At the time of writing this I'm thirty days sober.
This isn't my first time trying out the straight and narrow. I was clean for seven months last year and then did what a lot of other alcoholics/addicts do and convinced myself that there was no way I was an alcoholic and that I could totally handle three beers and just go home. I did manage to just have the three beers, by the way, but it kind of snowballed from there.
Before I got sober that first time, for years I had convinced myself that there was no way I could be an addict because, and here's the kicker, I was too young to be a drunk! Here's a heads up, guys: the raggedy old drunk you see on TV is not the definition of an alcoholic, there isn't a clear cut definition. There isn't an age limit on addiction and this needs to be made clear to people.
The first thirty days are a bit of a nightmare - literally at certain points. Much like the first three days quitting smoking are considered 'the hump', that's very much the case with booze and drugs. For anyone wondering here's a few things to know: 1) any fluid not coming out of either end, you'll be sweating out, 2) often in the form of cold sweats after waking up from relapse dreams (these last a couple of weeks, but they'll pop up every now and again after that), and 3) you need to find something to replace that substance with.
Everyone replaces intoxicants with a new thing, and everyone's different in their coping mechanisms. These are mine. One was regular exercise, pretty common one. Ironically, I'm also smoking again. The next was eating very spicy food, to the point of it being unbearable. That's another common one because capsaicin, the thing that makes chillies spicy, realeases endorphins similar to morphine...once you're past the agony. Another is writing, I've been a lot more creative since I got clean and it's a pretty good outlet - I started this blog not long after I got sober.
Finally, I've been playing way more video games over the last thirty days. I played a lot of video games before I got sober, but there's a specific reason why I've been playing more than usual and that's because I haven't been able to watch as much television as I once did. Don't know if you've ever noticed this, but in like 90% of TV shows the characters are almost constantly drinking and/or getting fucked up, and you notice this a lot more once you're not drinking and/or getting fucked up. I'll get past this eventually, but at the moment it's a tad difficult, so I've replaced TV with video games and books...mostly video games.
So here are the games that have been keeping me on the straight and narrow.
Red Dead Redemption 2
This seems like a logical jumping off point for this because I had drank a bottle of vodka before I went to buy it at a midnight launch. Then when I went home I left it to install and went to a bar down the street. I had four beers and it still hadn't finished installing when I got home. Needless to say I was shitfaced when I started playing RDR2. I got a little into Chapter Two and then, when I decided to get sober, I restarted the game because I realised that I remembered absolutely nothing about the opening missions.
I played for ten hours straight and I realised afterwards that I hadn't thought about drinking the entire time. I'd been sick a few times, but I hadn't thought about going to buy beer or vodka.
I think a large part of why this game helped me was because of how slow and methodical everything about it is. I am, without exception, a narrative gamer. I don't really do online games or battle royale because I need a story, and a good one, to keep me playing. RDR2 has this in spades, for sure, but for some reason I found myself spending most of my time hunting, fishing or just roaming the map looking for nothing in particular, but always being pleasantly surprised when I did find something of interest.
I spent a lot of time doing nothing in RDR2. And I think that's really what I needed at the start of all this.
God of War
God bless the Playstation Store. I'd wanted to play God of War since its release, but I couldn't justify the price tag at the time. Then, during the second week of my sobriety, it got knocked down to £25, along with another game I'd been wanting for a while (more on that later). What a beautiful coincidence.
Needless to say, I had my tits knocked clean off by the sheer beauty of God of War from the get go - which no doubt should go without saying. I'd read endless reviews that had went on at length about how utterly stunning this game was. So I was, to a certain extent, sort of expecting what I saw - though, of course, there were moments that took my breath away, the kind of moments that defy description.
What I wasn't prepared for, however, was just how arresting the story of Kratos and Atreus was going to be, nor how deeply and personally affecting it would be.
I've spoken before about my relationship with my father. He is, by no measure, a bad person, just a difficult one. It's taken us a long time to really understand one another, which hasn't been helped by my condition as he's one of those people that doesn't really believe in doctors or medication and the like.
