When I was a drinker I was liable, occasionally, to be a bit of an animal. I’d think nothing of smashing down a load of beer and shots and then clawing and swearing at the people around me like a loved-up drunken Tasmanian Devil. It was never an anger thing, you understand. I became a hugger and a playfighter. Booze always impassioned me. It made me want to grasp life with gusto, and squeeze it until I could feel the soft bits oozing out between my fingers. It made me want to laugh loudly, eat bloody raw steaks, and get the people I cared about in headlocks. Everything done with fire in the belly, and a fist waving at the sky. A fury and zeal that it’s near on impossible to maintain in sober life, apart from in short controlled bursts (which is a bit of a contradiction really).
Sometimes, I really miss the old me. Yes he was a fat, sweaty, over-excited goon. But there was a heartiness to his feverish rampages, and a real unbounded dedication to the grasping of life by its sweaty plums. This is how it looked, at least, from inside the machine. The external view may well have been quite different. A man-baby slumped in the corner at a party, dribbling and dropping pizza down his shirt. The party was on the inside though man. Burning brightly like a magnesium ribbon.
The point I’m trying to make, the reason I’m telling you this, is that a yearning still remains, and hasn’t been quelled despite 1035 days off the pop. It’s not a yearning for booze though. It’s a yearning for the passion and anarchy that comes with a life of boozing. Filth and smut. Kicking over tables and draping ones balls over ones mate’s forehead. Loud punk rock and smudged black facepaint. Grabbing midnight by it’s big fat head and screaming ‘DICKHEEEAD!’ in it’s face.
Makes sense? Good.
Emotionally, my last three years have been such a goddamn rollercoaster that it’s been hard to know who the real me actually is. There’s a tendency after you get sober to view the old you as BAD, and to therefore fly too far in the opposite direction in the misguided belief that you need to balance out your life by piling on the GOOD. Keeping fit, eating your five-a-day, tutting at people who swear in public, whiter-than-white, holier-than-though, always early for work, don’t change lanes without indicating, sort out your finances and get a pension… the type of wank-puffin you probably hated as a drunkard. The truth is though that you probably weren’t ever a bad person, and that you were just living life a little bit too passionately due to the waves of alcohol crashing upon your bonce. You don’t need to reinvent yourself as a monk, mate. Yes, you should cut out the booze if it’s doing you more harm than good. No, you don’t need to give up being the same person.
But what of these crazy emotions that were being satisfied by the weekend wreck-ups and the big parties? How can I be relaxed in my new sober life when all I want to do is breakdance in Huddersfield Bus Station and punch a child in the face? To smash a window at the local M&S and then hump one of the lingerie mannequins until the police arrive?
I hope I’m not losing you here. My brain is moving faster than I can type, and it doesn’t help that I type like a special needs child wearing boxing gloves.
I believe I’ve found a solution, or at least, a satisfactory substitute for the passion that comes with the drinking-life madness. It’s based on a phenomenon which is demonstrated at junior football games throughout the land on any given Saturday morning, by overly-supportive dads stood at the pitch sidelines. It can also be observed in a similar guise at kiddie’s dance classes across America, where pushy parents force their little girls to wear mini tutus and adult makeup, and perform pirouettes over and over until their toes bleed.
DO IT AGAIN CYNTHIA! YOU’LL NEVER MAKE AMERICA’S GOT TALENT IF YOU CAN’T EVEN COMPLETE A GRAND JETE YOU FUCKING BITCH! ME AND YOUR DAD DON’T PAY $200 A MONTH FOR YOU TO CRY AND MOAN BECAUSE YOUR TOES HURT! NO DINNER FOR YOU TONIGHT CYNTHIA!
This mysterious solution of mine isn’t just limited to parent/child relationships either. It’s something we witness whenever someone sits down to watch Coronation Street (is Roy Cropper still in it? I fucking love Roy Cropper), or when someone goes to the cinema to watch the newest Mission Impossible movie. It’s also present when you’re listening to your favourite rap album, about how Kanye has been buying Rolex watches and fucking hot bitches in his pimped Ford Cortina or whatever he drives.
It’s simple. It’s the act of LIVING AN EXPERIENCE THROUGH THE STORIES OF SOMEONE ELSE. Satisfying your thirsts through helping your kids achieve something you never could, or watching Tom Cruise race an M3 through the streets of Morocco. It allows us to get as near as possible to ‘living it’, without actually ‘doing it’ ourselves. It’s the use of ESCAPISM to satisfy ones urges.
Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily a healthy route to take – certainly the analogy of ‘overly pushy parents’ doesn’t leave a sweet taste in the mouth – but what I am saying is that it seems to be working for me. Specifically, I’ve been able to satisfy my thirst for ABSOLUTE DRUNKEN CUNTERY by reading through the many scribblings of late poet and author Charles Bukowski (1920-1994).
Having never been much of a reader for the majority of my drunken adult life, I’m a little bit backwards when it comes to well-known authors. I sort of went from Roald Dahl to Iain Banks and Clive Barker as a youngster, and then there’s a twenty year gap where I barely read anything due to my booze fascination, before diving headlong into a tonne of ‘quit lit‘ three years ago at the start of my sobriety. For this reason, books and reading still feel to me like a relatively new and novel (novel!) concept, and I’m constantly impressed by the number of amazing books out there that have passed me by over the years. No classics though, you can keep your boring Dickens shite. I’ve been delving into the violent, sweary, filthy worlds created by people like Knut Hamsun, Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk, and – of course – Bukowski. I sincerely hope these authors are just the commercial face of a bigger pile of muck, and I’m looking forwards to further digging and getting the mud all in my ears and up my nose.
Bukowski is an absolute demon, whose books were only introduced to me about a year ago by a chap at work. A poet first and foremost, Bukowski was a womanising alcoholic who thrived in the filth of his beloved home city Los Angeles and it’s inhabitant druggies, prostitutes, criminals, and down-and-outs. I don’t like poetry (wanky init) so I’ve skipped that and jumped straight into his books – each one pegged as a collection of fictional accounts based on his real-life experiences, embellished and told through the eyes of his alter ego Henry ‘Hank’ Chinaski.
Reading Bukowski’s filth has enabled me to escape back to those days when I was a drunken bastard, but still allows me to wake up in the morning hangover-free. The great thing is that he doesn’t glamorise this shit. On the contrary. He makes regular reference to his fat belly, his red alcoholic’s nose, his low standards, his sexual inadequacy after too much beer, and his daily routine of vomiting due to the drink. His stories have the same effect on me as one of my favourite movies, Leaving Las Vegas, where we get to witness Nicholas Cage playing an alcoholic who moves to Las Vegas to drink himself to death (I wrote a bit about my favourite booze-movies here).
Bukowski knows full-well that the booze is destroying him, but still clings on and admirably white-knuckles his way through life as an absolute mess. There’s a great article here with some of his best drinking quotes, and I’ve pulled out a couple of my favourites, and which are probably most relevant to this blog:
“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.” – Charles Bukowski, Women
“I like to change liquor stores frequently because the clerks got to know your habits if you went in night and day and bought huge quantities. I could feel them wondering why I wasn’t dead yet and it made me uncomfortable. They probably weren’t thinking any such thing, but then a man gets paranoid when he has 300 hangovers a year.” – Charles Bukowski, Women
“Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you’re allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It’s like killing yourself, and then you’re reborn. I guess I’ve lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now.” – Charles Bukowski
Despite my protestations that this whole ‘live your drunken life through other people’s stories’ thing is a good thing for me, I can’t promise that it will work that way for everyone. If you’re reading this because you’re trying to quit booze, and you have the type of booze problem where you can’t watch somebody buy a pint without falling off the wagon, then there’s probably a big danger that this great idea of mine will just, in fact, fuck you up good and proper. It’s a (potentially quite shit) idea largely built on the dreamy romanticisation of beer, and of getting twatted. If that’s going to trigger some old habits, then maybe steer clear eh.
For me, however, this escapism into books and movies about panicked drinking, angry vomiting, mucky sex, and rock’n’roll car crashes, is the perfect way of remembering the hedonism of my drinking days – whilst reminding me of exactly why I needed to stop. And, as per the title of this blog: How To Quit Booze Without Becoming A Miserable Bastard, it stops me from sitting around and being pissed off and miserable at the fact I can’t drink anymore.
This ability to peer occasionally into the huge highs and lows of the type of life I used to live, mixed with the awesome clarity of mind, increased creativity, and general well-being that comes with living a newly sober life, keeps me happy and satisfied. More so than I ever was when I had nothing but the booze to live for. Why should sober mean safe and boring? Don’t let that shit define you, bro.
And please don’t forget: You don’t have to be drunk to steal a JCB digger and use it to flip over your neigbour’s Volkswagen Golf because they always park it across two spaces like an absolute fucking bellpipe.
Just do what feels right, man.
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