One beautiful sunny, summer, Sunday afternoon I roamed around a garden in Salisbury, Wiltshire, inspecting every blade of grass and wondering about the amazing sights and experiences that nature provided. I was crawling through the grass imagining I was an insect overpowered by the the total greenness of it all. Music was floating in the background and my companions were wrapped up in their own wonderment.
It was my first experience of taking LSD, one I will never forget. It completely changed my attitude to the world, for a few hours. The feelings did not remain, however, so I was left with an over-riding sense of disappointment, of being let down by the world. I went back to my lack of understanding of what I was for or what I was doing.
I talked last week about being lost and not knowing where I was going. That may be true but it did not stop me enjoying myself. Life became about fun, connection became about letting my inhibitions go. Maybe I was shy, but I found a way I could connect that did not require too much effort. Drink and drugs were an essential part of being young in the seventies, everyone was into them, especially the rock stars I looked up to.
I did not go as far as as men like John Lennon, who, reputedly, had a fruit bowl filled with a mixture of pills that he could take, like sweets, whenever he felt like a fix. Beer was my main ‘poison’, although it did not mean I stopped there.
Social life in there theatre was not the same as for a normal person, we worked in the evenings. We did not go out on dates like most people, we went to the pub. Finishing the show late meant getting out as fast as possible and getting to the nearest pub to down a few pints before they closed. I drank with whomever I worked with. There were no favourites, no dates, no getting together with someone special, it was just get there and get drinking.
Food was an afterthought. A trip to the chippy, or the Indian/Chinese, was all we had time for, anyway the drink was more important.
I remember getting to know the girl I eventually married, when we worked together. We would sit in the pub drinking, or sit on the stairs at a party, drinking. We never seemed to have time for much else.
The key, for me, was that alcohol did what it was supposed to do, it loosened my tongue and relieved me of my inhibitions. I did not think of it in this way, I just enjoyed who I became when I drank. It seemed to me that this could be the real me, underneath. I realise, now, what a dangerous idea that is and how many people have been led down the wrong path by this idea.
Over the years I realised how much this idea blossomed in my family and how destructive it became. A few years ago I attend an evening learning and experiencing the therapy of ‘Family Constellations’. This works on the principal that many of the issues that people face come from deep family issues that are often held over many generations. I had become attuned to this concept after seeing Tony Robbins work with a young girl who had attempted suicide multiple times. He worked with her at an event in front of around 2,500 people. As he unearthed her story he called up relevant members of her family who were also present at the event. Finally he called up her father to the stage. With his wife and daughters lined up opposite him Tony talked to him about his rules and values and how he expressed them in the family setting. What became clear was that the suicide attempts by the girl were directly caused by the fathers rules and values.
The idea of Family Constellations takes this idea across generations and seeks to solve deep seated issues that people have. I volunteered as an example at this small presentation. Members of the audience were called up to represent members or elements in my family and were encouraged to talk about how they felt about the relationships they saw around them. A friend of mine got up at one point and put her arms around several of my family members. The facilitator asked her what she represented and she said, “Alcohol.” This was a shock to me as there had been no mention of this up to that point in the evening. It resonated with me very powerfully.
There are members of my family who have been destroyed by excessive alcohol, although there are some who were able to step back from the brink. I was in the latter category. Although there were times when drinking seemed to take over my life, I was always able to step back and not let it take me over.
I talked earlier in this story about how my body was the thing I was most aware of. That turned out to be my saving grace when it came to drink and drugs. I always ended up with a hangover the next morning, and never enjoyed it. I always, or nearly always, remained conscious of what was happening and never totally lost control. I was so intent of being in control of my life that I would not let something outside of me take over. I experimented, and loved experimenting, but I did not become obsessive about how it made me feel. The earth was there to catch me as I fell and remind me that I was still searching for and seeking answers.
One of the very few times that I lost touch with what was happening had a profound effect on me. Again I was living in Salisbury. I had been to a party at the theatre and had had far too much to drink. This was one of the many times that I felt extremely ill by the end of the evening. I went back to the digs I was sharing with a number of other people from the theatre. I remember getting up in the middle of the night with a terrible banging in my head and the drink rising rapidly up my throat. I found the bathroom and was very ill over the toilet bowl. I remembered no more.
The next morning I went downstairs for breakfast feeling very much the worse for the drinking type night before. An actress friend of mine told me, as soon as I arrived in the dining room, to get out as quick as possible. I had no idea what she was talking about. Before she could tell me again the landlady came into the room with a tray of food, she took one look at me, banged the tray down on the table and rushed out without saying anything. My friend again told me that I should pack my bags and get out, now. She said she would tell me all about it later.
Later I discovered that after being ill, I had left the bathroom naked with a wet towel round my head. Instead of going back to my own room I had gone into the landlord and landlady’s room and had attempted to climb into their bed. The landlord woke up, saw me and chased me out of the room. Needless to say they were both rather angry.
I was horrified, not by what I had done, that I laughed about, but by the fact that I had lost control and could not remember what had happened. That was something I did not like.
I found no answers through drink and drugs, and merely found that they eased my reticence with other people. I enjoyed their effects as long as they remained in moderation, and still do today. I was still seeking and escaping, but I developed more control over how I was doing this.
Next week I will look deeper at how I was running around, avoiding making any relationships, and what I felt about that.
—Photo Credit: Flickr/Johnny Silvercloud