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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I'm sure I've told you about the self-help group I started called "Can't Drink Won't Drink."

There's about twenty five of these groups dotted around the UK now, though none with names as good as ours and certainly no such initiative in Ibiza as far as I'm aware.

It is funded by an award-winning charity called Alcohol Concern who get the money from a trust and it almost looks like an attempt to create a rival to Alcoholics Anonymous without the religious fervour.

I thought you might like to see the bit I've written for their next news letter:

The four of us met at a weekly quiz night for ex-drunks held on Tuesdays in a town called Ashton under Lyne, somewhere near Oldham.

The highlight of this gathering is when they splash out with some of the money the council gives them and treat us all to chip butties. The only problem is they don't trust us with knives and forks so we have to tear the muffins apart by hand.

We all came to the conclusion that some of the sad people who go there have ruined their lives twice.

The first time was when they drank too much for too long. The second was when they fell into the clutches of do-gooders.

We were all very grateful that they had been there when we needed them. That was when we had all individually decided that we had to stop drinking; either because of our health or that we had almost lost everything and wanted to cling on to whatever it was we had left.

For some of us, that was sanity as much as material things; like the Dunhill cigarette lighter won in a pub bet or the collection of CDs that would be just too painful to sell - even for a flying pint or two.

We all recognised our condition: that we were just too drink-friendly. We also realised that there was more to life than ragged chip butties.

In our first year, with the magnificent grant from Alcohol Concern, we've been to see Bob Dylan and Van Morrison at concerts in Manchester; we've watched Manchester City soar back to the Premiership; we've been out for the day to a shopping centre and had lunch in a restaurant; we've watched Ricky Hatton in a big title fight; we've occasionally lived like normal people choosing to have a day or an evening out when we like.

It's not a lot of money, really. About a tenner a week each over two years. But the thing is that it is has shown us there is a real life out there where people who are still able to go to work and earn a few hundred pounds a week exist all the time.

We lost one of the four and we think it might have been because we all had a drink on one of our forays. He seemed to have got consumed with guilt. The other three of us have talked about this and we think that he can't see we are not a teetotal, prohibition, Bible-thumping group of anti-alcohol reactionaries. We are just three mature men who recognise they have a problem with drinking inappropriately.

Here's the thing I suppose Alcohol Concern want to hear: we've found a new member who wants to stop drinking and invited him to join us at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester (we bought the tickets online for a fiver each months ago). One of us has seriously started thinking about getting off benefits and earning enough money to carry on with the kind of lifestyle that enables you to go to concerts or football matches or go out for a meal (we've had a few of those, including one where we had the biggest steak and kidney puddings you've ever seen).

And now we're thinking about doing a bit of fund raising to keep it all going.

The strangest thing of this whole experience is that we have suggested to other people that they should get in touch with Alcohol Concern and set up their own group. They look at you as though you are talking about going to the Moon. We wouldn't mind, but they've no idea how big a steak and kidney pudding can really be if you have the money to pay for it.

UK readers might like to fund out more about the free programme (it's an ongoing project) by getting in touch with Alcoholic Concern. They are at Waterbridge House, 32-36 Loman Street, London SE1 OEE. Tel: 020 7928 7377. Contact Jim Asbury, Grant Programmes Co-ordinator

Sinclair Newton