For most people, their first experience of our most popular, legal drugs, is not a good one.
Watching my now-teenage nephews growing-up, I realise that times are changing, but when I first attended secondary school, it was very much ‘cool’ to smoke, and that’s when I first tried it, around age 12.
I hated it. I managed to inhale most of the smoke, which tasted awful, and the rest of it went into my eyes and irritated them for what seemed like ages. Like all who became fully-fledged smokers, though, I persevered and, eventually, I conditioned myself to get to a point where I actually enjoyed it. For about thirty years!
I still love a vape, though…
In contrast, my first experience of alcohol was, unlike most people’s, very different.
I remember it well. I was about 11 years old, and quite often on a Saturday evening my parents would take my sister and me to the social club at the site where my dad worked. There was a games room there, where the kids spent most of their time, but, inevitably, I would have to go out into the bar area to pester my dad for more change for the machines and pool table.
I loved the smell of the bar. The combination of the scent of fresh and stale beer really appealed to me. I always harangued my dad to let me try some of his, and one evening, he did.
Now, this is the point when most youngsters turn their noses up. The smell, the bitter taste, the horrible froth. Uurgh!
But not me, I loved it. I remember it as clearly as I remember the last bacon sarnie I ate (10 minutes ago).
I loved the taste, and even after just one mouthful, I remember enjoying a slightly warm, slightly hazy feeling, which would be the first of many thousands to come.
With hindsight, it’s easy to look back over the years and see that my drinking was completely different to that of my friends, but I didn’t realise it at the time, despite plenty of hints from them, and my family that I had no control over it.
Whenever we left a pub or a club, I’d make sure I finished any drinks that people were unable or unwilling to finish. The thought of leaving any abandoned, but partly-full glasses unfinished, just seemed alien to me.
Then I had the arguing, the arrogance, the bed-wetting, the drinking as soon as I’d woken-up, the gradual descent into being unsociable and the ever-decreasing circle of friends, the relationship break-ups, which were never my fault, or so I thought.
What else?, Ah, yes. The nights in police cells, usually for my own protection rather than for being under arrest, the inability to hold-down jobs, the inability to perform basic, daily tasks such as shopping, as the profuse sweating and anxiety wouldn’t allow it.
Oh, and the withdrawal in more recent years, when I had got to the point where I had spent every available penny on booze, and had to go through the hellish nightmare of withdrawal, twice resulting in seizures and a touch-and-go stay in hospital.
What a shit way to exist! Can I really look back and say, “Oh, but I enjoyed myself”? I’m not sure that I can. The only parts that I can really remember are during the years when I was taking a lot of amphetamines, which kept me standing and, relatively speaking, level-headed on so many occasions despite the amount of booze I had poured down my neck.
However…I’m lucky. I’ve got a supportive family and understanding friends, and even understanding bosses over the years. If it wasn’t for them, I’d have been on the street in my early twenties, possibly in my late teens, and there is no doubt that I wouldn’t be here now.
After countless Drinksense sessions, AA meetings, counselling and psychiatric medication, life is moving forward now, and in no small part due to exercise.
I’m sober, I’ve been running for three years now, and my running goals just will not allow alcohol to be a part of what I am trying to achieve: A happy, healthy, sociable and productive life.