• Paul Burston

“And I’ll drink all the time”

Updated: May 22


For much of the past year, I’ve been working on a memoir. It’s about a lot of things - AIDS activism, David Bowie, love and loss, nearly dying twice, surviving childhood abuse, swimming with sharks, writing and running Polari literary salon and the Polari Prize for LGBTQ+ writing.



For much of the past year, I’ve also been drinking heavily. I did Dry January for the first time and felt ridiculously pleased with myself. Then the world changed and I did what I often do in times of stress. I reached for the bottle - vodka, mostly, but also prosecco, wine or whatever else was at hand.


By the time summer was over and the second lockdown began, I was feeling terrible - physically and emotionally. It became a vicious circle. I’d drink to soothe away my anxieties and wake up feeling even more anxious than before. Clearly the old coping mechanisms weren’t working. Maybe they never really did.

I managed Sober October (starting a week early and ending a week early, to fit around my limited social schedule) but was drinking regularly again from November onwards. And then of course came the annual bingefest we call Christmas.


Writing the memoir has made me realise just how big a part alcohol has played in my life since my mid teens - and how destructive it’s often been. Drink has led me to say and do things I regret. It has destroyed friendships and led me into some dark places and dangerous situations - “always crashing in the same car,” as Bowie once sang.


A few days ago, I shared a quote from the poet Yung Pueblo - “I was never addicted to one thing; I was addicted to filling a void within myself with things other than my own love.” The more I think about this, the more true it seems.

So I’ve decided to do something about it. Starting today. Starting now. Maybe it’ll be Dry January 2020 all over again and I’ll be drinking again next month. Maybe it’ll be different this time. I sincerely hope so.

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