Before I dive in with the content of this post I do have something I want to say. I’m not an alcoholic nor a recovering alcoholic. I have never suffered with any alcohol related dependencies or issues involving alcoholism. This post is simply me explaining how my use of alcohol when my mental health was at its worst has impacted my attitude towards it now. Anyone suffering with any form of alcohol addiction should seek professional help.
During the many lockdowns of the last 18 months I found myself reading a lot more. Two of those books were Stephen King’s The Shining, and its sequel Doctor Sleep. I’d never read any of King’s work in the past but very early on I could see why he is is so popular. His storytelling is incredible.
It’s a well known fact that King has struggled with addiction to alcohol in the past. With the infamous Overlook Hotel from The Shining being a metaphor for addiction. As well as the book’s protagonist/antagonist Jack Torrance having experience with alcoholism.
When reading Doctor Sleep there was one quote in particular that resonated with my past attitude towards alcohol consumption: “The mind is the blackboard and the drink is the eraser.”
There’s really not much else to say on the subject. During those two years from age 18 right the way to my mental breakdown on my 20th birthday – where it was first legal for me to drink in the UK – that quote is about as accurate as it gets.
I was never really around alcohol growing up. My parents didn’t really drink, I’ve been going to West Ham games since I was eight and rarely get involved with the drinking side of going to games and there were never just beers in the fridge. I was one of those kids who would give my pocket money to a friend so their parents could get me a bottle of WKD or Smirnoff Ice for a house party between the ages of 16 and 17.
Soon after turning 18 my only serious relationship ended and my parents filed for divorce within about a month of each other. The two biggest and most prominent relationships in my life gone just like that.
At this point in the story it’s important to acknowledge that my self-esteem was always very low growing up. I was never really good at anything. My issues rarely got dealt with at school and don’t even get me started on sixth form. I hated every second of it.
A quick question of the rhetorical variety – what happens if you throw alcohol into the mix? This is where the line from Doctor Sleep comes into play – “The mind is the blackboard and the drink is the eraser.”
After turning 18 I was out twice a week without fail. Thursdays and Saturdays. With the former being student night in my local town of Colchester. I’m sure a lot of people are like this when they first turn 18. There was always a large group of my friends that did the double header.
The difference is – they were drinking for a good time. While I was not.
I was very much aware that I was depressed at that time in my life. I wasn’t aware of the extent of it and how quickly it was getting out of control, but I knew the way I was feeling wasn’t right. This is where I wanted ‘the eraser’ (the drink) to do its job on ‘the blackboard’ (my mind).
On each and every one of those nights I only had one goal – get drunker than I did on the last one. Starting in August 2012 this was the case for about six months.
During this time I spent God knows how much money, woke up with a ridiculous amount of hangovers and I didn’t really enjoy a lot of those nights. On multiple occasions I couldn’t watch the barman pour me a vodka & coke by the end of the night. Yet I still forced myself to drink it. The fun nights out were really few and far between. With the benefit of hindsight I think it’s more of a case that they were a cry for help.
The consistency of these night reduced after around six months. But when I did go on a night out the pattern was the same. Eraser… meet the blackboard. Except that isn’t how the mind works at all.
The eraser suggests you get rid of the issue. While in reality the drinking suppressed my mental health problems. And when they came back, they came back stronger, which all came to the surface on my 20th birthday.
Anyone who has read this blog before will know this part of the story. I had my biggest mental breakdown on the streets of Colchester on my 20th Birthday, and alcohol played its part.
What followed was an incredibly tough week where I was diagnosed with depression before I started my initial nine month therapy process. During this time I really reduced my alcohol intake and for a good few months I didn’t touch any.
Before I knew it March 2015 rolled around and I was on a flight to Australia. When a lot of people go traveling aged 20 it’s all about ‘the sesh’, full moon parties in Thailand and other similar events but that wasn’t me at that particular stage in my life. Had I gone travelling twelve months earlier it would have been a completely different story.
