Thursday, September 23, 2010

Steven's Last Night In Town

There used to be a time in my life where I would relish a few drinks after work on a Friday; nothing like a cool beer or 10 to wash away the worries of the week. After my diagnosis with cancer in June this year, I haven't been working and therefore haven't had the pleasure of enjoying some bourbon and cokes with my fellow colleagues, a pleasure that I don't really miss... let me tell you why.

It's got nothing to do with the people I worked with, it's not the people that I don't like, it's consuming excessive amounts of alcohol that made me feel like crap every Saturday morning and pretty much ruined the two days of the week that were "free". But this wasn't something that started in Feb 2009 when I started work, it's roots were much earlier. The earliest drunken memory I have is when I was around 15, at Janis Dunnicliff's house in Cherrybrook. Janis' house was a key part of my teenage-hood - at his awesome parties I was introduced to alcohol, the beginning of a love/hate relationship that would continue for many years to come. It must have been late 2001/early 2002 (year 9/10 in school) when one Saturday night Lee, Pedram and myself were invited over to stay the night at Janis'. Being the young rebels we were we 'borrowed' a few beers from our fridges at home and brought them along with us. We walked over to the park next to Edward Bennett Drive and drunk them, and it was awesome!

I think that was the earliest memory I have of being drunk. I just remember feeling happy, being with my friends and being happy. I also remember falling asleep that night to 2 sounds - number 1 being the song 'Tribute' by Tenacious D on the TV, and the other being Lee crying (a sound that I would hear many more times over my drunken years with him).

Then there was the time at Luke Brecht's house, late 2002 when I was 16. We had been at Jess Muirhead's party in Glenhaven, and I had brought along a 375ml bottle of whisky that I smuggled from my cupboard at home. Jess had a fridge full of those small VB bottles (throw downs), so I started in on those. When those ran out I moved on to the whisky and cokes. I think I went through half or 3/4 of the bottle of whisky, so it's fair to say I was drunk. We were picked up by Luke's mum, Julie at around 10:30 or something (I can't remember much from this point on). Back at the casa de Brecht, his brother Matt (3 years older than us) had a few mates around, and there eyes lit up when they saw two 16 year olds stumble through the door. Shots were the next drink of choice. Tequila, Chartreuse, you name it we did it. Rumour has it, that they poured me a shot with Vegemite in it and I drank it... After shots were the Corona's (always on hand at the casa de Brecht) in Luke's spa. After the spa we took our beers upstairs to warm up in the shower and then down to Luke's study to watch some porn. The absolute last thing I remember of that night was watching porn from pinkworld and rocking back and forth on Luke's chair and then yyuuuuooohaofhdifjdosoadkfojaaaaaaaaahhhh - I threw up all over the carpet, all over the curtain and all over the powerboard...

Apparently Luke and co. (all drunk themselves) carried me down to the shower, took my clothes off and placed me under running water. They returned 10 minutes later to find me curled up in the foetal position shivering, realising that they had only turned on the cold water! I woke up the next day in Luke's clothes, in his bath tub, really confused, and really, really, hungover. It was probably the most hungover I have ever been. I know people say that every time they are hungover, but this was bad. My Dad picked me up later that Sunday around 2pm.

The reason I told you that story was because of the memories that drinking and getting drunk creates. Everybody has stories like mine that they will quite willingly put forth in a conversation regarding the good ole days of binge drinking.

When I turned 18 we started going out. There was always something to do, and somewhere to drink. Wednesday nights there was Tracks, Epping RSL, The Ranch, Blue Gum. Thursday nights there was Castle Hill Tavern, Cabana, Greenwood. Friday nights there was Castle Hill RSL, or a mates place with a case watching the footy. Saturday nights were 'The Local', then onto the city and The Wallaby Bar, Cargo, and probably The Cross. Then there were the 21sts, when it was weekend after weekend of free alcohol for what felt like a year. Suffice to say, from ages 18-23 I was getting drunk a lot.

Here's the point in the article when you think I would say, "Those days were sooo stupid", "I can't believe I did that!", "I was just young, dumb and full of cum"; but you know what, I loved those days - it was all part of growing up. Some of the best conversations are had after a few beers or wines, when your guard is let down a little, enabling you to converse freely about whatever is on your mind. I still enjoy that, and will for the rest of my life. I think the moment when you cross a line is when you become addicted to the sensation of being drunk.

