nope, the struggle to get her back was arduous, painful, and ultimately completely unsuccessful. I tried everything and went through all the emotions. I would be angry one day, phoning her up to tell her that she can’t carry on without me (?), and then the next day I’d sit outside her house for 3 hours holding a rose and waiting for her to get home from college, all doe-eyed and acting like we were still together. Jon you fuckin’ creepy bastard.
I have one memory that still gives me shudders of regret even now, eighteen years later. I was out and about in my mum’s little Fiesta one night in Mirfield – the little West Yorkshire town where me and my ex and most of my mates lived – and I passed a mate’s house where she was climbing into his car for a lift home. I spun the little Fiesta around like a really crap stunt driver and chased them all the way to her house, and then when she wouldn’t talk to me I just got angry and yelled about how much of a bitch she was so that all of her neighbours could hear. Poor lass ran off towards home in tears as I angrily wanged stuff about. I was such a twat.
The timing of the whole RC#2 relationship breakdown was potentially pivotal in my advancement towards a state of professional drinking. You see, I’d just reached that point, nineteen-ish, where I was realising the true potential of booze as a life-affirming elixir. I was at the peak of my booze ‘honeymoon phase’, where you think that drink makes everything better without any consequences – too young and spunky to get hangovers or a beer gut – and so committed myself wholeheartedly to the drinking lifestyle in the wake of RC#2’s departure. This led to long nights in stupors, idiotic drink-driving sprees, and also the loss of a lot of good friends – friendships which I’ve thankfully earned back in more recent years.
One good thing about becoming single against my will, and something that I’ve always done in those situations, is that it forces me to go out and grab life by the pubes. To take a step out of my comfort zone and make a name for myself – if only to prove my worth. Sometimes this would be by forming a new band, or starting a new hobby. In this particular example, immediately post-RC#2, I threw myself heavily into the making of depressing NIN-esque computer music in my bedroom, and also into getting better acquainted with the local rock-club scene. I wanted to be known as a party-animal. A booze-warrior with no off-switch. I even got myself a gig DJing every weekend at a sweaty club in Dewsbury called The Squash Club, but that didn’t last more than about 6 months. The boss sacked me after I told him (what I thought was) a funny story about vandalising a hotel room in York. Tsk.
The party lifestyle manifested itself in ways I didn’t expect. A break-up which shouldn’t have taken more than a few months to get over ended up being a huge black cloud that followed me around for years – and I’m convinced that it was the booze that held it there – Hi Jon it’s booze here. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. Have another drink and you’ll feel better. Why not stick that Cure album on again and have a little cry? Then after you’ve blacked out we can wake up tomorrow and do the whole thing again…
After a particularly heavy night on the booze with a group of friends, drinking until the sun started to come up, I recall standing up in front of everyone and announcing that I was “going to get RC#2 back!…”. It must have been around 6am, and I picked up my bottle of Jack Daniels and staggered, on my own, through the middle of Mirfield and down towards where she used to live – about a 40 minute round trip – swigging my whisky and babbling and whimpering and blowing snot bubbles. I remember, clear as day, banging on her bedroom window and getting no response – so I instead started tapping drunkenly on her younger sister’s window. The curtains flew open. An angry, nay FUMING face appeared, and I slurred through the whisky haze and the tears…
“DOES RC#2 STILL LOVE ME??”
*sad face with tears*
The response was quick and to the point…
“SHE’S STAYING AT A FRIEND’S HOUSE – GO AWAY!“
Well, I did exactly what any self respecting male would do. I flailed like a Wacky Inflatable Arm Waving Tube Man, and minced off into the sunrise, spilling whisky all down myself and emitting a wailing noise like an injured dog. If break-ups have a rock-bottom, I had found it.
Unfortunately, although the ex-girlfriend-bothering had hit it’s peak at this point, the drinking had not. The next stage of my young life wasn’t going to do much to help the booze situation either…
After ditching my wanky engineering apprenticeship I went to college for a bit to study music technology, and then after the whole RC#2 debacle I dropped out of that and decided I needed a job. Enter stage left: Huddersfield Golf Club.
