I had my first drink at 18. It opened a door to a new world for me. I had a few more. I reacted differently to alcohol than others. I was never the one passing out, vomiting, starting fights or arguments. I began drinking until I entered the twilight zone. Never really drunk. Never really sober.
As time progressed it was taking me not only higher quantities of alcohol but I wanted to be in the twilight zone more often. By the time I was 20 I was entering the twilight zone daily. I was an alcoholic. Deep down I knew it but went straight into denial. ‘I can stop whenever I want but I don’t want to’ I would tell myself, lying all the time.
By the time I was 23 I had a girlfriend who would become my wife years later. She voiced her concern about my intake so I began to buy a 6-pack of beer but would also have a bottle of vodka hidden outside. I would bring a few pieces of wood in at a time so that I could sneak a drink of vodka, Before she had a chance to smell it I would cover it with a mouthful of beer.
We married 7 years after living together. By this stage she was suspicious about my drinking as thee twilight zone began to spin out of control. I would slur my worst, stagger and my eyes would be glazed. I firmly maintained I was only drinking my six-pack when in reality I was drinking that and an entire bottle of vodka every day.
Amidst all of this I had amassed 4 drink-driving offences. I told my girlfriend/wife that they were all low range. They weren’t. Luckily she was working when I went to court so didn’t hear my readings or the fact that I was driving home via back-roads.
When my son was born I was 30. I told my wife I was going to quit alcohol. I didn’t. I stopped the beer but maintained the vodka. I was topped up all day. I reeked of toothpaste, aftershave, deodorant and Listerine all the time. Anything but alcohol.
My behaviour became erratic due to the decrease in alcohol. I was agitated, shaking and sweating. For 6 months I made several fake visits to a fake Doctor. I would buy home remedies and told my wife that I had glandular fever. After 6 months I stopped all of this, telling my wife that the glandular fever had resolved.
3 years later my daughter was born. I slept poorly and my agitation began again.
One night there was a wild storm. In the morning my wife went to bring some wood in. I was too late to stop her. I got up & sat on the couch with my head in my hands. ‘This is it,’ I thought. As I heard my wife enter the living room I looked up & she was holding a full bottle of vodka. She sat down next to me and said, “It’s over.” I was in no position to argue.
I packed a rucksack and left without a word.
By 4pm I had found myself a lovely semi-furnished apartment only 10 minutes away from the kids. It was also only 1km from the supermarket, post office and bottle shop. I rang my wife that night & she agreed to let the kids stay at my place at the weekend….and so the drinking spree began. Within a year I was drinking 2 bottles of vodka a day, four days a week. I didn’t drink when the kids were withe me except for 2am on Sunday morning to stop the delirium tremens.
On Fridays we’d go shopping for whatever they wanted. On Saturdays we would either go to the nearby park or the school grounds on their bikes or with mini golf clubs. Saturday night was treat night. We’d get McDonalds or pizza and movies to watch, (I know the script of Toy Story off by heart). On Sundays we would often visit my parents.
Sunday nights were bath nights, all ready for school the next day. I would have their uniforms washed and ironed & lunch boxes packed. My daughter even let me practise putting plaits in her hair. (I thin she kinda enjoyed it).
I would drop the kids off at 8.50am sharp every Monday. By the time I had driven back towards my place the bottle shop was open. Drinking time. That was me for another 4 days.
One day I wasn’t ‘high’ enough. I got behind the wheel of a car and bought 12 cans of Guinness. I drank then with no problem. I was never tardy nor did I stagger the streets or drink in pubs. I ate well and all of my household duties were up to scratch. I was a functional alcoholic. I was totally blitzed all of the time but nobody picked it.
Despite my massive intake my routine with the kids remained unchanged.
Then it happened. I began passing blood. For 3 months I paid no attention until one day I collapsed. I crawled to the phone & called an ambulance. On the way to the hospital I told them all of my details.
I was catheterised & blood samples were taken. 30 minutes later a specialist came in & told me the bad news. My kidneys were only working at 20% capacity. Your kidneys regulate Potassium. Potassium in turn regulates electrical impulses to the heart. “You could have dropped dead of a heart attack any time in the last 6 months without warning.”
The normal range for Potassium is 5.0-5.5. Mine was 7.2. They flushed my kidneys out with rapid IV fluids and a beige paste called Resonium. Resonium binds Potassium to the gut. It is not a cure but it bought me time until my kidneys were flushed out. This took 3 long, slow weeks.
I have not touched alcohol since.