Almost daily I get asked what the breaking moment was, the moment that I decided to go sober.
It seems that there is a morbid fascination with this. Maybe I should manufacture a sordid tale of waking up in jail after a seven night bender of rockstar style partying? Naked, in Mexico, with only a chicken for a cellmate?
Or would a torrid and miserable tale of woe fall on better ears? One comfortably removed from the audience’s own existence? A tale that ends up on a street corner that doesn’t involve a hot dog stand? Or a story that concerns the loss of a lucrative job, a severe gambling addiction, or being shut in a mental institution for attacking a mannequin with a machete?
For most people I have met the decision to free themselves from the shackles of alcohol has not been the result of living through a version of Hangovers part I, II and III on consecutive weekends, or a Winona Ryder style kleptomaniacal spree at Harrods, but in stead a simple ‘f*** me, I am drinking too much’ moment of clarity. For my part I can only say that a series of bad and even worse decisions, heartbreaks and heartaches got me to my ‘f*** me’ moment. And for that sequence of events I am forever grateful, despite it almost tearing me apart.
The story of my friend’s brother, however, is worthy of a short film starring Tom Cruise.
Full of drugs and alcohol he was full throttling a motorbike when a car crashed into him from behind a blind curve. He flew 20-30 yards before meeting with the ground, virtually pulverising his right arm on impact. At that very moment an ambulance drove by. The remote location in South America that he was travelling through meant that any help would have been at least half an hour away, a time during which he would have choked on his own blood.
No matter what ones worldview, it feels like fate was involved. Which is how, in that moment four years ago, my friend’s brother found electing sobriety after decades of drug and alcohol abuse an easy choice.
How often do people drive a car after ‘just a couple of drinks’. How often do we hop in the driver’s seat after just a few hours of sleep thinking we are ok following a heavy night of boozing?
How many people have the lucky strike of an ambulance passing by at the moment of impact?
We do not need to wait to be in pieces by the roadside. Nor do we need to be sucking the last drops of the brandy that we’ve spilled on the psychedelic shag pile carpet (true story, though not mine) to come face to face (or face to shag pile carpet) with the fact that we may have a problem.
And we certainly do not need to wait until we have an Oscar worthy story to tell.
Though you could always make one up.
‘Now let me tell you about my time in a Mexican jail with only a chicken for company…’