I’m in Spain, in the mountains inland in Andalucia, staying in my friends’ house looking after their dogs for them while they’re back in the UK. They have builders here who are making alterations to one side of the house and fixing a leaking roof. The builders are here from eight in the morning till three in the afternoon. When I first found out there were going to be builders here at the same time as me, I was worried it would impact my ability to work. I even started to think about not coming over as my priority is to the get the new website launched in time for Christmas and I don’t want anything getting in the way of that. However, it’s turned out okay – having the builders here gives a structure to my day. I have from eight till three in my little office, the builders leave, I have an hour or two to do outside jobs and relax in the sun for a bit and then I can go back to work in the evening.

I like the structure and routine this gives me.

The builders are notoriously haphazard and unreliable and my friends have asked me to keep an eye on them and make a note of their hours and take photos of their progress. They’re being paid by the hour so this is important. The “head builder”, who I’ll call Ant, is known for “liking his drink” and every morning, when he arrives, his eyes are bloodshot and heavy. He seems like a really nice guy from the little conversations I’ve had with him but is often complaining and life seems to have dealt him some hard blows. His father is in in hospital with cancer, he has problems with his own back, made worse by the physical labour he has to do, but he needs the money so has to do the work, making his back worse. He’s not the most cheerful chap in the world and I can imagine that drink allows him to get temporary respite from his troubles.

Last week, there were three days when the builders didn’t turn up. At that point Ant and I didn’t have each others’ phone numbers so I had no contact from him and this was a bit of a mystery. I duly noted down that they hadn’t shown up on these days.

When they finally did show up, they were in a different car and Ant was looking very sorry for himself. Through his stale alcohol breath, he relayed to me the story of the missing car keys. He’d lost his keys one evening whilst out drinking. They’d looked everywhere. He used to have a spare set but had lost those some time ago. He didn’t know what he was going to do. He was borrowing a friends’ car for now to get them all to work but had to give it back the next day. It was going to cost him a lot of money to get new keys made for the car.

This week, there have been a couple of days when the builders haven’t shown up because they had no car to get them here, but yesterday, they appeared again in Ant’s car. Hooray, I thought! I expected a jubilant conversation about how great it was to have his car back again but he was very morose and grumbled that he’d had to spend eighty euros on a set of new keys. The missing keys had cost them about five days work in cash and none of them were very happy.

Ant appears as an easy-going person, easy to talk to, a bit of a history to tell and he wants to do a good job. It’s important to him that I and my friends are happy with how the work is progressing and he keeps me updated as to what they’ve achieved each day. I can imagine he’s good fun when he’s drinking, relaxed and merry. He also seems hapless, unhappy and lost in life. Like he has no control over the events that happen to him and around him. Week to week there seems to be a catalogue of “disasters” that overtake him and give him things to be unhappy about. And, they’re usually, like the case of the missing keys, because of the state he gets into when he’s drinking. I have warmed to him as time has gone on and I feel sad that his life will continue further down this trajectory because drink has become his fix… his medicine.

I remember a time (it seems very long ago now) when my life was similarly chaotic. When things used to go wrong. When small disasters seemed to beset me on a regular basis. When I seemed to be the victim of malicious circumstances. When the things that were happening to me weren’t my fault, were out of my control and caused me problems. When small-scale dramas were the norm. And, looking back now, I can see that I created it all and alcohol played a leading role in everything that happened. Much like Ant losing his two sets of car keys because he was drunk and the ensuing cost to him of that, I went through hassle on a weekly basis that was the result of my actions when I was drunk.

Ditching the drink means taking control of your life. Once you get it out of your system, you clear the way for clearer thinking. When you’re thinking clearly you can make better decisions that improve your wellbeing instead of harming it. And, with greater clarity and control and better decision-making, the dramas and the “bad luck” disappear and are replaced with a life that treats you better in return.

How many times in your life did your drinking lead to drama and catastrophe?

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