“Milk and Alcohol” by Dr Feelgood released in 1979, from the 1978 album “Private Practice“.
Please Note: I am not proud of what I am about to write. I am not trying to excuse any of the things I have done nor am I trying to justify them, seek forgiveness, blame anyone, or anything else so please do not assume that I am. Nor is this an apology to anyone, (although, God knows I owe plenty of them to many people). This is not an attack on alcoholics nor a rant about “the evils of drink” either. I am writing this entry so that people may better understand me. This is my blog and this is solely about me. If you wish you can leave comments, in fact I welcome them. And so onward….
One feature of my life that has greatly diminished since starting transition seems to be my requirement for, or dependence on, alcohol. For many years, I have had problems with alcohol. From getting into trouble with friends and family to eventually crashing my “in-laws” car and losing my license and narrowly escaping a jail sentence (twice). So, for me anyway, alcohol has been a bad thing. Looking back on my life while thinking about what I am writing I don’t think that I am an alcoholic as such. More of an alcohol abuser (sounds like I take the beer outside and give it a good kicking). I would drink until the pub had closed, I’d run out of money or there was no more drink left. Unless it was during the day I would not normally go looking for more. You, dear reader, may disagree but that is my view on the subject (although I have been known to be wrong).
My relationship with alcohol began when I was about 17. There is a saying that hindsight is 20/20 and that the clearest sight is what is behind us. And now, writing this I can safely say that this is true. There are many gaps in my memory, mainly due to spending so much of the time drunk (which is one reason not to write about specific events). I also had many arguments with my parents and other members of my family who, as I have since realised, were trying to help and understand and I kept throwing it back in their faces. In fact it is quite frightening to think that I had got into this state at such an early age. The problem was I had enjoyed the effect that alcohol gave me, the way it made me feel, but I also had these feelings, emotions, and I knew what they were, but I didn’t know how to handle them or what to do about them. I was conflicted. On the one hand I had to pretend to the outside world that I was normal, a man, a bloke, one of the lads. On the other I wanted to be a woman, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle the rejection, the piss taking or possible physical violence that might accompany “coming out”. So I started drinking. While drunk I could handle anything, or so it seemed. As it turned out I couldn’t handle being drunk. I would get argumentative, combative and angry. I would lash out at friends, then start crying in the hope they would take pity on me and help me. I never really noticed when people stopped coming to see me or found some excuse not to go out drinking with me.
It is actually quite difficult to write about something like this. Not because it’s embarrassing (it is) but because I keep mentally flitting between what has happened far in the past , what has happened in the recent past and what is happening now. This means that what I write on this subject (and not just in this blog) has a tendency to have a seriously confused timeline. This is one of the slightly worrying long term effects of alcohol. It screws with chronological memory. You can never be sure that events that have occurred have occurred in the order that you think you remember them. Nor can you be really sure that certain events actually happened at all. This is another effect of alcohol: The false memory. It’s part of the excuse system that alcoholics use. Creating a reason or circumstance which doesn’t exist, in order to justify drinking, and believing it so much that, in your own mind, it becomes real. I have done this quite a few times. This is what makes alcoholics such good liars, and another reason not to delve into specific events.
It has taken me two days to write this entry so far, and I have heavily edited it. Normally an entry, even a long one, only takes me an hour or two (due to watching telly, interruptions etc), but this one seems to be different somehow. I suppose because it is a deeply troubling personal matter, but also something that manifests itself in the most public way possible.
Alcohol is a drug. More crimes are committed in its name, more lives are destroyed by it, more people are killed by it than any illegal Class A drug you can think of. But at the same time it has health benefits when drank in moderation, brings people together in celebration, friends are made, deals are struck, relationships are formed, all while under its influence. So why did I head down the darker path? The simple answer is: I don’t know. I have a possible theory as to why I went from drinking alcohol to it drinking me. As I have mentioned in a previous paragraph, I was conflicted, badly. The booze didn’t remove the conflict but it removed the inhibitions that made the conflict possible. It removed the depression I felt as a result of that conflict. As a result I felt good, normal. I knew what I wanted and could see what I needed to do to get it and I didn’t feel afraid of the piss taking or rejection. I could handle it all. I wasn’t so much addicted to the alcohol, more the false freedom I felt when under it’s influence. Over time though, I became more and more dependent on it. I couldn’t go a day without drinking. I lost several very good jobs because of drinking. I nearly lost my family and several very close friends as well.
After over twenty years of on and off alcohol abuse I eventually hit rock bottom when I started staying in bed all day, not able to face the outside because of a constant barrage of panic attacks brought on by the depression that alcohol causes. Since I was drinking large quantities of ridiculously strong cider and spending nearly all my money on alcohol, I wasn’t eating properly and I was losing weight. (I definitely wouldn’t recommend this as a diet plan). By this time it wasn’t the conflict causing me to drink to excess, it was the need for drink itself (though the conflict was still there). I was spending large amounts of time oblivious to what was going on around me and just sitting around, drunk and feeling sorry for myself. I needed help but, every time I tried to look for it, I wanted a beer to bolster my courage. This led to more and so I ended up thinking “fuck it ” and carrying on drinking.
Help came from a most unexpected source. Unknown to me my father had collapsed from a burst ulcer and had vomited several pints of blood and was in hospital. No-one could get hold of me as my phones were switched off and I wasn’t online. Since no-one could contact me my aunt and uncle came down from Maidenhead to try to get hold of me. They found me in a haze of alcohol, not really compos mentis in any way. They called out a doctor who diagnosed alcohol poisoning but I refused to go to hospital. So they stayed with me and we talked. Or rather they did, as I was not really in much of a condition to talk. What they said I will not go into here but it made a great deal of sense. Eventually they left with a promise from me to seek help, with their help. The next day, prompted by the presence of my aunt I went to Phoenix Futures, which was, ironically, only a couple of doors down from me. After seeing them and making an appointment to see one of the councillors, we visited the doctor’s. (Remember, I was still hazy from the effects of the booze I had drunk so, if I get this the wrong way round, then I apologise). Coming back from the doctors everything seemed brighter, I felt more alive than I ever had. I felt as if a weight had been lifted. I felt good. As my aunt had to get to work she returned home later that day but promised to phone to check on me. As promised I kept my phone on. She phoned to check that everything was ok, which it was. As time progressed I kept to my weekly visits to Phoenix, had daily chats with my aunt and uncle and slowly built up some self-respect and respect from my friends and other people. I moved into a bigger flat, with help from a very good friend, visited my parents in Spain, and even got a dog, ( a wonderful Rottweiler called Roxy) and a job. All was well.
When the job ended (it was a short contract), I made, quite possibly, one of the worst decisions of my life: I went for a drink. This signalled another downward spiral, undoing all the work that my aunt had done. Over the following months I went on and off the wagon, promising friends it was only temporary. Christmas rolled round and I ended up in Spain again with mum and dad, not drinking but wishing I could. I returned to the UK on New Years Eve 2010 to a new relationship and a god-daughter.
Tracey and I had a long talk one night in the new year. It lasted nearly 10 hours and covered the subject of our relationship and my transsexuality. The end result was that I began, with her help, slowly, living as a woman. Gradually, the original reason for drinking faded and my self confidence grew. Now, I have no need to drink, thanks to Tracey’s help and I have the strength to control my addiction and stay off the drink, thanks to my aunt and uncle, and other members of my family.
Note: In my previous entry I mentioned some members of my family not agreeing with what I am doing. I would like to point out that not agreeing with my decision does not imply not supporting me. My family are incredibly supportive and if my writing gave the wrong impression then I apologise unreservedly to everyone involved.