by Sinclair Newton
Another friend of mine is dead. This time, it's quite a young person I didn't know that well, but a friend he was nonetheless.
We confided in one another, and I guess that's a fair indication. He told me he couldn't stop thinking about drinking, even though he made a reasonable stab at stopping.
In fact he went into one of those dry houses, where the merest whiff of Scotch on your breath is sufficient to have you put out on the street. Quite what good that's supposed to do I don't know. It would make me want to go for a drink.
But he withstood it all very well and bemoaned the fact that other people were being released and immediately going to the nearest pub and back to their new flats with four cans of the strongest lager there is.
My friend said this horrified him and felt it was letting down the good-natured people who had been looking after them for six months or a year or whatever.
Then they let him out.
The next time I saw him, a couple of weeks later, he was in bandages. He said he had got blind drunk and tried to climb over a park fence, which unfortunately stood, between him and where he imagined his flat to be.
They took him to hospital and then to a kind of cell where he was put to sleep on a rubber blanket. He said he was ashamed and vowed never to do it again.
During his dry period he had started getting fit, going to a gym every morning and jogging in the afternoons. Or it may have been the other way round, come to think of it. Whatever. He got good enough to run in a half marathon on behalf of the charitable organisation that was monitoring his abstemious progress and I sponsored him and paid up front. I trusted him and was not wrong, because he did do the marathon and came in the first handful of runners, the majority of whom no doubt went off and had a few well-earned pints afterwards.
But Paul went for a shower, had a cup of tea (in fact, a whole potful of tea) and went to bed.
He was allocated a reasonable flat and took great pleasure in decorating it himself. He even talked about getting a job. He was even having a go at becoming computer-literate and continually gave me email addresses, though they never seemed to work.
He showed me the end of term report they did about him, citing his enthusiasm and even his willingness to pay off a credit card debt he had from the drinking days. His greatest delight was that his father was pleased with him and at least they were talking again.
The Christmas before last he sat in front of my Mum and I in Manchester Cathedral at a Carol service organised by the alcohol service in whose care he was and he went up in front of hundreds of strangers and read a lesson. I can't remember the text and I'm fearful of looking it up in case it was something significant, but the only reason his hands shook ever so slightly was because he was nervous. He made a fair job of it too, and looked suitably chaste. Two other inmates sat with him in the makeshift pew and of all things all I can remember is how well turned out they were with freshly ironed jeans and whitened trainers.
No one from the alcohol service seems to want to talk about what happened at the end. I like to think it was some other thing that got him.
But deep down I just know that it was the drink, in one way or another. I also know it was unstoppable.
It would be too easy to apportion blame and anyway it wouldn't bring him back, just like all the other friends I knew.
So you might ask: "Why write about it?" "Why punish yourself?"
It is because of this: there's nothing wrong with drinking for almost everyone and I don't mind if anyone gets drunk and what silly things they do. But for some there is a fine line between indulgence and survival.
friend crossed the line and I'm sure I could have done more and nothing will take
that awful feeling away which is why you won't find me drinking, here or in Ibiza.
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