Posts Tagged ‘alcohol’


After dad lost his job mum had to go full time with her cleaning job to make sure we could afford the basics, food, water, electric, gas, rent. It was hard work but mum did it and we somehow managed. I don’t how she did it but she did. Five days a week working full time while doing the cooking and cleaning too. Dad just made things out of wood, did odd jobs here and there and drank as much as he could as often as he could. Looking back it must have been a daily struggle for mum, trying to keep on top of everything while dad tried his best to sink us further into debt. As fast as mum earnt money dad spent it. It would be easy to blame dad for everything but alcohol is a drug and it can be additive to the point where it takes over your life. This is what happened to dad but back then there wasn’t the awareness or help that there is now. If there had been life could have been so different to the one I experienced growing up as a kid.


Dad had a good job at the Co-op warehouse. It was easy to get to, only 10 minutes walk from home and the wages were decent. We bought a colour TV, music centre and other bits to bring us into the 20th century. I was happy at school and playing with my new friends. Mum was happy with her part time cleaning job. Everything seemed fine. More money for dad meant more to spend on beer and consequently late nights and days off work. Eventually it all caught up with dad and he was sacked from his job for persistent days off. Alcohol had taken over his life and now it had a knock on effect on ours too. Less money meant less for food, bills and little treats. Dad continued drinking, sometimes going missing for days, coming home with cuts, bruises and torn clothes and no memory of what had happened. If only dad could have kept off the alcohol or at least drunk in moderation things might have been very different, but I’ll never know. I only know the reality that I lived through and can only guess at the reality that might have been.


The black dog returned this weekend in one of its most violent and ferocious attacks for a long time. I sit here writing this as I feel the black dog going back to where he came from but not knowing if or when he will come back to attack me again.

It started Friday a day that now seems a long time ago. Friday a day with so many thoughts racing along the neural connections in my mind going too fast to process, smashing into each other at terrifying speed and taking my world into a cold, dark place I didn’t want to go to but had no choice as I was handcuffed to the back of the black dog and dragged along behind it for mile after mile of mental and physical torture.

All I could do was get a bottle of the sickly-sweet brown liquid that dulled the pain and destroyed my sense of reality, sent my world spinning and confused what was real and what was not in my mind. It tasted good, at first, as the black dog lapped it up and left me to enjoy life briefly albeit through an ever-thickening fog that clouded my vision and mind and sent me to a place I cannot remember.

Saturday comes and I pray for the planned night out to be cancelled so that I can stay at home, alone with the black dog and feed him the brown liquid he loves. But no-one cancels and I force myself to go out wondering how I will pull on my mask and get through the night.

Before the evening I had gone out for a run in an attempt to chase the black dog away, but this black dog is fast and strong and not only keeps up with me but fights me as well draining every ounce of energy from my body. My legs feel like two small trees struggling to stand up in the face of a devastating wind that wants to destroy everything in its path.

All strength and motivation have gone and even the simple action of putting one leg in front of the other hurts my muscles. I finish my run, but it finishes me too. I have nothing left yet I must go out and pretend everything is ok, everything is good, and I am in a good place not in the jaws of the black dog.
So out I go drinking pint after pint to satisfy the thirst of the black dog and eventually it allows me a brief respite from its attack but only after I have more of the sickly brown liquid at home. The fog is getting thicker now, and it is more difficult to see. Everything becomes a blur until the black dog consumes me for the night and I wake up the next morning aching and confused.

Now it’s Sunday and the thoughts the black dog wants me to think enter my mind. Why am I here? What is the point of living? I would be better off dead. I go for another run in the vain hope that the black dog will leave me alone now having had his fun, but he stays with me and once again I cannot run, my legs are heavy and weak, and I struggle to move lacking motivation and power.

I carry on fighting the black dog and go to the club to see my friends and play dominoes. My mind is foggy, struggling to string two thoughts together yet I mask my depression well, winning at dominoes and drinking till the black dog is happy and goes to sleep. I come home and once again drink more of the brown sickly liquid that has quickly become my best friend.

Oblivion comes once again and now it is Monday morning. I am lucky because I don’t have to go to work, but I need to do something and carry on fighting the black dog. My body is aching now from a weekend of abuse, I still feel weak but I force myself to go down Halifax and have a walk about as I know if I stop in the suicidal feelings that are now getting louder and louder may become too difficult to ignore.

