I’ve done some pretty stupid things before now.
There was the time I wanted to know if a hotplate on the stove was on. What might you do if you wanted to know that? Look at the dial? Hold your hand above the plate to see if it felt warm? Well, not me, I decided to press my hand, palm down, against it. And guess what – it was on. And really quite extraordinarily hot. I spent a couple of weeks looking like I’d tattooed an interesting spiral pattern onto my hand for no reason.
And then a couple of weeks ago I was making a cup of tea and realised the milk was off, so I went off to the supermarket. Of course while I was there I thought of all the other things I needed, so I picked them up, and eventually made it back home, where I discovered – yes, you’ve guessed it – I’d forgotten to buy any milk. So off out again, to the newsagent this time, and, wonder of wonders, I managed to remember the milk. When I got back home I put the kettle on, and, while I was waiting for it to boil, I poured the old pint of milk down the sink. Except when it came time to put the milk in my tea I realised that – yes, you’ve guessed it – it was the new milk I’d poured away.
But all of that stuff just pales into insignificance compared to this.
When I’m depressed, or anxious, alcohol is a Seriously Bad Idea. I know this. Years of experience have taught me so. I’ve had some problems with alcohol in the past (in the sense of drinking a lot more than is good for me, not the needing medical treatment sense). Like a lot of fellow depressives, I went through a self-medication phase. In the dying months of my job I was getting through a couple of bottles of wine a night, more on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
That’s quite a lot, I think – certainly more than the recommended amounts – but I wouldn’t want to get into a “my drinking was worse than yours” competition with anyone. You know, like certain Hollywood actors seem to prove their manliness by how bad their alcohol problems were/ are. Anyway, the point is I know alcohol is a bad idea when my mood is not normal, and I knew it perfectly well when I found myself at the station, having just missed my train, and with nearly 40 minutes to fill in to the next one.
The trouble is there was nothing to do. I didn’t have a book with me, and Smiths was shut so I couldn’t get a magazine. But the pub on the station was open.
I looked at it, and thought: Alcohol – bad idea. I looked at it some more, and the way the lights were twinkling invitingly on the glasses arranged behind the bar. Well, I thought, you could always just have an orange juice. Then, as I was walking over, I thought, Well, orange juice isn’t all that much fun, but a half-pint’s not going to kill you. Especially since you’ve been so good these past few months.
I got inside, and got to the bar, and waited my turn – it was busy – and then, when the barman asked me what I wanted, said, without stopping to think, “Pint of Stella, please.” You were supposed to ask for a half, you stupid boy.* And Stella’s the strong stuff, too. Ah, well, drink it slowly and it’ll be time for your train before you’ve had a chance to finish.
And, of course, that’s exactly what I did. I sipped gently at my glass like someone’s prim and proper maiden aunt. I caught my train home, and had an early night under freshly starched sheets, resting my head on clouds of pillows that smelt faintly of lavender. I probably dreamt about baking scones, and volunteering to run the bric-a-brac stall at the church fete.
I certainly didn’t squeeze awkwardly into a corner, feeling so self-conscious I necked my pint in about 3 ½ minutes. And obviously I didn’t go and get another one straight away. And then another one after that. And then another one, and probably several more, if I’d been bothering to count. I didn’t spend most of the night looking sideways at all the other people in the pub, feeling bitterly resentful of the fact they had friends, partners, jobs – whole lives, in fact. I certainly didn’t leave the place just in time for my last train, and in my bleary-eyed state fail to notice the steps down, and crash into the door so noisily that half the pub turned to stare.
I didn’t get home, and count out all my pills, and wonder if I had enough. I didn’t flush them down the toilet ten minutes later, berating myself for being such a stupid, self-involved, hysterical drama queen. I didn’t crawl into the hovel I call a bed, with the dirty sheets I’m too lazy to change, and pass out for a few hours of what I laughingly called “sleep”. I didn’t wake up the next day, feeling simultaneously hyper and depressed. I didn’t spend the next few days unable to do anything except blob out on the sofa, and try to fight off the logic that told me I’d feel so much better if I had just one tiny little glass of vodka.
Obviously I didn’t do any of those things, because, if I had, I would’ve had to write a blog post about it. I’d have probably called it, “Of all the stupid things….”, or something like that, because I’d be so entirely aware that the whole thing was stupid beyond words, and self-inflicted, and entirely my own fault.
On the other hand, if I had done all those things, I might be able to write a final paragraph about how I’m feeling a lot better now, and had even found the energy to wash the sheets. They may not smell of lavender, but they do smell of washing-powder. And that’s good enough to be going on with, I think.