For most gay men on the lash, the thought of abstaining from booze fills them with horror, even if their present lifestyle is horrific in chaotic content, to the outside observer. Judgement never worked for me when I was bang at it, so don’t expect it in sessions. However it’s wise at some point to judge your own behaviours with experienced guidance.
When a client has an alcohol dependency, they usually “do too, too much” on a regular basis, which doesn’t always mean they are alcoholic. Although I have been clean & sober since the early eighties via 12 Step programmes I don’t use this material in my work, they can go to meetings if they want to pursue this path and abstain, a day at a time.
One of my clients was asked by ATTITUDE MAGAZINE to write his experience of getting off booze for the September 2010 “ISSUES” Issue, a dedicated spread of 12 pages around addictive & compulsive behaviours that affect gay men.
KEITH, 42, Project Manager, London.
” When I stopped drinking in September 2007, having been an alcoholic all my adult life, people started to ask : ” How did you know you were addicted?” It’s a difficult question to answer as everyone is different, but a good indicator is when any addiction you have starts costing you more than money. My illness, or to put it another way, my inability to cope with alcohol, was responsible for me fucking up in every job I ever had. I maxed out credit cards, had no sense of perspective and my life was a heady mix of addictions and chaotic living.
Most recovering addicts will agree that you have to reach rock-bottom in order to wake up from the coma ( of alcohol, and in my case drug dependency as well ) and it was for me although, unlike many others, I’ve never entered any treatment rehab or attended AA/NA meetings as yet, to pursue recovery.
I’d been on the lash in the Two Brewers one night. I couldn’t remember getting home and when I woke in the morning, I called work and concocted some spurious excuse for me not being able to come in. Maybe I’d had enough as my excuse was flimsy, see-through and fooled no-one. All the years of having to build lies to cover up my using ( which everyone saw through at once – the only person who believed the lie was me ) had taken their toll. Another job was hanging in the balance so I decided that I was too tired to carry on living this way and did something about it. I picked up the phone and called David Parker, as he had come recommended and was known as ‘Clublands Therapist ‘ on the scene.
We started working together in October 2006 and I set out on a path of “purposeful using” as David calls it, which in a nutshell means using ( alcohol & coke ) on special occasions only. This was for me to decide my level of dependency. There were hits and misses, and in this first year I didn’t define myself as alcoholic, but there was plenty to unravel as the alcohol had been masking a whole raft of issues, including co-dependency, and low self-esteem. It was only after a year in therapy that I admitted to myself and everyone that I knew that I was alcoholic, and in many ways it was a relief to label myself as such, as it was proof that I was unable to deal with alcohol and would never be able to safely drink again.
It would be a lie to say that I haven’t been tempted but given where I am now compared to three years ago, going back simply isn’t an option. The vast majority of my friends have been wholly supportive of me. True, there have been one or two who resented me getting well but I guess that’s bound to happen. It’s one thing getting sober but the real test is staying that way, so I observe my thoughts and actions on a daily basis. I’ve been sober and off drugs for almost 3 years and there will ( I hope ) be many more ahead for me. The key to success is remembering what made me drink and how it made me feel so I’m not tempted to pick up a drink again – in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years time. “
As my client discovered, being coached into booze solutions leads to other areas of opportunity and improvement. In the timespan I worked with him he also stopped smoking ( and has stayed stopped ), gained emotional esteem, lost weight, created a regular gym regime, dealt with debt and is now in surplus, started dating again, gained career growth and started his own business. What’s not to like?