Just One More Shot
I woke up in clean pyjamas, the bed still made around me. I sat up and stretched and marvelled that I felt positive and energised. I peed then went into my unusually tidy living room. No pizza boxes stamped on the carpet, no broken wine glasses, no over-spilling ashtrays and, as I’d peed, I’d noted that there were no remnants of vomit on the porcelain. I had drunk at least two bottles of wine a night for the last ten years, often more but until now never less.
I flipped the kettle on and readied my mug. Steaming coffee in my hand I sat at the table and began to journal, as has been my compulsion for years. But there was an A4 sheet of paper, typed, with my signature at the bottom. I sipped my coffee and read. ‘Ruby June Holmes Is hereby banned from the premises of Asda, Walmart and all its conglomerates’.
Er, um, what?, er…sips more coffee…what in the hell?
The rest of the piece of paper was full of legal jargon and at the bottom the number of my local store. I picked up the phone and dialled.
‘Hi, I seem to have a form here that says I’m banned from your stores, er, what?
‘Is this Ruby?’ came the reply.
‘What is it you want? ‘ the gruff man said impatiently.
In my finest English accent that betrays my upbringing in poverty I said ‘Well, Sir, I’d like to know why I have it.’
‘You came into the store last night’ He said.
‘Are you sure? What time?’ I enquired.
‘Round about 3am, you were stuffing things in your bag.’
‘What? I’ve never stolen in my life! What did I say?’
‘We couldn’t determine if you spoke English’ he chuckled as he said this. ‘We called the police after you’d paid for some stuff then tried to leave with the rest.’
Ok, I have never committed a crime in all my life. I wouldn’t even add a penny sweet to the bag in the village newsagent in case they counted, thought I’d tried to add one extra and sent me to Holloway Prison for fifty years.
‘Ok what can I do? I asked, still in my most educated sounding accent that I can put on when waitressing or getting refunds from Vodafone.
‘Love there’s nothing you can do’ and he hung up.
I had a cigarette and put the butt in the bin. Upon doing so I saw a clue as to how this had all come about. Two empty bottles of wine and an empty bottle of vodka. I’d remembered driving to Nash Point Lighthouse in the day and until now thought the sea air had helped me sleep so well. I had no recollection of drinking any of it, going to Asda or coming home. To this day I have no idea how I did the three mile trip. And then, by the front door was a bag for life with a pole sticking out of it. They had let me keep what I had actually paid for. What I intended to do with, and how I got home with, three bottles of mouthwash, femfresh and a mop remains a ridiculous mystery.
I live in fear that one day I’ll settle down with a cup of tea, watch Worlds Dumbest Criminals and see me wondering the aisles in my fully addled state. I would say it wasn’t my finest moment but you know, it may well have been.
I had long since ceased to function in day to day life. Dysfunction had become my Dystopia. But I had never stopped dreaming of what my Utopia would feel and look like.
My name is Ruby and for twelve years I was a writer and a hopeless alcoholic.
I wanted to be great, and all the greats drink or drank right? Well, seeing as I was already a pathetic drunk I was halfway to success. My idea of my future, as I said I still dreamed of one, was full of reading and writing. The former sober and the latter whilst spectacularly pissed. Alone I drink and alone I write! I am a cliché and I’m embracing it! I relied on the drink (usually cheap wine) to ‘unlock’ my mind, tickle my imagination and call forth a manic rush of inspiration. I’d write on my laptop (if it wasn’t being repaired after another wine-on-the-keyboard incident) and more often in notebooks. The fancy type with patterns of butterflies, birds and flowers guarding the genius that had poured forth as the wine did the same.
And so it went by. Twelve years of being fecked every night and so many full journals and computer files that lay as evidence that I was indeed a writer.
Then I started to die. Physically and mentally I had one binge left. My friends were tired of my announcements, every other day that ‘TODAY IS THE DAY I QUIT ALCOHOL’, the frequent suicide attempts and the FaceBook statuses hollering out my thoughts on the Human Condition and song lyrics that were fit for a funeral.
So it was on June 25th 2011 I gently washed up my glass and tipped away the remainder of the bottle into the sink. Eight weeks later I phoned my dearest friend and told her I had two months sober. I was adored. I got off the phone picked up a notebook and did something I thought only alcohol gave me the permission to do: I started to write. By giving up the shots I was given one more shot.
This June it will be the three year anniversary of the end of my drinking career, and three years anniversary of the start of my writing career. For shits and giggles I’m beginning to read over some of the work I have done sober. It is in no way ground breaking but there’s a definite improvement in content, style and, well, coherence. I’ve also begun to revisit the pages of ‘work’ I produced when drinking and thought that I sounded quite profound, sometimes a literary genius, an example of which I give below.
I had believed that alcohol and writing, for me, were intimately entwined, one a parasitic twin to the other. If volume was the aim then my alcoholism worked. But who wants diarrhoea when you can have a perfect shaped and relieving poop?
I’m a lesbian, obsessed with lighthouses and talking about poo. Freud is leaping up out of his grave and dashing to get his white coat.
My reality now is that I am sober and I write and I have something to write about now that I am living instead of just existing. I meet people and actively engage with them without worrying that I am drinking faster than them. I listen to people and read their faces instead of them being human shaped wine bottles dancing in front of me. I do what I hadn’t done in twelve years: I learn. And I write. I write therefore I am. And I write because I am lucid.
Example of my ‘genius’ (No spelling, grammar or punctuation has been changed from the original piece.)
To live in the old house. To throw grenades on stately lawns in their nascent green.
The bus driver, for whom we had a whip at the ferris wheel. I need to deny myself so that I lose weight but its bigger every day and the sound of ducks annoy me. And you, five hundred years old and young as the lawn.