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By Ginger | August 5, 2001
Anyone who’s given up anything that has become a constant in their life knows the pain of longing. Anyone who’s forced themselves to refrain from gorging on old habits due to health problems understands the day to day nature of the battle. Drugs, gambling, sex… shit, even TV, chocolate or coffee. All are serious enough to warrant a certain level of concern for the health of the protagonist. Mentally, usually more than physically.
But I’m gonna stick my neck out here and say that nothing is as hard to give up as alcohol. I know that Danny agrees with me on this, as would most junkies. The best way to get off junk? Move to somewhere that isn’t infested with it.
So, where do you move if you want to get away from British people that drink? Well, you stay at home and you don’t answer the phone. You stay in bed for four months and you live on health food. Yeah, right!
When I last afforded alcohol a healthy distance, for a sensible amount of time, I was living in LA (and believe me, if there’s a place on this planet that makes you want to drink it’s LA), and a friend of mine told me about AA, Alcoholics Anonymous (anonymous is a little far-fetched because people would join up to hang out with celebrities). The idea of sitting in a bright room, drinking coffee and smoking copious amounts of cigarettes (hey, hang on… isn’t there a cigarette ban in LA? Oh man! Told you it was a bad place to sober up) whilst listening to love-starved bottle blondes bleat on about how they know your pain – that appals and disgusts me. Public masturbation, anyone? Nah, didn’t think so. Designed by the weird for the weird if you know what I mean.
Y’see, I don’t care who’s giving up drinking, or why / where they come from or how bad they had it as a kid. James Hetfield goes to rehab? If you can afford rehab you ain’t got too much of a problem. If you can afford rehab you can afford six months in the Bahamas with a beautiful girl, so it looks like your problem is your imagination, not your liver. Losers and coffee vs pussy and sun? If alcohol has fucked your brain that much then you surely can’t string together a sentence as long as “hello, my name’s Ginger and I’m an alcoholic…”
In California, every ex-alcoholic I meet still does ‘bumps’ of coke in the toilets. Most of them still drink, “only not as much as I used to”. Scott Weiland stood and lectured me, one night at a club in Hollywood, about how hard it is being clean, but how rehab sure is the right thing to do – only to be spotted half an hour later emerging sweating, shaking and scratching from the toilets. People that go to rehab are usually so in love with their own legend of ‘fucked up-ness’ they should rename it ‘mehab’.
“Yeah, dude, that’s fucked up… but just listen to this fucked up thing that I did.”
And the confessional nature of rehab is so sinister that it’s no great mystery why at least 50% of people come straight out of there and into the warm, dark arms of a bar. Clapping and cheering at a stranger’s announcement that he / she has an alcohol problem? Surely they’re only there because they have no close mates? Otherwise they’d have known they had a problem long before they knew they had a problem, right? Friends would tell you, right? So how come the long suffering friends don’t get a round of applause instead? It’s those around the alcoholic that really suffer.
Self-imposed diseases are best cured by harsh and cruel reality. Don’t be a coward unless you want to live as one.
But surely the most banal aspect of the 12-step programme is the section that would, in any other culture, be termed as ‘humiliation’.
Living and coping with guilt is one thing, but humiliation doesn’t even work when training dogs. Taking someone so far away from themselves is surely guaranteed to distance the person from the real reasons for wanting to give up in the first place. Wanting to be a better person, more productive, more rational, more relaxed, more hygienic.
The Californian 12 steps have a stage in the programme where the ‘ex-alkie’ must telephone everyone they’ve offended in recent memory, get down on their knees and say something along the lines of “I am an alcoholic, please forgive me for my sins.” Regardless of the fact that the person they’re talking to has probably either forgotten all about the shameful incident or is just as much of a dick, with or without drink.
The 12-step programme has too much in common with the Moonies or the Branch Davidians to really gel with me. It offends my sense of individuality. It increases my growing exasperation with the gullible nature of humans, which was the main thing I intended to blot out with drink in the first place.
So I propose a slightly more realistic programme for those of you that are starting to feel a little tired of feeling tired, and shouting at people for very little, if any, reason… and repeating yourself… and waking up feeling like 10 lbs of shit in a 5 lb bag… with violent mood swings… and debts piling up… and your life going nowhere… and repeating yourself… and smelling bad… and looking like a turd with a face… and puking regularly… with hiatus hernias… liver problems… and jaundice… and listening to boring fuckers who talk too loud while spitting at the side of your head.
Here, in no particular order, is the ‘Ginger 12-Step Programme (for the hopeful)’.
1 – DO NOT GIVE UP FOREVER
A sure-fire way of making you resent the clean life is saying “I am never going to drink again.” Remember that the clean life is very, very boring compared to the life that you are used to. Getting used to sobriety as a reality is one thing, but being imprisoned by it is another entirely. Anyway, nothing will make you appreciate your newfound ‘well-being’ than a gargantuan, head down the pan, family-sized hangover, the like of which you used to nurse every single day of your life. Falling off the wagon every now and again is normal just as long as it’s for one night only.
2 – DO NOT SMOKE POT
Cruel, I know, but true. Pot makes you as thirsty as Hell, and all drinkers know that nothing kills a thirst better than a cold beer. You will go through every soft drink known to man to kill that thirst, and each time will carry a small picture of a can of beer around in your head. In your stoned state this will make so much sense that eventually you won’t be able to argue with yourself due to the fact that you will have forgotten the argument and only remember the ‘beer’ part (in which case see step one). Pot makes you lazy whilst thinking that you are not, simply replacing one denial with another. Pot also makes one find a perverse solace in the determined picking of one’s nose. You are an adult. You should maybe think about stopping this activity too. Pot also makes you eat copiously, and ‘eaters’ are just as sexually attractive as ‘drinkers’ (Oh, so you aren’t giving up because of your falling looks, huh? Stop lying, you bastard.)
