Today was a sad day in our house as a new armchair was delivered. This meant the end of the previous incumbent which had served loyally under me (quite literally) for seven years. It was big, it was round and it was comfortable. It also had wheels fitted to its base which meant that the kids (and occasionally adult males who shall not be named) could spin round and round on it. For this reason it was christened the ‘Twirly Chair.’
The ‘Twirly Chair’ was my silent companion through countless movies, box sets and sporting events. It bore my unmistakable ‘butt groove’ like a badge of honour and was my sanctuary from the trials and tribulations of ‘grown up’ living. When I was on the ‘Twirly Chair’ such pressures seemed a universe away. We were inseparable. It was my man cave. It was my panic room. It was my Narnia.
Ahhhhhhh. Good times.
Unfortunately the ‘Twirly Chair’ also witnessed some not so good times. If I could visualise my anxiety, depression and addictive personality in one image I would probably plump for the ‘Twirly Chair’. And over the next two days I intend to write a little about those not so good times. This is raw but it is honest. This is not easy. But the whole purpose of the blog is to offer people in the same place as I once was a glimmer of hope. And before you shine a light into any gloomy place you must first understand the darkness that it seeks to extinguish.
My father died seven years ago from prostate cancer. At the time I never really grieved for him. Yes, I cried at his bedside in his final moments but grieve, no. Following his death I was too busy organising funeral arrangements and looking after my mother to have any time for myself. I almost got a buzz at his funeral from the responsibility enforced upon me and the accompanying adrenaline surge. As the eldest child and only son I found myself in the spotlight. As a damaged person who craved attention this was heaven. A dangerous slice of heaven. I was disgusted with myself. Perversely almost enjoying what was supposed to be the worst day of my life.
I vividly remember the night my father died buying beer on the way home. I then proceeded to drink this alone in our living room after Fionnuala and the kids had gone to bed. It was, in my mind, a much needed release after an incredibly stressful day. I thought nothing of it at the time. But Fionnuala was later to tell me that this was the first time I had done this. Unfortunately It wouldn’t be the last. Rather it was my first step on a slippery slope towards oblivion.
Initially my ‘Twirly Chair’ parties were restricted to a six pack of beer on a Saturday night. After a hectic week at work I felt I had earned this weekend treat. And I was harming nobody right? Fionnuala knew where I was and I was the perfect comedy father to the kids. Whenever Fionnuala gently suggested that I didn’t have to drink every weekend I reacted badly. She was the party pooper as opposed to the voice of wisdom.
The six pack soon progressed to a twelve pack. And the stronger the better. I would not go to bed until it was all gone. Sitting up on my own into the early hours of the morning before stumbling up the stairs. And sometimes I never made it that far, falling asleep in the ‘Twirly Chair’ and waking up the next morning surrounded by empty beer tins. Fionnuala told me later that she used to lie awake upstairs listening to the fridge door opening and the unmistakable sound of another tin being opened. She is even today still haunted by that sound. https://afracturedfaithblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/kcssshhhh/
Before long Saturday night was starting earlier and ending later until eventually it began on Friday evening and finished on Sunday afternoon. With the occasional midweek top-up. I was rarely a nasty drunk more a boring, selfish drunk. I didn’t want to do anything with Fionnuala and the kids. My family were my tins of beer. My horizon did not stretch beyond the fridge freezer. My safe place was becoming a self imposed prison. I was spiralling towards dependency.
I always suffered bad hangovers but the more I drank the worse they became. If I drank Friday through Sunday it was only by the following Wednesday that I began to feel vaguely human again. Meaning that my most (and only) productive day was Thursday before the alcohol fuelled cycle began afresh on Friday. My behaviour became more and more secretive and irrational. I was permanently grouchy. I was in the same house as my family but in reality a million miles from them.
The ‘Twirly Chair’ was my only friend. As I drunkenly spun round and round I did not realise that my future was also spinning aimlessly by a thread. My moral compass was hopelessly askew. I was adrift and floating towards nothingness. I poured increasing quantities of beer down my throat in a vain attempt to fill the gaping chasm in my soul. Addiction hovered just over my shoulder, whispering in my ear, telling me that alcohol was the only solution to the ever increasing waves of depression that washed over me, threatening to overwhelm me.
Alcohol erased whatever rational thought processes I possessed. It was the key to the door of self destruction. I drunkenly fell through it eager to see what was on the other side. I left the little common sense I had behind me and sought to embrace the new demons in me who so enticingly welcomed me. Darker, more dangerous demons.
For this was only the beginning. The ‘Twirly Chair’ was to witness so much more. Much more and much worse.
Part 2 follows tomorrow. Thank you for reading.