I learnt this on my Vipassana meditation course I went to in July. As humans, we crave sensations. When you take drugs or alcohol, the physical sensation that manifests itself as a result of the intoxicant is generally a good one, and therefore you crave more of that particular sensation. Taking alcohol as an example, how many times can you remember drinking when someone suggests shots. The idea of taking shots is so appealing! You walk up to the bar, "4 tequila shots please", the bartender hands you the salt, slice of lemon and the shot. Everyone looks at each other with excitement, sometimes stopping and posing for a photo, and then you down the shot. No matter how nice it makes you feel, that feeling is going to pass; as are all physical sensations, therefore no point in placing an attachment to them. Same goes for smoking tobacco. You crave the nicotine, and once you get it your body thanks you because it has received its hit, but ultimately that level of hit is going to become the equilibrium and you need to smoke that same amount of cigarettes before you start having withdrawals and crave another one. It's a vicious and lethal cycle.

As they taught us on the course, all craving leads to suffering. Say for example you don't crave something extreme like drugs, nicotine or alcohol, but something pleasant and innocent (and very healthy) like eating a banana. If you crave and crave the taste of the banana, that smooth, soft, light delicious piece of fruit that has the same amount of potassium as 15 tubs of yoghurt - and you don't get it for some reason or another, you are going to be sad, right? Sadness leads to suffering. It's really, really hard to cease craving things. I've been meditating every day since I got back from the course and I still find it hard - but I'm getting better.

Anyway, back to alcohol. I don't think there will be a point in my life from this day on that I will crave more alcohol, with the importance being placed on giving into that craving. Because once you give into a craving that becomes the norm (norm is short for normal, just in case you were confused Lorraine hehe), and you will continue to give into that norm (and most probably increase your norm to 4 drinks then 5) until you just say, "no thanks, I'm right".

At the end of the day, you are going to do what you want. No guy named Russell is going to change your habits, that's your job - the only person that is going to change anything in your life, for better or worse, is yourself. Hopefully by reading this I have had some influence for you to cut down on not only alcohol but all things that are killing you, whether it be cigarettes, drugs, fast food, red meat, non-organic foods, the list goes on - you probably already know what's bad for you, and if you don't then ask someone, talk to a nutritionist, read a book on health, there are ways people!

If you haven't already noticed, I've loved the opportunity getting cancer has given me to realise all these things. I probably would've done that Vipassana course at some stage, but I don't think I would have applied it to my life as much as I have if I hadn't been blessed with this illness. The amount I know about nutrition (just from reading one and a half books on cancer) is probably enough to get me through the rest of my life eating a healthy diet. Regarding alcohol (which I guess was the topic of this article), I enjoy a few glasses of red wine here and there, maybe a beer or two, the difference is between now and then is that I know how to control my cravings a lot better than before - therefore leading to less nights out on the turps, more money in my wallet, and a Saturday morning with a clear mind and fresh body so I can use those 4-5 extra hours sleep to do something productive with my life, such as learn French or play piano - two things that I've picked up since getting cancer and I love every minute of each of them!

Bonne journée mes amis x

- Russell


  1. I got some pretty horrific drinking stories. And they make for good memories and learning experiences but it is now a really rare thing to go drinking to excess any more. I replaced my excess drinking with excess weed and my excess weed with excess happiness. Gotta love meditation

  2. Like that time that you slipped whilst dancing, face-planted, cut your head open, waited unattended in the hospital waiting room for like 8 hours... yeah that was pretty horrific!

  3. You love your bananas Russ!

  4. Actually Helly, that was a carrot (if you're referencing that thing he did when completely sober)...

    Awesome article, I really enjoy getting drunk, but i don't feel any craving for it, luckily. So I only do it a few times a year. I do enjoy 2-3 beers more often. I'm so glad I never found smoking cigarettes appealing, I would hate to become addicted.

  5. This article is awesome. Such an epic realisation.

    Lee crying. hahaha.. 'Why you do this to me Russell?' -

    My favourtie moment prob when Lee did the beer bong at the brechts and then just flopped onto the pavement after finishing.. lol.

    And Russ.. remember less than 6 months ago... we were at normo pizza and you said u had no money. cause u spent it all on booze? sign of the times.....

    love to all x