Drink Tank

Being normal

How far away from normal is abnormal? They say one drink is too many and a hundred not enough. Such are the questions on an alcoholic’s mind.

Is normal to set out for a good night, excited by the possibility of adventure, meeting up with mates, a few drinks at a favourite place and then onto somewhere new, maybe the prospect of romance, the telling of tales?

Is normal a few more drinks to lubricate the socialising, perhaps something extra to make it go down easier. Arms around strangers, no expense spared.

Is normal a pause for breath, no time for explanation, out of the way, sir. No room here we’ll just push through. Oi, what was that? Hand me that beer glass, table, door frame, boot, car door, car keys, girlfriend, screaming, crying, officer, parent, principle, boss, bank manager, explanation, how did that happen?

Is normal, how did that happen. I was just going out for a few drinks?

Every morning, waking up from the night before, it’s possible that some or all of the above might have taken place. What’s more, very often, very little of what happened comes to mind at first. At first there’s a nagging ache, a dull thump, a brief reminder, then a flashback.

Tell-tale signs include unfamiliar environments like a different bed, a different bedfellow. Odd colouration on fingers, dirt on trousers, scuffs on shoe. Then there’s the room itself, has it been rearranged, does it, perhaps have the air of a space recently invaded by stampeding rhino?

Outside there may be a door on its hinges, a car parked erratically, as if the machinations of moving it came as a surprise to its owner, perhaps one side is on the kerb or there may be dents on the bumper? There may be signs of takeaway in the passenger seat. The car may not be there at all, or it might not be your car.

It feels familiar though, naggingly familiar, and that’s when the night before comes into the rear mirror, zigzagging its way into the forefront of the mental lobes, pounding on the conscience. That is when the bathroom feels like home and a dry heave or two, or perhaps a liquid concoction if things haven’t progressed too far but either way you won’t be moving from the toilet basin for a good while.

And all this before you have considered whether an apology is in order – to a friend or neighbour, a wife or girlfriend, a family member of just the people you think you might have been with last night.

Then you begin the slow process of reconstruction more fully, not so you can piece it all together but more forensic in approach, so you can see if there is any avenue for escape, any possibility that despite evidence to the contrary, today isn’t going to be quite as grim as first it might appear.

Because after all, you’ve only just come too and it would be unfair to write a day off altogether before you’ve even got it started. So you scan the memory for opportunity and room for manoeuvre and now you can focus on what you were looking for, and while you may not be able to put your finger on it quite yet, a large vat of fizzy pop and fried food will take the edge of everything or, if you want a more direct approach, a top up drink may suffice.

This is every morning after the night before and it never stops and it won’t end and the reason for that is complicated and difficult to appreciate unless you’ve been there but this is how you justify it all to yourself, because you are worthless and arrogant, you are contemptible and full of remorse, you are frightened and fearless and you are lost without the only answer that makes sense, another drink and another blackout.

There are times when you feel like this isn’t right and surely there’s more to life than this and if you’re lucky you can grab one of those moments and find some clarity but most of the time you miss it, most of the time you keep repeating the same behaviour over and over again. Most of the time you tell yourself there’s nothing to worry about and you just get on with it. And now you know. Because for an alcoholic, this what it feels like, being normal.

Christian Smyth

Christian Smyth takes pictures, writes words and occasionally does something useful. He's most at home behind a coffee and a good book and when that's done he likes talking to people he doesn't yet know.


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