My attitude towards alcohol on that trip was a lot different than it was a a year earlier. Of course I drank while I was away, in fact I woke up with one of my worst ever hangovers in New Zealand but these things happen. And they happen easily when you’re in your early 20s.
Before my mental breakdown I would go out with the sole intention of getting drunker than I did last time. I had no regard for my own mental health or anyone else’s.
Conversely that night in New Zealand started out with a few drinks to celebrate our skydive and bungy jump. Those few drinks became a few more, then the beers and ales became spirits and mixers, then the Jager Bombs got involved – sure, it got out of hand but it all blossomed from fun.
My last backpacker trip was in 2017 and I got a job in the city soon after. As well as switching Colchester for Camberwell as I moved out of my childhood home.
That really is the story of my relationship with alcohol in my early 20s. I had the odd big night here and there where things got out of hand, most of which were at Bongos Bingo, but most of the time this was where my relationship with alcohol was on a social level.
Lockdown – age 25-27
I was 25-years-old when Prime Minister Boris Johnson first put the country into lockdown on March 23rd 2020. During this time socialising was illegal, pubs, bars and nightclubs were all forced to close their doors and it would be well over a year before sports stadiums and live music venues would see a sell-out crowd again.
My drinking was minimal in this time. Simply because the only reason I was drinking beforehand was a social situation such as at the pub with my friends. All three lockdown’s we had to endure in this country took the social side of drinking away.
I think I’m this way because of a mix of growing up I was never really around alcohol. Plus the whole novelty of ‘drinking for the sake of it’ is something I associate with the days where my depression was at its worst.
Although I’m not happy with my attitude towards drinking in the past. Ie using it as a method of attempted escapism from my mental health issues. I am glad I got the whole ‘getting hammered twice a week’ out of my system at a young age.
If I was still into the sort of thing when I was traveling or living in London let alone during a pandemic when I lived by myself it would have been a recipe for disaster quite frankly.
Instead of spending a Friday night at The Ale House with my friends, my lockdown Friday’s were spent sat in my living room watching a film with a candle burning. I didn’t need a can of beer to make Gladiator any better than it already is. Some people may find that incredibly boring, but I don’t and that’s all that matters.
Where am I now? age 27
Throughout the numerous lockdowns when life was a lot more restricted people would often say there’s going to be a ‘roaring 20s’ once we’re on the other side. To a lot of people this means heavy drinking, party drugs and just getting on it all weekend, every weekend.
Personally, I can’t think of many things I want to do less in a post pandemic world. I think this is down to a lot of things. Firstly, I’ll forever associate getting really drunk with when my depression was at its worse. And secondly, I want to try other stuff.
It’s been well documented on this blog and the rest of my social media that I recently ran the London Marathon. And my idea of a ‘roaring 20s’ is that I want to do more things like that. More marathons, an ultra marathon and other endurance events leading up to an Ironman. When committing to such challenges diet is key, which means alcohol has to be in moderation.
That’s really where I am with it. I haven’t been to a nightclub since December 2019, I last went to the pub on Sunday to watch West Ham vs Spurs and Manchester United vs Liverpool and I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I was bed-ridden all day with a hangover.
Looking ahead I can’t see my relationship with alcohol changing any time soon. Of course I’ll happily go to a pub for a beer or two with my friends and other forms of social drinking. I always tend to drink slightly more towards the end of the year with Christmas and other end of year celebrations – with some other occasions thrown in to the mix this year. But the key word is moderation.
I would be very surprised if I went my entire life without getting really drunk again. The difference with it now compared to what it once was is that it isn’t the aim of the night out. If it happens, it happens by accident.
2021 London Marathon
I RAN THE LONDON MARATHON FOR MIND!
You can still donate until November 30th 2021. If you wish to do so you can by clicking the links below.
Fundraising Page: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JordanCamp
My blog post about the event
Mind Website: https://www.mind.org.uk