It’s the smell that hits me first. There is a overiding stench of industrial cleaner it’s supposed to be pine I think but mixed with the sweet smell of sweat and an underlying hint of disappointment, missed opportunities and broken dreams it just smells of a life lost. Next the taste, salty, sweet, fatty, the remains of last nights kebab fill my teeth and my breath.There’s a sticky residue starting from the corner of my mouth and meandering across my cheek, I wipe this away with my t-shirt. I screw my eyes tighter, I don’t want to believe I am here again, I want to click my heals and magic back in time and location to somewhere else, anywhere else but here. I open my eyes, all is grey, ingrained with dirt. A fog appears in my vision, I rub my eyes. I am lying on a blue plastic mattress in a cold room barely 8ft square. My bladder tells me I need to go, and urgently. There is nothing else in here except me until I spy the call button, I press it. The red light above the door flashes and I hear heavy steps echo down the hallway to me, keys being retrieved from the hook on a belt, the door opens, this is the first day of the rest of my life . . . . . . .
This happened to me a few weeks ago, in fact 4 weeks tomorrow. Some of you may know the truth of what transpired, suffice to say I have since lost my licence for the next 23 months (if I do an alcohol awareness course, I am aware of alcohol, we know each other well do I need a course to make me aware?) Nothing physical was hurt or damaged, well, there was a small dent in the car but nothing of any consequence. I’m not going into the details or the why’s and what’s, that is to say it has happened, there is nothing I can do to change it.
So why the first day of the rest of my life? Well that day I went home and read a book by Paul Campbell called I’ll Stop Tomorrow detailing his alcoholism and how he set about dealing with it. I read it all in one sitting, more I feel to blot out the shame and sadness I felt, but it went in and I resolved that day to give up, to surrender to my illness and get help. I slept fitfully and infrequently over the next 24 hours, I had to retrieve my car and so to avoid anybody and anything went and got it at 7am on the Sunday, somebody had slashed the rear tyre, I drove it home anyway changing it when I got back. That night I walked into my first AA meeting and immediately felt at home, a cup of coffee was pressed into my hand along with numerous handshakes and phone numbers, lots of welcomes and warmth, oh what warmth these people showed me and acceptance, you’re one of us, welcome, welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.