Chris McCully

Alcoholism and recovery

Goodbye Mr Wonderful by Chris McCully book cover I don't know whether Goodbye, Mr. Wonderful has helped anybody to understand alcoholism, or has helped them, perhaps, to understand someone else who wishes to understand alcoholism. But it might have done. When I was thinking about publishing the book I imagined that if the labour had managed to touch one fellow soul, one other alcoholic, one other family then it would have done some small good. But having thought that - an atypically kind and oddly philanthropic view - I just got on with the business of staying sober, one day at a time, and of learning to live again.

Friends and colleagues have been kind about the book. Even the medical profession has been kind about the book. But then, they would be. To me, the good opinion, such as it is, is of far less moment than one day in the life of all those brave, beaten, heroic souls who manage another span of 24 hours clean and sober. If Goodbye has been even the tiniest part of the structure of such a day, then I'd be glad.


2004 Goodbye, Mr. Wonderful. London: ISBN 184310265. pb. Please read more about the book which can also be purchased from the Jessica Kingsley Publishers website.

A flower After years of what I thought was 'social drinking', years of heavy drinking, years of critical drinking, then there were the years where my drinking was simply a dreadful chemical relationship with a drug, ethanol. Such a relationship is known as 'alcoholism'.

I finally got sober at the end of 1999. It took another detox (the third), and residential care at a clinic specialising in addictive disorders, before I could even begin to save my own life. And even then I had to be helped to save it - by those other counsellors, teachers and addicts who showed me, by their example, that it was possible to live a recovering life, one clean of alcohol and all the other addictive fixes.

No one is ever 'cured' of alcoholism, but as I write, in December 2016, I have been sober and in recovery for over seventeen years. They have been seventeen of the most intricate, difficult, beautiful and reconstructive years I have ever lived, or will probably ever live. Even after all this time, I don't know when I will pick up a drink again, but I do know it won't be today.

Tarpaulin over flowers In early recovery I began to write down what it felt like to be a drunk trying to stay sober. In particular, I tried to identify just what the pressures were that would lead me to think about, and then to pick up, another drink. For instance, loneliness was such a pressure; fear was another; incessant busy-ness was another; and anger, resentment, exhaustion.... I tried to identify, and then to write about, all these things. I often wrote at the beginning or end of a day, and always dated each piece of writing. I didn't write diary-style ('Got up. Made toast. Listened to some weird German singing on Radio 3....') but tried always to be as rigorous and analytical as possible. Along with the reading I was doing each day, this simple exercise - of writing down what I thought the pressures were - helped me to fret less, and to stay balanced.

A year later, and one or two friends suggested these analytical notes might be useful to other alcoholics undergoing the same processes of early recovery. Frankly, I doubted it. But I re-read what I'd written, and began to think about how the text might be augmented with graphics, self-diagnostics, and other material that might help other alcoholics just as that same material, those same graphics, had helped me.

Rusty bicycle ­The result of all the fiddling about was the publication, in 2004, of Goodbye, Mr. Wonderful (London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers).

I had never expected to see any of this writing in print, and took careful advice from family and friends before I decided to allow the book to be published - although strangely, their counsel was unanimous.

There's also t­he fact that there are some times in life - though not as many as people often think - when it's both wise and necessary to try to find the courage of the first-person singular, to own your condition. ­

No Text 'At the end of 1999, over a month-long period that included Old Millennium Night, and after three years of trying, and failing, to maintain sobriety and recovery, I was hospitalized. 'Chronic alcoholic' was hand-written across the medical notes. 'Dr. McCully is a high-risk offender' was typed into my DVLA and criminal record. All therapeutic strategies had apparently failed. All my excuses, and even the excuses of others, were exhausted. Whatever was left of myself - or possibly, my Selves, including the persona I've called Mr. Wonderful - was shattered, poisoned, not to trust.... One marriage had collapsed. Relationships with family and close friends were in tatters. I couldn't work, and had only just managed - by luck, by the intervention of others - to hang on to my job. I didn't want to go fishing any more. My driving licence had been suspended after a serious conviction. I had sold the house, given away my dog. I was living in rented accommodation. I had lost nearly 30lbs in weight, and had razored off my hair. I was broke.

Those are some of the facts.

Another fact is that these kinds of squalid drama are shared by millions....' (from Goodbye, Mr. Wonderful, p.11)

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