"This is the book of life I should have read before leaving university in London.
It's got it all.
Sex, sex tourism, drugs, alcohol, alcoholism, prostitution & suicide.
In my search for sex and sobriety I travel from London to Amsterdam; to San Francisco, California; to Bangkok & Pattaya in Thailand and to Manila, Angeles City & Subic Bay in the Philippines.
Don't end up a loser like me.
Read this book."
- Paul Pisces
The Effects of Drinking
It is noon on Wednesday the 6th of February 2002. This morning I received another rejection letter from a publisher. Nothing strange about that except that I am running out of publishers and agents to write to. This is worrying me and I am beginning to lose some confidence in my work.
To ease the depression and boredom of my now 42 year old body, I am going to take you on a crash course in alcoholism. At the moment I am stone cold sober but I am going to open and drink a bottle of white rum and describe the effects on my mind and body. Perhaps more honestly it is just a good excuse for me to get drunk.
A bottle of rum is really more than I should drink in a binge but with my metabolism, half a bottle would be just too easy. It wouldn't hurt enough. I hope this is the last time I drink a whole bottle in one sitting but it may not be. (It wasn't.)
Please do not try this at home especially if you do not know what you are doing. A bottle of spirits can kill an inexperienced drinker.
At the moment outside it is sunny. Inside I am calm but I am a bit depressed at the continual rejection of my book. Soon I am going on a two month holiday to the Philippines to write more and to try and get the book finished. After the holiday I will have to get a proper job and my dreams of a writing career will go on a very well hidden back-burner.
I don't need a drink, as I said, I am sober and calm but about two weeks ago I did drink a whole bottle and the effects were interesting so I thought I'd repeat the experience and write it down.
The first taste is good - for an alcoholic it is just like meeting an old friend. I drink a half and half mixture of rum and coke and the alcohol is sharp against the palate. To occupy myself during the day I normally find a book to read. I am reading a lot of autobiographies at the moment to see if I can learn anything. I like autobiography and semi-autobiography as a genre especially if the writer is honest and has had an unusual lifestyle. I have read a couple by city traders, one by a guy with mental health problems, one by an ex-bouncer and several others. They have almost all been good, some have been excellent. I still like to think there is a place for mine, though, if only I can find a publisher brave enough to take it on. This autobiography is really about computers, sex and alcohol (but not necessarily in that order) with some elements of a travelogue. These are the three real interests in my life - it's a bit like sex, drugs and rock & roll but with the rock & roll being replaced by computers.
The problem I've got going forward (as the Americans would say) is that the alcohol is killing me and I'm losing interest in computers - doesn't leave a lot does it? I am interested in writing but it appears to be very hard to make a living at it. In actuality, I am still interested in computers but I am getting a bit long in the tooth for it and after working in San Francisco during the dot com boom, anything else is a bit dull by comparison. It's like playing in the World Cup at football (soccer) and then being asked to play for a third division side - difficult to get motivated.
Where does all this get me apart from worried? Well, as of this moment I am
slowly getting drunk. Tomorrow I'll sober up. In a few weeks I fly off to
Manila. Between now and then, my life revolves around the postman. I have
sent sample chapters of this book to at least fifty agents and at least
fifty publishers. Lots of them have said nice things about it and lots of
them haven't. Two more small publishers have asked to see the full
manuscript. So currently outstanding:
Full manuscript with two publishers.
Sample chapters with eight agents.
Sample chapters with nine publishers.
I am not currently planning to approach any more agents or publishers - I think I've covered almost everyone anyway. If none of this works I have found a company that will publish my book as an e-book on the internet. That will probably be my way forward.
It's 12-30pm and I have now consumed one fifth of the bottle. No real effect yet although I do feel slightly looser. It only gets really interesting after half a bottle. The recovery tomorrow will be much less fun. I could drink this bottle much more quickly but I want to take my time and write this story. The plan is to consume the bottle over the course of the afternoon and evening (maybe 7 or 8 hours). When the bottle is empty I will go to bed and sleep. I will almost certainly sleep well with all the alcohol in me. Prior to sleeping I expect to be very happy, almost euphoric. My brother is out on a course today, so I am alone. I do have a couple of housekeeping tasks to take care of.
1pm and a third of the bottle is gone. I feel loose and uninhibited - it's nice. I am relaxed and unworried about anything. I am glad to be writing. Although I am on my own in the house, I feel sociable - I'd like someone to talk to but I don't need that. I am happy on my own doing a few household chores (washing, washing-up) and watching the TV (Spin City, Cheers). American television shows seem to dominate British television during the afternoon. Later I might watch 'Oprah' or I might continue reading Andy McNab's autobiography 'Immediate Action' about his life in the SAS.
Life feels good but I know it is illusory - dark storm clouds are gathering on my horizon. My life is not stable or secure. I know where I want to be but it is not within my control - I feel like a pawn on a chessboard or a piece of flotsam in a fast moving river. My future is controlled by others. How do I control my fear? There are many elements. The most important is God. The most interesting question of all questions (perhaps it is the only real question) is 'Is there a God?' So much rests on this that the impact of how you answer it is incalculable.
It's only 1-30pm and I've nearly drunk half the bottle of rum. I am starting to feel a little bit tired - not very tired but I could sleep. Heavy drinking in an alcoholic causes two conditions: sick and tired. I don't feel sick today, although I have done many times in the past, but I do feel tired.
The alcohol is depressing my motor functions and my brain functions causing them to shut down. Sleep looks attractive. Is there anything attractive about the way I feel? No, not really. If I was younger I'd probably be less tired and more sociable.
