Sunday 21 February 1999
It's a week now since I contemplated suicide for the first time. All in all, then, not a good week. A month of binge-drinking ended seven days ago when I made my way to the clinic, the treatment centre, rehab. Call it what you will, it's the loony bin.
You know it's the loony bin when you see the signs on the doors: "Tranquillity" on one, "Peace" on another, and "Relief" on the toilets. No one going about things normally would need this blunt metaphysical reminder of what going to the toilet entails.
You also know it's the loony bin because it's full of loonies, though it's taken me some time to realise I'm one of them.
Of course, I've never had a drink problem. And that belief, I discover, is the first symptom of having a drink problem. In this topsy-turvy world, the opposite of what you think is the truth.
Over the years, friends have offered me various lay opinions on my addiction. "Get a grip" has been a popular one. "Pull yourself together", another. "A week mucking out the stables is what you need", has also been mooted. The experts here tell me I have an illness. And apparently, addiction, like a lot of illnesses, can't be cured by shovelling horse shit.
The first task on emerging from my Librium haze was a written psychological test. One of the questions asked was: "What do you think of your bottom?" It's been a long time since I've seen my bottom and I had no idea. It turned out this was good, however, as checking your bottom is a bad sign apparently. People who think about their bottoms a great deal probably have an eating disorder.
There were 156 questions. By the end, I discovered that I'd scored the highest mark I've ever scored in any test. Ninety-eight per cent for alcohol. I was brilliant at alcohol. I could be the Regius Professor of Alcohol at Oxford.
I scored badly at sex, quite well at gambling, well for cocaine, badly for prescription drugs, badly at eating disorders, about average for "relationships dominant" and "relationships subservient", average for something called "compulsive helping" and badly at shopping. (Though, of course, everything is the opposite here. For "well", read "badly" and vice versa.)
Why shopping should be a problem was a mystery to me until Keith arrived yesterday. What finally made him crack was buying five Hoovers that morning for his one-bedroom flat in Knighstbridge. Welcome to the nuthouse...
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