So Kratos' and Atreus' journey resonated with me to a degree, despite it involving considerably more violence than my own quest to understand my father. Over the course of twenty five hours, much of what had gone on between my father and I over twenty five years was reflected on screen. It was a rather sobering experience, pardon the pun.
Detroit: Become Human
I am all about androids. I love everything about androids. Pretty much any work of fiction - be it book, film or video game - that involves androids I will gobble up voraciously.
The reason I adore anything and everything involving androids and artificial intelligence is not solely because I'm a huge sci-fi nerd - though that has quite a bit to do with it - but because, with very few exceptions, almost every work involving androids will, to some degree, concern itself with the concept of identity and what exactly it means to call ourselves human.
I'll admit, just like every other effort by Quantic Dream, Detroit: Become Human's the dialogue can be pretty heavy handed - they really haven't mastered that whole "show don't tell" thing quite yet - and they need to have a bit more faith in their audience's intelligence and ability to figure things out for themselves. And Oh. My. God. There has never been a more annoying child character than Alice. Actually, annoying is far too generous a description. She is such a nothing character.
Nonetheless, Quantic Dream managed to add some polish to what worked before, specifically the fluidity of the quicktime events that are now a staple and I enjoyed my time with Connor, Kara and Markus. I sympathised with each of them simply because they all seemed as lost as I've felt throughout my life.
I've had a tough time trying to relate to other people throughout my life - from childhood to this moment right now as I write this. I've struggled with my own identity for as long as I can remember and I've never quite been able to reconcile my consciousness with the physical body that houses it. This is no doubt why science fiction of this ilk appeals to me, as well as why other, more destructive things, appealed to me from a very early age. Escapism comes in many forms, after all.
Show of hands. Who had a good time at school? That's what I thought. The old adage about school being the best days of your life is complete bullshit, and anyone who says that with complete conviction is, without a doubt, a sociopath. Beyond that, I feel sorry for anyone who believes it because...holy shit, really? That was the pinnacle? Is it even possible to go downhill even though you started at the bottom? Damn, son.
Despite this, I feel like everyone has indulged in that fantasy of being...I wouldn't go so far as to say the 'cool kid', but certainly being comfortable in their weirdness rather than feeling isolated because of it, and being embraced for it rather than shunned.
Enter Persona 5. Holy hell, I wish I hadn't got to the party so late. I loved almost everything about this game (certain creepy moments involving female characters and other slightly upsetting gay characters not withstanding). It was just sort of nice to live vicariously through my nameless protagonist who's also devoid of personality. To live out the time that for me was defined by anxiety, awkwardness and unhappiness was this time lived with relative coolness...and let me fight crazy monsters inside of people's heart palaces.
Ah, high school.
Spyro: Reignited Trilogy
This had to be on this list. I played this whilst I was in the throws of what's known as the DTs (delirium tremens). Basically, you sweat a lot, vomit a lot, your memory gets very hazy - I forgot very basic words a lot of the time and as someone who writes a lot this was pretty irritating. Oh, and the nightmares. Ho-ly shit, the goddamn nightmares.
Needless to say I needed something comforting whilst all of this was going on, and goddamn did Toys from Bob deliver. Spyro was just how I remembered him, just with a lovely, glossy lick of new-gen paint all over. Playing this felt like almost a meditative experience, as though I entered flow and lost track of everything around me. If not meditative, it was certainly therapeutic.
One big thing I have to note about this entry in particular is that it was somewhat bitter-sweet. Not in a bad way, but I couldn't help thinking about the fact that the last time I had played these games was when I was ten or thereabouts and I didn't have things like bills, ruined relationships or weekly circular meetings in churches on my mind. I played these games with a cold sometimes, now I was playing them with the DTs. How things change, eh?
So there you have it. Sorry if this was a bit sad, but it felt right to get this written down. If any of you guys are going through the same thing or you're worried about someone else then send me a message, I'll always reply no matter what. Much love, my friends.