Please note: this piece contains descriptions some readers may find upsetting.
Dan stood staring out of the window. He could see the row of shops at the end of the court he lived in. He was beginning to sweat and shake slightly. He hadn't had a drink in about four hours. He would usually tell his wife he was going out for bread or milk, even if that meant pouring milk down the sink, or putting bread in the bin, when his wife wasn't watching.
But today his wife had brought both in with her when she came back from a doctors appointment.
He was beginning to feel desperate, then he saw the hairdressers that he had been in lots of times. The row of shops also had a grocers, chemist, take-away, and a pub.
He turned to his wife and said, 'I'm going for a haircut.' He walked to the door, money already in his pocket. His wife didn't get a chance to answer before he was out the door, but she knew where he would end up.
Dan made straight for the pub. As soon as he entered, Rose, the barmaid poured him a double vodka and lemonade. She sat it down in front of him as soon as he sat on the stool. Dan drank it in one go and said, 'Another one please.' Rose went to get the drink. She sat that one down and he drank it in a gulp as well. Rose looked at him and said, ' Take it easy, Dan.'
Dan nodded and said, 'Sorry, Rose, I had a bit of a thirst on me. I'm okay now.' The shakes had stopped. He then nodded towards the empty glass and said, 'One for the road.'
Rose shook her head and said, 'Okay, Dan.' She was used to Dan rushing into the bar , getting a couple of drinks, then disappearing.
Rose sat the third glass of vodka down and said, 'Well, Dan, what is it today, are you out for bread or milk?' She laughed slightly as she said this. Dan looked at her. He began to search his memory. He couldn't remember if he was out for bread or milk .
He looked at Rose and said, 'Do you know, Rose, I can't remember if it's bread or milk.'
Rose laughed at this and said, 'You'd better take one of each just to be sure, or your wife will be angry.'
Dan nodded and said, 'Yes, you're right.' With that he drank his third glass of vodka and carefully made his way to the grocers to get the bread and milk. Dan had been in the pub eight minutes.
Dan arrived home and opened up his front door, then sat on the second bottom step of the stairs leading upstairs to put on his slippers.
His wife appeared at the kitchen door she looked at the carrier bag he had laid on the floor and said, 'What's that?'
Dan smiled and said, 'I couldn`t remember if it was bread or milk, so I just got one of each.'
His wife glared at him and said, 'We didn't need any of those. What happened to the haircut?'
Dan visibly shrank, he then remembered he had went for a haircut. He looked at his wife. She said again, 'What happened to the haircut?'
Dan replied, 'They didn't have any left.'
Dan thought this was quite funny and was relieved when his wife let out what he thought was a laugh. But it wasn't a laugh, it was a cry a despair.
This happened ten years ago. After that episode Dan spent the worst night of his life going cold turkey coming off alcohol. He was told later that that was not the right thing to do, and his body could have gone into shock. Thankfully he survived it.
Today is Dan's tenth AA birthday celebration. His family have a little party gathering organised for later.
Later, Dan speaks to the members of his AA group.
Dan tells them it was a blessing to know that he wasn't alone when he first arrived at the fellowship. He says that the last ten years have been the best years of his life. He told the group that his family was the most important thing in his life, and now he has their full trust.
He also tells them that although his family had never stopped loving him, they didn't like him when he was drinking.
Dan tells the group that he has got rid of the stone in his shoe and the monkey on his back.
'But most of all I now have my dignity back, and the love and trust of my family and friends, and I would like to thank this place for being like a hospital for the walking wounded. Last of all, my friends, I have learned we only have one life, so let us try and celebrate that every day.'
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