A True Story
They say that before we pass, die, say goodbye, whatever you call our departure from this earth, well they say you see your life flash before your eyes. I don’t know about that ‘yet’, but I’ve come close and what I saw was horrific, enlightening and plain old scary.
You see some years ago, under an absolute mountain of pressure that included threats of being murdered after a good old fashion torture session, bouts of homelessness, loss of all income and a blood family that weren’t worth the…well, I’ll leave that one there.
After all this I took to the booze. Now nobody forced the glass to my lips, but plenty helped me lift it there. Plenty were culpable in their guilt and despite my best efforts, in the end, I couldn’t stop the tide. There was so much pressure that a mental health professional slipped up when she said, “No wonder you drink too bloody much Simon.”
So then I did the maths and I saw my wife, I saw my children, I saw the life I could have once the madness stops, once the pressure has been stemmed and yes, once I controlled the drink and it didn’t control me.
And so I stopped. I stopped overnight and the consequence of my foolishness in doing so was a screen show of all that had gone before me, hence “my life flashing before my eyes.”
Music and the carnival had always had a place in my heart and so I thought it very good of whomever, to put on a show on my first day of sobriety.
There they were on the roof of the house next door. All the children waving from the carousel, sat on the colourful animals as they span and span around along to the men and women playing the banjo. All this whilst the BBC filmed on, making a film just for me.
My wife Julie didn’t enjoy the show as much as I did. Why would she? She just didn’t see it like me.
So the poor girl packs me off to bed, begging me to get to sleep, but how does a man sleep when the star of the front cover of James Herbert’s ‘The Rats’ comes jumping out of the wall to attack you?
All this whilst the Beatle’s ‘Here Comes the Sun,’ provides the sing-along. Tell you what, that rat had a crap voice.
But I got it and I understood, Julie was tired, she needed sleep so as she drifted off (holding my hand), I had a very serious conversation with the talking lampshade. It was my aunty you know.
Well the next day, don’t get me started. Who the hell had turned our bedroom into a war zone from Beirut itself? Doesn’t a wife know how to make a bed? Covers, sheets, pillows and furniture everywhere.
I’ll ask the seven police officers coming up my stairs. After all, they aren’t really there, are they?
But they were indeed real, and they were here to cart me off to the hospital.
“For your own good Simon,” they said, and they were right.
They were right because the first thing I saw when I got there was my childhood hero, Peter Pan and his Lost Boys, all playing nicely in the wigwam in the garden.
I must say, they drew funny looks from the doctor who didn’t share my joy. Much the same as Julie the night before really.
Moved to a ward I was and low and behold, I was in for another treat. John Merrick, the Elephant Man himself, and the best book I read as a teenager! He was only sitting in the bed opposite me and we had a grand old chat!
Wasn’t so good after he went home though. No, not so good at all. It went downhill then.
My good old pops had assured me, from a very early age, that I was destined to go to jail, just as he had. This despite, I was a good kid and never in trouble.
His promises to make sure I went there carried on into my adulthood and the son of a bitch said he even knew people there who were going to rape me, and this my readers, is a truth. His legacy was not a symptom of withdrawal.
What was though, was the two inmates who had escaped from Walton Jail and sat behind the curtain, signalling they were going to cut my throat.
“Your dad sent us,” they said.
As I made my escape, I hid in the labour room, only it was a labour room full of men and their blood, as babies tried to claw their way out of the father’s bodies.
Sedated (again), placed in bed (again) and told if I didn’t stop, I would be sectioned (a first time) I bloody well stopped.
Both time and the threat of being institutionalised soon sobered me the f**k up.
Apparently, nights passed, illusions slowly disappeared, and the family sat waiting. Real family I mean, wife and children, not the other type.
One of the other types was there when I woke though. There out of guilt, I don’t doubt, but my trip down memory lane and the thought of all I had to lose made me stronger.
It was just a few weeks after that, after much soul searching, that I realised I no longer needed two things in my life. A poisonous father and four bottles of brandy and ten bottles of wine a week.
I needed to get fit, I needed to improve my writing, and I needed to be a better husband and father.
I put the hours in, I put the effort in, and I put the love in. The love I got back in abundance. The first two my lovely tribe never needed to put in anyway.
Today, if you find yourself in my company you might see me enjoy a glass of wine. You will never see me need one again and there is a massive difference.
When the time comes for it to pass before my eyes for real, I’ll know I’ve done my best at this life.
Simon is the author of An Everyday Warrior, available here.
If you would like to interview Simon for your podcast, radio show or television program, please contact me, Julie, at email@example.com