3 – STOP LYING YOU BASTARD
Just ‘cos no one can see you, it doesn’t make it right (see ‘nose picking’ section of last step). If you lie to yourself, you will never believe that you can do this. Remember you are doing this yourself, for yourself, because of something you got into by yourself. Also remember, people are quite easy to lie to.
4 – DON’T EXPECT HELP
Or pity or understanding. While your world comes crashing down around your feet, the world, according to others, goes on untouched. Your frustration will turn into exasperation if you try and get someone to understand what you are going through. And this goes for other people in your position. Do not seek solace in the pain of another. Reformed alcoholics, or reformed junkies, are the worst company in the world. Don’t join them or you’ll end up the loneliest clean person to grace this filthy planet, with only ex-alcoholics and ex-junkies as friends. You will talk endlessly about drink and drugs and how great it is that you are ‘off’ the ‘shit’. You will eventually get so tired of talking about ‘it’ you will fall naturally and hopelessly back into ‘it’. (In emergency, see step one.)
5 – LISTEN TO MUSIC
Behold how long albums actually last. Behold how a beautiful melody can now render you a blubbering, soggy mess and open the doorway to the repressed emotions that you have been harbouring all these years. Behold how utterly shit most of your record collection really is.
6 – EAT GOOD FOOD
That £20 price tag on that lobster in that fancy restaurant is nothing compared to the £15 a day that you used to spend on vodka, the £15+ a day on beer, and the few hundred a month you spunked on coke. The feeling that someone is secretly putting money into your bank is natural and will fade as any new buzz naturally does. The moral? If you don’t spend money it doesn’t go anywhere. The solution? Spend as quickly and as zestfully as possible. Do not worry, you will get bored of the sensation in due time. And if not, you will become a shopaholic. And then you will truly know that you are rubbish and will more than likely start drinking again. (See step one.)
7 – WATCH GOOD MOVIES
Whereas good music has been largely made by people excessively drinking and consuming drugs, movies, on the other hand, take much longer, and cost a lot more to make, than records . Therefore someone is at the wheel of the production with a mind as clear as yours. In these first stages of your cleanliness, you may find no better role model than a great director; a leader of men, a true visionary in a sea of blind optimism. A man, much like yourself, with a goal and a path not obvious to the outside world, oblivious to the inner strength that motivates him. And let’s face it, 24 hours is a fuck of a long time to kill every day.
8 – READ
Simple, really. In fact, it’s something that you probably thought you were already doing, right? Well, kind of… except, instead of getting through another novel, you will find yourself devouring the written word. You will feed your mind and starve your ignorance, propelling you to a higher level of confidence in your task. You will not only open yourself up to new information and experiences, but will unlock the years of suppressed knowledge that has been dormant due to effective block-out caused by alcohol and its effects on your short-term memory. Reading is your very own brain work-out and is one hell of a lot easier than exercise. In the event that you are not a ‘reader’ you could always join a gym.
9 – JOIN A GYM
Expensive, humbling and very, very boring. Those people that actually enjoy the atmosphere of a gym were never really alcoholics in the first place anyway, the two environments being entire worlds apart. Like nuns worrying about the dangers of contracting HIV, the testosterone-fuelled ambience of a weights room could not conflict more with the smoke-filled comfort of the local snug. Alcoholics hate discipline and the gym insists on it. Try it by all means, you may be one of the few that actually gets one of these so-called ‘endorphin highs’ that some people rave about. The truth of the matter is that ‘endorphin junkies’ have, as a rule, never tried freebase. Go, see what all the fuss is about, stay for a month, leave, and argue (with absolute confidence) that it’s not for you when another ex-whatever starts giving you the ‘body and mind’ speech that they learned from rehab.
10 – SMOKE CIGARETTES
Woe betide the inexperienced ‘clean-living person’ that does not smoke. That temper that was the main reason you quit drinking in the first place? You are still David Bruce Banner, mate. The Hulk appears when driving on a motorway surrounded by cars driven by maniacs whose sole mission on this planet is to stop you getting to your destination by killing you. That smug-voiced little shit from the bank that just called about your overdraft? That red letter that comes through your door informing you that your [insert essential amenity here] is going to be cut off due to unpaid bills from the time you were drunk and ‘forgot all about it’? That girlfriend that now takes great pleasure in reminding you how much of a dick you were way back when you drank, usually with exact dates and times? That ‘friend’ that urges you to go out for a drink, but it’s OK because it’s only a beer? The sheer shock value of settling into a reality that you had otherwise been unaware had actually existed? When in doubt, go for the snout. It’ll save you and the rest of the world a brand new problem to deal with. And if you don’t smoke? Then you’re on yer own, pal.
11 – FUCK
One of the few legal, and generally acceptable, things to do to kill boredom of all kinds. The new ‘logical yet needy’ you will accept sex as the equivalent of drugs and drink. In fact, the one thing that begins to envelop all other senses is the closeness and satisfaction that sexual intercourse brings. OK, so it’s not as much fun when not wired to the gills on good quality cocaine, but it sure beats reading books, watching movies or any of the other shit written down here.
12 – IMPROVISE
There is no better way to give up drinking than to do it your way. You didn’t drink because someone told you how, so why should it make sense to give up that way? Make your own rules up. Do it your own way. That way you can hold up your finger with pride. Everyone knows how hard this is… that’s why everyone doesn’t give up.
Mine’s a fucking bastard mineral water.