My name is Matthew, and I’m an alcoholic.
There, that was easy.
Of course, I’ve had plenty of practice saying that particular series of words in that particular order, because I got sober by attending AA meetings, and I make no secret of it: secrets create those scummy, cobwebbed little corners in life where relapses reside. I know, as I relapsed once after 18 months of sobriety and ended up sitting alone in a room, drinking 4 bottles of wine a day, desperately trying to ignore the symptoms of the Type 2 diabetes my outrageous sugar intake had caused. (The photo in this post shows just how fat and red-faced my diet and illness had left me.)
Given all this, many people have asked me why Danny Sanchez drinks and smokes so much. After all, isn’t he me?
The simple answer is that, when I began writing the books and creating Danny, I was a proud and unrepentant alcoholic. Small matter that, when going to interview people as a journalist, my bag bulged with beer cans or emitted the sound of wine bottles chinking together. It didn’t even matter if people noticed – I was playing out the role of the world-weary hack, slouching from one assignment to the next, and heavy-drinking was all part of the charade.
Of course, I now realise this sort of bullshit rationalisation is all part of the madness that is any form of addiction – had I not been a journalist, I would have found other excuses to drink.
But the really interesting part of this story is not whether Danny drinks or not. The interesting part is what happened when one of the Danny books was published and in the acknowledgements section, I thanked my “AA sponsor for speaking sense”.
Less than a half-a-dozen words, tucked away in the back of a book, the part that most people don’t bother to read . . . and yet, over the course of the next few months, I had six people contact me through Facebook saying, ‘Alcohol is ruining my life. Can you help me?’.
And so I did what I could to help them – part of the AA 12-step process is a commitment to carry a message of hope to all those who still suffer.
Some got better, some lost contact, some returned to drinking – such is the “cunning, baffling and powerful” foe that is alcohol to the alcoholic.
But I wonder how many of my readers missed that part about my AA sponsor – the vast majority I’m willing to bet – and of those, I wonder how many bear the same secret burden that I did for more than 20 years?
If you do, you know where to find me.