Archive for May, 2012

One of the things I’ve been trying to do, and which indeed I manage to do when I’m abstinent, is ween myself off BBC Radio 5Live.

There’s no reason in particular to dislike the station, which continues to have awards chucked at it for its content. However, in recovery terms, it seems a bad thing. A day filled with millions of things over which I have no control and which I have absolutely no chance of changing many of which make me impotently angry.

Today, I turned on my bedside radio at 10am, expecting to catch the start of Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio Four. Serendipity (which crops up with alarming regularity whenever people are asked for their favourite words) struck though and I was still tuned in to 5Live and caught the start of the Victoria Derbyshire show.

The woman being interviewed I have now dubbed Recovery Rachel. She is/was a doctor (she resigned her job) and an alcoholic. When she first called the programme she was in a terrible state – waiting for a lift to rehab and drinking Guinness (my poison too) as she spoke to the presenter.

That was some time ago and, according to Victoria Derbyshire, Recovery Rachel’s call has inspired the biggest response the programme has ever had.

I’m not surprised. Recovery Rachel is very honest, very articulate and her story has – finally! – the happy ending arc we all love. Her reappearance – happy and healthy-sounding four-months into sobriety – inspired a lot of love and support from an audience which can be judgmental and harsh (another reason to retune). I mailed in and had a tweet read out (Thin City Citizen’s first cross media appearance). The programme mailed me back and asked me to call in, but I couldn’t take them up on it. I know too many people who listen to the station and too many secrets to hide. Hopefully, honesty will come with sobriety.

It’s also a very inspiring story and the size of the response is perhaps a measure of how many people out there are suffering with or have suffered with alcohol problems.

If I recall correctly, Recovery Rachel’s first call was linked to an item about public policy on alcohol, probably proposed minimum pricing plans. It’s a perennial issue and one I’ll no doubt hurl my own twisted tuppence at in time. She called to say that it would make no difference to someone like her, who was ill and would drink whatever the cost (financial, personal) until the time came to stop or she died.

I agree with her diagnosis and that was the thrust of my email, which – sod it – I’ve reproduced here as it says all I wanted to say.

‘m an alcoholic too and Rachel has made me cry this morning. Not only with the sad stuff, but with the good stuff – the feeling better, the being in recovery. Thank you so much for following up on Rachel’s journey (we all have to have a journey these days). I’m on my way to recovery, self-referred to the local addictions service and cutting down. It will be my fourth detox if I get that far – alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease. I’m sure you’re hearing from people – although you haven’t read any out – decrying Rachel’s weakness. I’m not a doctor but my own personal experience – the absolutely revelatory effects of that first drink as a teenager (it was like finally feeling normal), some history of alcoholism in my family, a tendency towards compulsive eating of sweets as a child and other addictive-type behaviours – I am absolutely convinced that I had, at the very least, a predisposition towards addiction. My addiction has encompassed many drugs along the way: anything to escape the hell in my head, but alcohol, our national drug has been my first and most enduring love.

Many congratulations to Rachel on getting so far and I wish all the love and hope in the world. Life can get better, although it may be hard at times. Hearing Rachel has given me a great boost in my own fight for recovery – talk about serendipitous timing, I had my first assessment with the local addictions team last week. I know one shouldn’t plug, but I’m writing about my experiences in a WordPress blog called Thin City Blues.

Again, I thank you for this important work and wish Rachel success. I’d be interested in hearing what treatment she has had beyond detox (the removal of the physical addiction), is she taking Antabuse (as I did during my most recent year of abstinence)? Is she attending AA or other counselling/group therapies?

If you’re at all interested in this stuff, or you are suffering or know someone who is, then I do suggest you listen to the programme again on the BBC website. It’s very powerful and moving and – a pleasant surprise in alcohol coverage – rather hopeful.

Thin City Citizen


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The Spread is my real home. Not this little Thin City House. The Spread is a cigarette’s walk away and the place where I feel most at home, at my happiest and my safest.

In my last counselling session, I spoke to Elle about my feelings of identification with the place, protectiveness even. I referenced this:

Ah, yes, Cheers. Undoubtedly my favourite TV show as a teenager. I feel about The Spread as I once felt about Cheers; as an idea it’s perfect. And, it’s true, everybody knows my name there, and yes, they are always glad I came. I’ve worked hard at making that the case. I’m a relative newcomer to Thin City and most of the Spreadheads grew up here but, slowly and surely, through shared interests in music or films or comedies or, more often than not, just a drive to getting out of our heads I’ve got myself a bit of status there. Pathetic in a way. What I’ve always wanted in another.

This is one of my big hope’s for sobriety. That I will find something to replace alcohol that will demand as much from me and give me a hell of a lot more back. Writing’s the big hope. Fitness is another. At the moment, I remain somewhat in limbo.

I drank yesterday, and got stoned. I don’t know exactly how much I drank – I told Elle that I’d lost track of units and measure my drinking sessions in hours rather than pints now… it certainly ended with two double whiskies.

Again, I’m rather at a loss what to say and how to say it, so for now this is Thin City Citizen signing off.

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Oh dear, this blog has become just the latest in a loooooong line of good intentions never acted upon. Such is life in pisshead world. However, the fact that I’m writing this now is a Good Sign, a Step in the Right Direction and many a recovery cliche too.

I shall eschew the long introductory screed I was going to spew out upon the web and simply record life as it is lived now in Thin City.

On the way to sobriety.That seems to be the way of things. I’ve snagged myself a coveted appointment with the local addictions team – lovely people one and all (that may sound somewhat platitudinous, but it has been my experience that almost all the people I’ve met in addiction treatment have been solid gold, supersonic loves. GPs, that’s a whole other kettle of kippers.)

My plan, if plan it be, is to ask to go back on to antabuse after cutting down to abstinence. I know the waiting lists for inpatient detox are long. We shall see. The appointment is on Saturday morning – because the service can no longer cope with demands upon it working just five days a week.

I’ve also written to the counselling service asking for new appointments with a new counsellor. That’s no reflection on Elle my previous counsellor, it’s far more a reflection on me, she’s been wonderful and incredibly patient over a long, long journey (we all have to have a journey these days).

And, that’s about all I can manage for the moment. Builders are removing the render at the back of the house and are doing so very nosily. Maybe I can write something rather more structured and focused in the near future. We shall see.

Thin City Citizen.

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