My Rock Bottom – Jimmy Somerville
Jimmy Somerville Speaks About his Rock Bottom
“I was drinking two, maybe three, litres of vodka every day”
Looking back it sometimes feels inevitable that I was going to be an addict. I was raised in a place where I was surrounded by drinking and drug abuse – I grew up on a very working class Glasgow housing estate that was quite violent and divided by sectarianism – a very hard place. I didn’t really start drinking on a daily basis until I was maybe 21 or 22. But I always drank. As a teenager I drank to blackout – there was never a voice in my mind telling me ‘that’s not a good idea’.
Being gay in that environment, I found myself in sexual situations that weren’t psychologically healthy. I was very confused, in fact I was even gender confused, I thought I should have been a girl. I felt like a girl and I was always being told that I was one. I was under a constant daily assault and badly bullied. I’m sure that certain foundations were being laid because I was beginning, even in my early teens, to slowly but surely disassociate my self from everything – there was never anybody there to tell me that it was OK to feel the way I was feeling. I was beginning to find myself in very dangerous and destructive situations. I also found myself sometimes doing cruel things to more vulnerable kids even though I had a strong sense of compassion and knew that it was wrong; I put it down to a growing anger, frustration and confusion. I could be happy as well though. Music and fantasy, particularly romantic fantasy would make me happy. But at the same time I was the victim of sexual exploitation and abuse and having to almost micromanage the secrecy around that, the shame, the fear, the guilt all of that kind of stuff was very difficult.
When I drank it wasn’t to be sociable, it wasn’t even really to put myself at some kind of ‘ease’, it was to completely blank everything out. Looking back I know that no normal person consumed alcohol like that, I needed it to take me beyond that point where I knew what I was doing or who I was. I understand, now I’m in recovery, that there’s part of me that likes being with people, loves being with friends and interacting with people but there’s another part of me that needs to be on my own. When I really got into music and started going to clubs I would be on the dance floor from the moment I arrived to the moment the club closed. I drank heavily but I discovered that sense of isolation that I needed on the dance floor, and worked the alcohol out of my system, I sometimes think that discos saved my life! The first chemical substance I took was speed, in my early twenties. I had an over-active metabolism, I was always jumping around, being hyperactive but I found that speed, and later on cocaine, had the effect of calming me down. I just wanted to sit down in a chair and be quiet.
“It was a lot less problematic to be seen off my face on alcohol than falling out of a crack house at four in the morning”
Then I became famous and I was running a parallel existence, I had a public face and then privately I had my addictions to manage which was time and energy consuming. I had maybe twenty years or more of drinking where the pattern was that I’d feel good to start with, then I’d move into a really dark place, sometimes self harming, and finally I’d start looking for danger. I got to the point where I was drinking a huge amount of alcohol, I tried pretty much everything there was to take, but for me alcohol was the best option. It was a lot less problematic to be seen off my face on alcohol than falling out of a crack house at four in the morning.
I found, though, that when fame began to crumble things really got worse, I could handle any kind of isolation but I got into the whole self pity thing which really fuelled my alcohol consumption. I was in therapy at this time and was also on a medication called Tegretol Retard. It may have been wrongly diagnosed, but I think it had a role in saving my life, in that it pulled me back from the edge and slowed me down. It stopped my metabolism from taking me to a place I couldn’t return from. For a while I was running around in a complete bonkers blackout, but as things got darker I found myself just wanting to be indoors. I was drinking two, maybe three, litres of vodka every day.
I felt that I had no choice because I’d get the shakes or my body would go into seizure if I didn’t. Still I wasn’t able to acknowledge I had a real problem. Eventually some very good friends got me into rehab (I’d tried a few times before without success) and I left treatment thinking I’d never have to drink again but I ended up taking some cocaine which lead to me drinking and the cycle began again My rock bottom came when I left the next rehab, I don’t really remember leaving it, it’s all very blurry. What I do recall is being in my bed in my house and not being able to keep any alcohol down but at the same time having to keep drinking. I was very aware of things but totally helpless and unable to do anything about it. It was a bizarre space.
Thankfully an intervention by friends got me into treatment at the Priory. I haven’t had a drink now since Feb 12th 2012 and my journey since then has been incredible.
The tears I cried in 12 Step meetings weren’t from pain or self-pity they came from a feeling of relief.