I go down and walk around for a couple of hours treating myself to fish and chips and some window shopping. At home I have another microwave meal unable to find the strength to cook a proper meal and taking the only option I have left in my mind.

Evening comes and the black dog is consuming every part of my mind, body and soul. I want it to end and can think of only one way out, to end it all once and for all. I cannot let the black dog win and from somewhere deep inside my very being I find the strength to fight back and say no to the black dog. I want to write about it there and then, what it’s like to be in the eye of the storm when you’re in a fight with the black dog but I’m not ready just yet to write about it. I’m still feeling weak mentally and physically and need rest. I consume another bottle of the brown, sickly liquid hoping that it will be the last for a while.

I wake up early today, Tuesday morning unable to sleep, mouth dry from a lack of life-giving water. I go downstairs even though it is early and play some games on the computer hoping they will tire me out and allow me to sleep. I go back to bed at a time when I’m normally waking up and lie there wondering if I’ll be able to go to my meeting, wondering if I be up to it physically and mentally and eventually, I drift off to sleep.

I wake up again feeling so much better than I have all weekend. I can feel that the black dog has gone home back to where he lives, back to where he belongs. I feel well enough to go to my meeting, so I do, and I have a great time. I go for another walk around Halifax mainly to see my friend who owns a shop there. I come home and start to get jobs done, jobs I haven’t been able to do because of the black dog. I want to drink water not the brown sickly liquid, I cook a proper meal for the first time in days and I write this blog post my first in a long time.

I start to think about what I can do to make things better, the little things like going out to the cinema or to see a show that might just make a difference to my wellbeing and keep the black dog locked up in his kennel where he belongs. I am starting to feel stronger mentally and physically. Not strong enough to run but strong enough to write this and think of the future with a positive outlook, a future that I want to be a part of. After the black dog there is hope.


they never see you when you’re alone
with the tv and four walls for company
the walls that talk back to you if you listen long enough
the tv that’s stuck in an endless time warp of bygone shows
repeated, repeated, repeated
these are your friends for today
the only ones who will see you
they’re here for you when you’re alone
watching the sky turn from white to grey to black
bottled up feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
bounce off the walls going deeper inside you every time
words form slowly one at a time as they
take off into the universe in search of someone
to share ideas and thoughts with
tears form as slow as ice cracks
drying on your skin before they can flow down your cheek
you don’t even notice them
as the day drags on longing to be over
you turn to the bottle your one true friend
and share some hours together
blocking out the numbing reality of life
till you wake up in a daze tomorrow


Opening my big mouth (again)

My running journey continues

Andrew Smith

Sunday, 06 December 2015

 

This Saturday, 5th December saw what is I hope the final piece in the jigsaw of my return to running from an Achilles tendon injury, although it didn’t start out as such.

The Friday night before I decided to go out as I have a race at Dewsbury in the West Yorkshire Winter League (WYWL) on Sunday, 13th December and I like to stay sober for a couple of days before a race at least! As is usual these days I ended up at the local club although I did start out at a different pub for a change after a friend arranged to meet for a catch up.

At the club the usual suspects were in and what was intended to be a quiet couple of drinks soon turned into a decent session as the beer flowed freely and frequently. Like many runners I am on Strava as are several of the runners from my club, Queensbury Running Club (QRC) and somehow I got into a chat with a couple of other runners from the club about the joys of running off road and challenged them to a run the next day. This might not have been so bad if I wasn’t heavily intoxicated at the time, went for a large Chinese curry afterwards and went to bed late.

One of the many things that alcohol does to me is to make me incredibly brave and stupid at the same time. Bravery in this case making me believe I was fitter, faster and a capable runner than I am, stupidity in challenging faster and more able runners to my challenge. The full realisation of this hit me at 3am the next morning when I woke up and had a vague recollection of the events from the night before and checked my phone to discover they were true and at around 10:45am would become very, very real for me.

