Guest blog by Life Education Queensland and Ocsober Ambassador Jimmy Morrison.
Growing up in a country town in Northern New South Wales, rugby league was my sense of community. I still remember the advice given to me as a young up and coming player that “it is far better to be a somebody in the bush than a nobody in the city” and that is how I saw these men, as somewhat legends that I had the privilege of playing alongside.
I started to play under 18s when I was 13 years old. I was told not to panic as I was only going to be on the wing; then it was I’ll put you in the middle but just catch and pass. I was terrified; however, the sense of camaraderie that I felt with the other players had me craving nothing more than to be accepted and regarded as one of the boys. As I continued to represent the club season after season, my exposure to alcohol and the behaviours associated with it increased.
I was allowed a couple of drinks here and there as a young bloke, and as I grew into the first-grade side, so did my ego and desire again to be one of the boys.
At 18 I enlisted in the Australian Regular Army and after a short period of tough transition from civilian to military life, I found myself with that same sense of camaraderie that I had experienced playing rugby. This time, however, it was different. This time it was stronger and more appealing. After spending all those years trying to prove myself to the people I looked up to, I was now starting to be accepted as part of the team – I was becoming one of the boys. Fitting in was becoming comfortable – soldier hard and drink harder. I wanted to be accepted so much that like any goal I found a way, and that way was alcohol and PT (physical training). If I could hold my own competing in both, then I would achieve my goal and be accepted.
Today’s Army has a far healthier drinking culture than back then. I will be quick to tell you that the Army did not make me drink. I was the one that poured it down my throat, the Army just gave me the best mates in the world to do it with.
Fast forward to my early 30s, and I am now sitting on my couch surrounded by empties after again not making memories but regrets over the weekend. There were times when I used to enjoy a social drink with mates in the early years; however, in my later years, I was drinking with people that were just after the same thing I was – an escape from reality. As my mates grew out of the hard drinking, I grew into it. ‘A few quiet beers‘ would evolve into a weekend binge and I would avoid answering to anyone, including myself. There are people who can drink and enjoy it as a purely social event with healthy interaction; however, I grew to hate those people and gatherings. The going out for dinner, the family events or social BBQ, all these occasions disrupted my drinking. If I did attend, then I was completely on edge and anxious the whole time. I couldn’t relate to why people chose to eat a meal or have a chat over getting wasted. It drove me insane and I grew to resent people for not participating in drunken days and nights, which resulted in me making up excuses and lies to not attend social events or celebrate occasions unless they were guaranteed to achieve my desired state.
‘A few quiet beers’ would evolve into a weekend binge and I would avoid answering to anyone, including myself.
I had developed this ability to just shut myself off from the outside world on cue. I didn’t care who I hurt in the process. Once I started drinking, I only cared about how I could keep drinking. If you were not contacting me to drink then you got nothing. I didn’t want to be disturbed or harassed when I was trying to party, really I was just too damn ignorant and self-centred to care. It had nothing to do with having fun – fun was code for ‘I am up to no good and if I take this call or reply to this text then I may have to answer to someone‘. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but that’s just it – it was only wrong on the comedown or when it came time to make amends for the destruction I had caused over the weekend. Then I would do it all over again the following week. It was just one vicious cycle, however, at the time I could justify every action and believed every lie. I found the more positive influences I shut out, would allow for more negative ones to be let in. I was replacing people that didn’t support my habit with those that did. I was creating an environment that was filled with other people who shut out their own positive influences and by doing so we created a nice little bubble that supported our efforts.
It’s not easy for me to find moments of honesty associated with my drinking as the majority of my addiction was surrounded by dishonesty. The only connection I can now make between addiction and honesty in my life is essentially a positive one. The first step in my recovery required me to be honest with myself, I had to admit out loud that I have a problem and it needs to be addressed. This honesty only came at rock bottom, when I had hit a point in my life where I finally realised that I had become physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I still had a job, car, girlfriend and money, but as a human, my spirit was nearly dead. It’s in that moment as I sat on my couch smothered by anxiety, remorse, hate and self-pity that I mustered enough courage, to be honest with myself and admit that I have a problem and I need help.
Stay tuned for part two of Jimmy’s story next week.