(*Not to be confused with the similarly titled series of 1970’s films starring Robin Askwith)
I have an addictive personality, what in a pre-PC age would have just been known as being weak-willed. It’s an affliction that the experts regularly disagree upon, as they do with most things, but involves a propensity to unnecessarily consume, rely upon and overuse almost anything.
If there is beer to be drunk I’ll chug it as though I am on a veterans Rugby Tour of the Cotswolds circa 1970; and if there are cigarettes to be smoked then I chain the packet as I would blindfolded against a brick wall. If there are biscuits to be eaten then I devour them as if they were freshly baked, my Grandmother in her floury apron holding them out, smiling and nodding, “Go on, have another” (as she did) and likewise if there is wine to be drunk then I gargle like Bacchus at a Roman orgy. Somewhat strangely if there is a newspaper to be read, then I’ll attack it from cover to cover like a castaway would had he found it washed up on the beach.
I like to think it doesn’t interfere too much with my life; I seem to be able to cope and function as a normal human being most of the time; that doesn’t mean though that it doesn’t get me down (or let me down) occasionally.
The key to my survival I believe, and the way that I stop myself from spiralling out of control like a wounded helicopter, is the sliver of moderation I manage to maintain most of the time. In January 1995 I gave up booze; having worked in catering for a few years I realised I had actually been drinking every night for the entire duration of my career. I had a dry month and felt proud that I could prove that I could go without a drink for a whole thirty–one days! A token gesture perhaps, but it is an awareness that I have kept, and a annual event I have maintained ever since as a reminder and warning to myself.
Despite my numerous vices I’ve somehow managed not to become addicted to other sins and undesirable activities. Thankfully drugs weren’t that popular at my school, we’d sit on the floor in darkened halls watching crackly films about the dangers of cocaine, and listen to fat policemen tell us to “just say no to heroin”, when in reality most of us couldn’t afford much more than a packet of frazzles and a can of coke to get our buzz on, crack was just a pipe dream back in those days. Some of the lad’s sniffed glue, but to be honest my face was spotty enough without adding to that adolescent misery so I never felt the urge to join them crouched over their plastic bags on the wasteland behind the shops.
I never had the time or bandwidth to get addicted to internet porn, and though I might have on the odd occasion dipped my toe in the murky waters of musical theatre I was never lovey enough for the stage and bright lights, the greasy paint made me nauseous, and spotty. My experience of gambling is limited to the odd visit to a casino in Liberia, loosing $10 on the roulette table as slowly as possible that enabled me to drink as much free booze as my dwindling pot allowed or the bouncers let me get away with.
So the only real addictions in my life now, the ones I’ve expensively nurtured and sustained over the years are booze, ciggies and the Daily Mail.
I’ve stopped smoking, in as much as sucking on a plastic stick with a blue flashing light can be called stopping smoking. I’ve stopped drinking mid-week (in as much as Monday and Tuesday can be called mid-week) and I’ve quit the Daily Mail, cold-turkey.
If you know me (at all) then you’ll know that I display all the tell-tale signs of someone with an addictive personality. I have a penchant towards acting on impulse, a desire to fight the system of conformity and by that often alienate myself from society, and I do seem to get pretty stressed for no apparent reason. However as much as those could be perceived by some to be weaknesses I think that they are also strengths that make me the person that I am, a bit quirky, sometimes interesting, a little bit weird, “definitely not a crowd pleaser” (as a friend once labelled me) and often (occasionally) creative.
And I’m not trying to belittle the struggles of those with real addictions, I lived and worked with all manner of people dependant on drugs, alcohol, even porn chat lines; hotels and restaurants and pubs all over the world are filled with them. Many artists, musicians, writers (have and still do) often rely upon external stimulants to support their creativity. What I am trying to say is that one way or another we all have our foibles, our unique idiosyncrasies that occasionally interfere with our lives, or affect our work or impinge on others; and those of us who luckily manage to survive on a day to day basis without the need of something to get them through that day are really not that far removed from those that don’t.
It is too easy to be disparaging of others or to highlight their weaknesses and be judgemental of them; it is too easy to be critical of perceived antisocial behaviour that might be due to personality traits that perhaps are just occasionally outside their sphere of control, or brought about by societal influences. And it is too easy for the media to chastise those in the public eye; celebrities are pilloried daily for daring to display any weaknesses or characteristics that could be perceived as human. They are after all the people on which our children model themselves and should know better; and we forget that they are after all only human.
So I really believe that regardless of your poison of choice, be it staying up late watching Homelands, gorging on ice-cream and then hiding the tubs under your bed, getting wasted on vodka at the slightest sign of stress, or getting your fix from the Daily Mail it is those things that are part of what makes us who we are. As long as we are aware of them, and as long as we don’t hurt others or ourselves by maintaining them, and as long as they don’t negatively impinge on our life and our work, then we should probably just get on with them in moderation. If they begin to have a negative impact on our lives then we should attempt to kick them into touch, and if that requires support or help, then so be it. The first step of solving your addiction is the admitting that you have a problem; whatever that may be with.
I’m a Daily Mail addict, and I am clean.
Three days and counting.
One day at a time.