So I laid in bed desperately trying to think of a way out of the run and still save face. After an hour I decided that there was no way I could worm my way out of it aside from a major disaster happening. Man flu wouldn’t work especially as one of the runners was female and she would never let me forget it again. Being drunk wouldn’t work nor would getting to bed late so I came to the only sensible conclusion I could that I would have to man up and do the challenge. It was my route after all and I had laid down the challenge.

Secretly I was looking forward to it as it would be a good test of my running abilities since my comeback from injury and the route was tough and good preparation for the forthcoming race. So at 10:45am I arrived at my local Co-op carpark to meet my fellow runners. We had been joined by another club runner so there was now four of us ready to go. Surprisingly considering the session I had the night before I was feeling good although I wouldn’t recommend going for 5 mile mainly off road run on a stomach full of beer and Chinese curry!

The weather was wet and windy as storm Desmond was passing by. This made the route more interesting as much of it would be muddy and wet grass which would make it more difficult and challenging. The first part of the route was a steady downhill to a pub just out of Queensbury. My three fellow runners set off at pace as I expected and although I couldn’t keep up with them I soon found my own steady pace and kept them in sight. At the pub we met up and went through the carpark to a row of houses behind. Passing between two houses we were soon into a wet and muddy field, heading down to a stream and then back up the other side and to the main road.

At the main road my companions set off at a decent pace again and I did my best to maintain my own decent pace. Luckily for me one of the other runners was familiar with the area so I wasn’t holding them back too much. The road goes downhill and then turns left going into a short but steep ascent. About three quarters of the way is a stone stile which was the next part of the route. Passing through this stile leads you into a farmers field. At the bottom of the field is a dirt track that leads you past the farm and back onto the road. The field is a sprint even in wet conditions and is a good test of speed and stamina.

When we had reached the road we went over it heading towards the village of Clayton. However we only went along this road a short distance before turning right and up a steep and long hill. This hill is quite a challenge as it is grass and the wet conditions made it slippy underfoot. I really struggled on here because of the pace being set by the other runners. This was my fault setting a challenge when I was drunk! However despite struggling it is still a very satisfying feeling when you reach the top of the hill and you look down and can see how far you have come.

The next part of the route took us round the top of the hill before we got to a small quarry and made our way down a short but steep embankment and onto a road called Brow Lane. This is well known locally as it is steep on both sides leading you down to the bottom of a valley and back out again. Whichever way you approach it you have a steep incline to get up and it is a good test of your climbing ability.

We headed down here and up the other side under an old railway bridge. Again I struggled and I was starting to feel the effects of the climbing and pace due to my lack of fitness and pace compared with the others. However I knew that I would benefit from the run because my fitness and pace would improve and if my Achilles held up then mentally it would be a massive step forward for me and give me confidence to go faster and further.

After the bridge there is a row of houses and a track called Bridle Stile Lane. This starts off road and is rough terrain with plenty of loose rocks to keep you focused on where you put your next step. At the top of the first incline the lane turns to tarmac and flattens out for a short distance before rising steeply back up the main road. The flatter bit gave me some respite but I was breathing heavy now and walking, determined to do my best and not give up. When I made the challenge I had said I had a killer to finish off with. At this point in the middle of Bridle Stile Lane I was considering changing my mind and heading back to the car park which wasn’t far now.

Instead at the top of the lane the others decided that they wanted to continue and do the full route. I felt mixed about this as I felt totally exhausted and ready to go home but also looking forward to the final part of my challenge. We then ran down a short distance before heading off road again up a short but steep track known as Harp Lane. This was very wet and muddy and even the others struggled a bit on this. At the top we met up and headed back down the main road to the carpark where we had a quick chat. The others congratulated me on a tough, challenging route, just over 5 miles and 800ft of climbing that takes in pretty much everything you could imagine.

I got home and felt relived but proud too. I had pushed myself to my limits and done the very best I could on the day. My Achilles had more than held up and I feel that my injury worries are behind me. A massive thanks to my fellow QRC runners who came with me for supporting me and waiting for me. They helped me push myself harder and further than I would have done on my own. I did say to them that I felt bad for holding them up and that if they wanted to drop me from the group I would understand. However they wouldn’t have any of it and said I was welcome to come along again. I’m really looking forward to the next run as they will help me push myself more and get out of my comfort zone. Well done everyone who came on the run.

And hopefully I will think twice before I open my big mouth again!