Hey it's lunch time - I'll have something to eat because I have got to pace myself. I am trying to perform an experiment. I heat a spaghetti bolognese in the microwave and eat in front of the telly watching snooker. It's 2pm and I'm feeling a bit depressed now. I'm in a melancholy state - not yet happy from the alcohol and not stone cold sober. I am an addict waiting for the high to kick in. My mental weakness is now apparent and I feel empty. The options are simple: go to bed and sleep till I feel better or drink more until the alcohol euphoria takes over.
If I were sensible I'd go to bed. I've consumed half a bottle of rum in two hours and that should be more than enough for me. But this is an experiment so it's onwards and upwards. I am doing myself definite damage but this may be the last time and at least it is documented.
I don't actually want to drink anymore alcohol. I could easily pour the remaining half bottle away. It is very good that I feel this way - it means that I have some control over my addiction. My overall feeling currently is just tired. I'd still like to sleep. The alcohol is depressing all my body's systems and they want to switch off. This is partly due to old age - my body is weaker and needs more rest.
Alcohol is a potent depressant drug and in the absence of stimulation the tendency is to sleep. Everything is starting to switch off now and the prospect of sleep is very real.
By 4pm I am still tired and sleepy with just over half the bottle gone. But this is the low point and soon the alcohol will begin to lift me and make me feel euphoric. The interesting thing though is that it's not really worth a candle and I'd rather be sober and sharp. However, if I was still a practicing alcoholic, the alternative of sober and sharp wouldn't be available. My relationship with alcohol has changed as I've got older and my metabolism is less able to handle it. Whereas before alcohol would make me feel happy and confident, now it makes me sick and tired. It's the difference between drinking in your twenties and drinking in your thirties and forties. The damage to the body catches up to you and your metabolism begins to creak. I will hit my euphoric high later on but it will be at a severe physical cost as I will discover tomorrow.
Alcohol is a drug. Alcoholism is an addiction. There are four significant
facts about alcohol addiction:
1) The drug is legal (if you are over 18).
2) The drug is relatively cheap.
3) The drug is readily available.
4) The drug is socially acceptable.
If I was an addict of any other drug I would by now almost certainly be either on the street, in prison or dead. Drugs rob us of our intellect and our morals. Eventually they will rob us of our health, our freedom and even our sanity. Why does anyone take a recreational drug? Well, I think it's a combination of excitement and escape. But what is it that we are trying to escape from? What is it in society that drives our need to escape? Modern society is very stressful. The pressures on the population are intense and growing. There is little security and there is little support for those who fall by the wayside. Even in the so-called free society of the west, there is little real freedom.
We have exchanged our individual freedom for a culture of corporate slavery in a hierarchy that is accountable to no one except faceless shareholders. The system is called capitalism. Now unfettered due to the collapse of the communist threat, the capitalistic greed is running rampant and those in power use their positions to pressurise those beneath them for the maximum benefit of themselves.
In many ways this is astonishing. The purpose of leadership should be to sacrifice oneself to the benefit of those being led but capitalism seems to operate to the contrary. To be fair communism is no better and probably worse because it is a dictatorship but in a democracy we should expect more from our leaders.
We spend about eight hours asleep and this is our freedom - our time with God. We spend about eight hours at work. No freedom here for most just rules and regulations imposed in large part by fools and bullies. This leaves a maximum of eight hours to administrate our lives: pay bills, commute to work, do house work and generally survive with maybe only two or three hours of real 'free' time.
I believe much of the problem lies at work. We need to move away from capitalism and towards a more cooperative society. Capitalism plays to greed. It plays to short term views. It plays to, if not outright dishonesty, to something less than the truth. To less than excellence.
"And what is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good.
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?"
(from 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' by Robert M. Pirsig)
We all know what is good, we all know what is excellent. Why don't we try harder to achieve it for ourselves and for others.
It's 5-30pm and I have slowed my drinking. I am inebriated. Not drunk but chilled out. I've now drunk two thirds of the bottle. The sleepiness has gone and I am beginning to feel cheerful, optimistic, euphoric and powerful. The nicest thing about getting inebriated and euphoric is the optimism. Now I can view my future in a much more positive light. What do I know?
To the positive:
1) I am reasonably bright.
2) I am well educated.
3) I like my book.
4) I still have an I.T. career.
To the negative:
1) I am getting old.
2) I am a recovering alcoholic.
3) I am bored working with computers.
4) No publisher likes my book.
Alcohol moves my perspective to the positive but it is a fool's gold because to make the most of the positives above, I need to be stone cold sober.
Getting drunk or inebriated for me is a largely pleasant process. I am a happy drunk. I am not aggressive or violent. I am relaxed and cheerful. Also, I am happy to drink at home, alone. When I was younger, I would prefer to drink in a pub or club and in company. While drinking I would enjoy playing pool or dancing depending on the venue.
6pm has arrived. There is a fifth of a bottle left, which is very little in terms of an alcoholic's perception. I am drunk and I will pay for my high tomorrow when I begin to sober up. Getting up there is easy no matter what drug you choose to use. Alcohol, amphetamine, coke, e, heroin, crack or hash. You can get up there with anything but can you come back down?
It's the down that hurts.
It's 7pm and I am definitely very drunk. It feels good but there are no real advantages at all. I am again feeling very tired and I just want to sleep and pretend that if only I were more sociable I could find a woman who'd like to spend time with me. Deep within me I know that this is bollocks.
The bottle is empty and now I am in a bad state. There is nothing pleasant to say about my descent to a state of manic euphoria. I am desperately tired.
"Fuck you. What do you know? Nothing. I am the way, the truth and the light and I am dying. Will you fight to save me? I don't think so. The horsemen of the apocalypse are on their way and there is little to stop them. I have had enough in all respects. I have drunk enough, I have thought enough and I have lived enough."
I stagger upstairs to bed and collapse.
Back to Director's Cut