I have been struggling lately to write anything for Sober Paddy. There is no electric prose blasting from the page. I am a field mouse hiding in a field of burnt corn on the cob. I am the head of a hiding turtle when the sharks are shooming by. I am a Donegal forward, trapped by the masochistic restrictions of a system that works insofar as it stops others from working. I am Prometheus with the rain pishing down on him in Connemara with no flint, no matches and not even a glint in my eye. I am a forty something woman messed up with years of IV treatment and not a kid to be seen. I am an alcoholic whose head is being turned by the saucy satin panties worn by the svelte bottle of Pinot Noir in the kitchen.
Have you ever felt like you just wanted to hide away? When you set out and create an online persona which hundreds of people log onto to look at every week it’s kind of hard to keep the head down. And when the creative juices are a little dry then this becomes even more problematic. And when you are an alcoholic and you are starting to talk your subconscious into drinking again, it becomes even more challenging. I have had no impetus to write but luckily for me I have stayed on the dry. And even luckier while chatting to my little sister she came up with the idea of me interviewing myself. And before I could even write down a question I would even consider asking myself, she had texted the following 7 questions to me. So this is my first ever interview with the questions asked by none other than Ava Leonard aka. The Style Angel. Us Leonards ha? Mad for the publicity….
Why did you give up drinking?
I gave up drinking because I couldn’t handle who I was any more when I drank. I went from being in control to letting myself do anything and everything once I had a few sups. I went from being a funny, outgoing person to being dark, cynical and completely random. My attitude changed from being in charge and up for it to being snarly and sick of it all. A lot of people wouldn’t have noticed it, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I couldn’t keep drinking – it was tearing me up inside. You often hear people bandying around the phrase “my life was unmanageable when I drank”, but this about sums it up. I couldn’t see the benefits any more. When I was in my teens and twenties there were never many issues which I couldn’t rationalise with some good logic…but as the dirty thirties rolled on, I slowly began to see that I was a proper asshole when I drank – and I wasn’t one bit happy about it.
When did you first suspect you may be an alcoholic?
First time I ever looked up info about being an alcoholic was when I was in college back in the late 90’s. At the time I was drinking pretty much every night of the week. I remember at one stage that it was three years that had passed where I had not been sober for more than two nights in a row. I got to thinking about the situation I was in and decided to look up about being an alcoholic. I ticked yes to 9 out of the 12 questions which they get you to answer. If you answer yes to 3 they say you have a serious problem. I honestly laughed it off at the time. I thought I was invincible. I really felt that I had everything under control. Truth was the drink and drugs really had me under control.
If you could start over would you choose to drink less?
I would not change a thing because if I was to start over again, I would make the same choices all over again. You cannot live your life thinking what might have been. I understand the question lets you imagine a different “NOW”, but I like to live in the moment and change the future. I am the man I am today because of the beautiful, messed up existence I have had. You learn the biggest lessons from the biggest mistakes you make. You can never start again, only change the future.
Your Grandad was a heavy drinker, yet your Dad never touched a drop – what are your thoughts on that?
I can see myself in both of these men. Although I never met my Grandad, by all accounts he was a charming man who loved a drink and a gamble. He was fond of the whiskey and loved to play pool for a few bob in pubs like Hartigans on Leeson St. My Dad told me some of his favourite memories were of my Grandad coming home late on a winters evening after a night in the pub. Although freezing his 1950’s balls off, my Dad would run out to meet him when he came home. My Grandad would always have fish and chips wrapped in original newspaper for him. And he would always give him a couple of shillings to spend. In the end my Grandad died from the drink, his liver taking him a little earlier than he would have liked. Now my father was never really happy with the way the drink used to take his own father. They never settled in one house, and houses which my Grandad had opportunities to buy for a pittance back in the day, sold for 4 and 5 million squid in the 90’s. My Dad knew it was the drinking and gambling that stopped his own Dad from creating an empire. As such he never drank nor gambled.
When my Dad died 5 years ago, I think that the part of me which wanted to rebel against his wishes died too. A big part of the desire to drink stemmed from its prohibition. My Dad would berate me when he realised I had begun drinking. He never accepted that I should drink. He always said I was a fine young lad without it…confident, sporty, creative and good with the ladies (the last one I added myself!). I never really understood what he was getting at until he passed away. It was only then that I began to see the world through his eyes and I began to doubt the path I had chosen. So I changed it. I remember when Ava came to visit me when I returned to Australia. I was drunk and wild one night and at one stage on a bright Sydney morning, as the sun rose and we stumbled out of the notorious Courthouse 24 hour pub in Taylor Square, I swore on my Dad’s grave that I would give up the drink. I also declared ten minutes later in a taxi that I needed a wife! Less than five months later I would be sober and married! I know if my Dad was here now he would be happy that I wasn’t drinking – but he wouldn’t be happy I was telling all these stories to the world.
What was the funniest thing that happened to you when you were drunk?
Nothing stands out to be honest – multiple injuries and crashes and jumping naked off things. A fair few waking ups in places I had no idea where I was beside people I had no recollection of meeting. Well, one pretty funny one was when I was living in Greece I had been out on the razz and at this stage my boss Rob had confiscated the keys to my scooter when I was drinking. I had been in a fair few crashes and I was on a one way collision course with a date with a six foot hole. So I would have to walk home from the little village. Well, after getting home one night I woke feeling a little rough. I slowly nudged the eyelids open and turned my head on the pillow. As the light began to filter through, my ears woke up too. I felt a little chilly and sat up and looked around. I had been sleeping on the side of the road with my head on a rock. Cars were driving by not 4 feet from my head, not stopping for love nor money. Or the time when some guys at a festival mistook me and Fran Daly as being in the band Fuel and kept buying us drinks and getting autographs. That was a good chuckle. There’s too many…
What was the funniest thing that happened to you when you were sober?
Nothing funny happens when you’re sober (joke)
Do you think you lacked confidence growing up that made you turn to drink?
I was always confident. It was more the spirit of experimentation and wanting to be with the peers. It was more about getting a buzz than getting dutch courage. After a while it became an emotional crutch, but initially it was all about getting wasted and experiencing different thrills. I suppose the other thing was that it was outlawed in our house. Drink was EVIL. And when something is put on such a pedestal you are more inclined to want to try it. We were raised to be confident kids. Drinking is just everywhere when you grow up in Ireland. It is very difficult to avoid and if you have even the slightest propensity to wobble and indulge, then your curiosity will get the better of you…as it did with me. Curiosity killed d’alcolic.