HGC were looking for full-time bar staff, and at this point in my life I couldn’t give two fucks about finding a ‘career job’ – I just needed some money. As it happens, HGC is where I stayed for the next four years, from being about nineteen till about twenty three, and over that time my drinking just got dafter and dafter. Here’s a fun list of reasons why the golf club turned me into a raging boozer:
- The boss was a pisshead – and this just normalised drinking for me. I was promoted to Assistant Bar Manager, and so between us me and the boss kept the bar covered through all daylight hours for the golfers, and then many a night for the social events. We did looong days, often split shifts, and the one thing we always had available to us was booze. Literally on-tap, literally right there in front of us. Steve, my boss, lived in a flat above the club and was almost like some kind of man-baby that had been taken hostage by that club. He hardly ever left the building, and on the odd occasion that he did – for example for a meal out with his lovely wife – he would be STEAMING by the time he got back. It was like he needed the safety net of alcohol to protect him from life outside of the club’s grounds. This rubbed off on me massively; I associated work with drinking, and I associated everything outside of work with drinking.
- The other staff were pissheads – namely the kitchen staff, and to be fair I’ve never worked with a chef that isn’t a complete wreck-head. Unfortunately the head caterer whilst I was there, a lovely friendly guy who lived on the premises, actually died in his bed one night after coming to see me at the bar for a bottle of red wine. I never knew the official cause of death, but I do know he used to put away an extraordinary amount of booze on a daily basis – usually starting at lunchtime with pints of lager, and ending with G&Ts, red wine, and sometimes whisky before bed. I think he was in his mid-forties when he died, and I’m 99% sure he drank himself into that grave. That should have been a wake up call right there…
- The customers were pissheads – not all of them mind, but obviously it was a bar job. There are always going to be pissheads. Because HGC is a private club, you got to know the customers really well. This meant that it was not uncommon to be included every time a round was bought, and my boss jovially explained to me that drinking with the customers was ‘just part of the role’. From that point forth I spent many a day twatted on the job. Are you starting to see how my problem developed?
- Line cleaning – We used to clean the beer lines every two weeks, which means pumping all the beer out of the lines to wash it through with cleaning fluid. The thing about the golf club is that the beer cellar was miles away from the actual bar, so the lines were really long and you’d need to pull a good five or six pints through each pump before you reached the cleaning fluid. There was generally one lager pump, one Guinness pump, one cider pump, one smooth bitter pump, and two bitter hand-pumps – which is thirty to thirty-six pints of booze. This beer would just go to waste if it wasn’t drunk, so on a fortnightly basis I’d close the bar up for the night, slam some loud music on, and settle in for an evening of drunken line cleaning. I’m ashamed to admit that I remember more than a few occasions where I’d drive home after a good ‘line cleaning sesh’, one eye closed to help me focus on the road, and a box full of clinking pint glasses in the passenger foot well, all full of booze and expertly sealed with cling film. Innovative motherfucker.
- FUCKING GHOSTS – The estate where the clubhouse lives was established in the 1200’s, with the building itself being built in the early 18th century. The clubhouse is huge, old, and shit-your-pants scary – especially when you have to lock up on your own at 2am. All of the fucking light switches are at the wrong end of the rooms too, so you’ll turn the light off in a big scary room, and then have to walk through it in the dark to reach the next room. Plus, it’s surrounded by nothing but golf course and woodland. The beer and wine cellars are all located within a huge network of old passageways that run underneath the clubhouse and the surrounding areas, meaning that bottling-up on a night was a terrifying mission into the unknown. A couple of times me and one of the waiters went exploring down there, and still never reached an endpoint. The tunnels went on and on, flanked by small rooms – some locked, some open with names burnt into the ceiling using candle soot. To top it all off there were a ton of ghost stories surrounding that place, with an old woman ADAMANT that she’d just seen the ghost of a young maid upstairs in the ladies wing. How does one cope with being alone in such a scary old building? Easy. Drink.
Some of you may remember the blog I wrote here about robbing petrol stations. That whole thing happened directly after I jacked in my job at the golf club – bit of further reading for you 🙂
This has been quite a long blog post, and to summarise I think it’s hard to pinpoint any one reason that someone turns to drink. There are such a far-reaching variety of reasons for drinking that span right from ENJOYMENT through to THE DESIRE TO FORGET and even WANTON OBLIVION. I’d also say that the reason you started drinking probably doesn’t matter right now. If you’re in a bad place because of booze then what’s important is how you STOP it. Let’s worry about the causes later. Psychiatrists and therapists can help with that shit – if that’s what you need. But for now let’s just get sober and start to enjoy life.
I’d also just like to state that golf clubs are wholly to blame for all alcoholism, and if it wasn’t for golfers then we wouldn’t even need golf clubs. And that’s why GOLFERS are DICKS. And so are GHOSTS.
Wanna read my big wanky blog from the start? Click here.
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