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CHASING OBLIVION


 

 

The ritual of the after work pint has to remain a sanctity.

 

 I’m on my third beer. I’m being picked up from the pub in 15 minutes. I have about a quarter of my pint left. I’m relaxed and mulling over some words I’ve just jotted down about the pub as a sanctuary. But there’s a niggling in the back of my mind that it is making editing the words difficult. A part of my brain is tugging me to the right; like an invisible rat under my chef’s hat. You can squeeze in another in fifteen minutes, it whispers.

I don’t move. I am content. But the thought distracts me for a while. Once upon a time anything above the 7 minute mark was time for another pint. An unnecessary one. A pint unsavoured and without purpose. It was this way for 15 years and still that part of my brain considers it every single time.

 

Drinking until the clock hits zero was always my way. 

 

 

"I Love Your Work."



Somebody in the group always had to be the most drunk in the room. Whether it was a few friends ‘round as teenagers when the parents were away, or the pub quiz on a Tuesday night, or the nightclubs on a Saturday, there was always one in every group of friends that used it as an excuse to get uncontrollably blottoed. In our group of friends, that person was always me.  

 
From the moment that I could, of those first house parties at 15, I was chasing oblivion. Everybody in the room was drunk but I would always take it that bit further. Everybody chased the merriment whereas I craved the blackout. 



It continued throughout my student years. Everybody was on the booze but I was left with the fewest funny stories; the sheer volume of drink would often leave me incapacitated and with morning brain fog. I’d wake up with regrets at my late immobility, yet every night out would follow a similar path. "I love your work" my housemate would jokingly say to me as I lined 8 single vodka and cokes up at the bar, having deciphered that they worked out, through the Thursday night student offer, cheaper than four doubles.

 


There might be group rounds of shots but few were walking around clubs with a bottle of house wine and a pint glass. Others were on it, as they say, but I was solitary in my attempt to fall completely off.



It continued through my mid-20s. The horror reel that is my personal Facebook memories reveals the braggadocio status updates from the time. They record a life filled with “humorous“ tales of drink-fueled debauchery and little else. Future partners would ask me about that time tentatively; expecting a past of nightclub Lothario exploits. The truth is that they were just evenings used to focus my self-destructive energy. I wasn't waking up at stranger's homes but rather alone in open areas where I was lucky to retain all my possessions.



I would only stop when my body made me. Or those around me had the sense to. My brother once had the awareness to take a pint glass from me, filled with a shot of every spirit from the top shelf, at 6am during a pub lock-in. I had already been drinking for 12 hours. He was called a killjoy; ironic as that glass of booze may well have hospitalised me.



And I would have consumed the whole thing. I know that I would have. 

 

 

Recalibration


This may read like the exploits of many a young person from my generation but there was something different in my behaviour. It was purposeful self-destruction.

 

It would have potentially been helpful for me to find something else as a lifestyle or as a hobby. As it was, my genuine love for tasting beer and visiting different types of pubs pulled me away from oblivion. As much as social media aspects of beer and self-proclaimed bloggers are routinely mocked, that energy made me approach beer differently . It made me focus on the positives without the need for pushing it that extra few drinks.


I've made no secret that writing about my struggles with depression, my suicidal thoughts and some of my issues from the past have probably kept me alive. Before I had no such outlet. It has never truly occurred to me that my previous release was alcohol. It wasn't every day. It wasn't inhibiting my day-to-day life. But I was using it as both therapy and medication. Seeing alcohol purely through the beer lens helped me recalibrate.



Yet when I had those destructive thoughts again in 2015, I easily fell back into the hole, only now I was in the bubble and could hide in plain sight. For a time I could push it too far at industry events or evenings in the pub and wake up sprawled across my landing. "One more DIPA for the socials" I could say whilst secretly hoping it'd be enough to knock myself out until the morning. That year, I threw up all over the toilets at Indy Man Beer Con and lost my glasses. Somehow it became an amusing anecdote.



I've thought about it more since my Dad passed away. I've tried writing about alcohol within this industry but I’ve always been holding something back. I've been afraid that being truly honest will make people look at me differently. There are already too many voices talking scathingly of others "having problems" as I tried to address in the language that we use.



If I am to be honest, what will people think when they read my blog? Or listen to the podcast? Will it now always be that they think I shouldn't be having anything? If I'm out at a beer festival, will they see me with more judgmental eyes?



Maybe it should be. Maybe I should be done with this. It is probably true that a decade long lifestyle prior to this blog has shortened my beer drinking career. And my life in general. Other people I admire and like from beer platforms are being told to cut back or stop. The owner of a bottle shop I once frequented has had to give up drinking for life. Others are down to the odd Saturday.



I try not to live in the real fear that it could be me next but rather temper my own routine to increase longevity. The pub is my sanctuary. The three-pint buzz is still my little piece of therapy. I will argue all day that it isn't damaging to most, but it just might be for me. The damage may already be done.


I'll continue to be a man of the pub for as long as I can. My mind isn't in perfect health and the pub as a physical building helps. It does as much to heal me as a long walk in the country with my pup. The environment. The idea of going somewhere new. The plan to go to an old favourite.


But still I have to temper myself as my mind is conditioned to self sabotage. The after work pub visits are more infrequent. The pints are mostly below 5%. I don’t go to any social events if I know my mind is in the wrong place. And the “squeezing in” of unnecessary extras is over. Little Remy wins no longer. 


If we can't open up within this industry then where else can we? We are not aware enough and we are certainly not kind enough. The days of chasing oblivion may be gone but the ideologies are still chasing me. I have to hope they don’t catch up. 

 

 

I think that this post became this after watching this excellent BBC documentary about Matt Willis' struggles with addiction. Certainly the title is stolen from something he says in it. Well worth a watch.  

 

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