Day 450: As you may know, I stopped counting days a while back but I do still have the counter on my phone so had a look and couldn’t resist posting it with it being a round number!
My football team Sunderland (don’t hate me football fans of opposing teams!) are playing at Wembley in London next Saturday (21 May) in what is a huge game for the Club and fans. It’s a bit like a Cup Final but the reward for winning the game will be promotion to the league above. Somewhere we haven’t been for four seasons.
I’m a regular at the home games at Sunderland as I live in Durham so it’s only about 20 miles away. It means I was guaranteed a ticket for this huge match in London but on this occasion I’m approaching it differently to my last three trips to Wembley (2014 and twice in 2019).
On those occasions it was a drink fuelled weekend on each occasion and despite driving down on all three occasions (about a four hour drive) it didn’t stop me binge drinking once I was there. In 2014 I drank a bottle of champagne to myself after an afternoon of ale. The first time in 2019 was a day of drinking cans of strong lager from 10am once we arrived in London. The second time I didn’t go with my mates but with a 65 year old who I go to the regular games with (my mate’s Dad) but that didn’t stop me. We were drinking whisky from a hip flask during the game that we smuggled in. He’s an ex-policeman too!
I won’t bore you all with the footy side of things or detailed accounts of those boozy trips to London but in summary, all three trips should have been primarily about watching my team at the ‘home of football’ but really it was about being away from home on the piss from dawn to dusk with a football match in the middle of it.
With me in recovery and my ex policeman chaperone unable to attend the match I’ve made the decision to travel on my own for the first time. I’m going to drive down to London early Saturday and get parked up at the same hotel 6 miles away from Wembley that I’ve stayed in the previous three times. I know loads of people who are going to the match but they will largely be enjoying a good drink, as I did previously, and that for me will be an unhealthy environment. It’ll remind me of the good times I had with alcohol – carefree and merry with friends and fellow fans taking the edge off the social anxiety I often get in crowds.
Even my ‘beast’ has been hard at work since Monday night when we beat Sheffield Wednesday football club to book our place at Wembley.
“No harm having a few drinks to take the edge off. Travelling on your own will be nerve racking. You don’t need to drink at the match or in the packed pubs, have a few in the hotel.”
“It’s a big day. A final. Enjoy yourself. Raise a toast to your recovery and your team. A drink won’t hurt will it. Nobody even needs to know.”
It’s just another test. The beast will try and derail me but I know that alcohol doesn’t give me the joy that sobriety does. I have been to Sunderland matches on 16 occasions this season and not drank once. I’ve been on holidays, stag doos and weddings since I started recovery and not drank once. The beast can do one.