Alcoholism – A tragic film!

This documentary should be shown in schools; especially the graphical medical animation of the affects of alcohol on the brain and organs of our body. This is a tragic story and I make no apology for posting it on my blog.

Education, education, education.


Well done. I will look forward to reading your book. Slainte.

Ruby Pipes


It’s close to a year since my first post on this blog. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have met so many wonderful people through this endeavor. Thank you so much for taking time out of your lives to read about my life, my struggles, my accomplishments. Your messages, comments, and sharing of my work have had such an impact on my life. Every day I lean on that connection, on your support, love, and validation to continue moving forward. I promise I will work hard to continue to provide the same support and compassion to you over the next year.

To celebrate our anniversary I’m publishing my first eBook. Unrailed is a collection of fifteen short creative nonficton pieces and six poems. You may recognize many of the pieces from this blog, but they have all been revised and thoroughly edited, each one more haunting and beautiful than before. It’s a powerful collection, a…

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Writing is so important. We are not alone.

Ruby Pipes

23” © Mary Jo Boughton, 2015. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

It was my mom who told me I’d been sober for twenty-one months this Tuesday. Because I don’t celebrate small victories. Anything less than a year doesn’t mean anything. They tell us “one day at a time”, but I have trouble giving praise between the markers. Only get credit for the grand achievements, for the fireworks, for the things that take breath away.

Exhausted. The lack of worthy accomplishment leaves me feeling like a constant disappointment. And failing every day just makes you want to quit. That’s why people like me relapse. That’s why we don’t reach our goals. That’s why we stop trying.

In therapy I told Leif, “I come up to the edge of my natural abilities and I just… I quit. I get terrified of failure and I just walk away. I don’t know how…

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“That’s me on my own now.” another extract from my book.

Drink graphic

I have learned that integral to my slow progression to alcoholism was denial; the inability to accept that I had a problem — alcoholics become experts at being economical with the truth.  The culture of drinking, the pub being the hub of the community, aided and abetted this mindset of being no different from anyone else.  To convince oneself there is no problem — even when the problem is highlighted by someone who loves you, someone you love dearly — is the psychological Gordian knot inherent in this illness.

A couple of years later tragedy was to visit our lives once more.  Mhairi became unwell; the subsequent diagnosis was cancer.

She had survived cancer earlier in her life.  She was twenty years old when her daughter was born and was diagnosed shortly after with cancer of the womb.  Hospitalised in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for over a year and close death on occasion, she survived invasive surgery, radiotherapy, drug treatments, dramatic weight loss, etc.

In late 2006 she began to feel unwell; experiencing bouts of severe pain in her abdomen.  Initially our family doctor thought in might be a colic-type condition.  Nothing relieved the pain she was experiencing and the episodes became more frequent and she was unable to continue working.

This was the start of many months of visits to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.  After tests, scans, exploratory surgery, biopsies etc., cancer was diagnosed.  Drug and radiotherapy treatment failed to arrest the cancer and she required major colostomy and urostomy surgery.

Her cancer was eventually diagnosed as terminal.

She managed to live at home with the assistance of her family, a wonderful team of district nurses, Macmillan nurses, stoma nurses and her close friends.  I  became her full-time carer.  Her condition finally deteriorated to the extent that she could not be cared for at home.  In October, 2008 she was admitted to the Highland Hospice in Inverness.

Mhairi died in the hospice in February, 2009.

Five months is an exceptionally long time to be a patient in a hospice environment.  We met many patients and their extended families and friendships were formed albeit short-term — friendships that can only develop between people coping with the same inevitable outcome.  Had we lived closer to the hospice Mhairi could have attended as a day patient in the early stages.

We had, during the course of her illness, travelled hundreds miles by car and ambulance to hospital in Inverness and by air from Wick to Aberdeen and back.  The first time I drove Mhairi to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary the trip took over six hours.  To say the journeys were exhausting for her would be an understatement.

Mhairi’s strength of character never ceased to amaze me.  While she was still mobile she visited and chatted with other patients and their families.  Always managing a smile and a laugh in the face of adversity; regularly telephoning me to take in a book she had been discussing, favourite sweet or suchlike for fellow patients.

One day when she was still able to go out for a visit; which was encouraged by the staff; she asked me to take her to the Eastgate Shopping Centre.  We could park there and use the lift.  She wanted to pop into a jeweller’s shop.

A very helpful assistant asked if she could help:

“I would like a gold ring; a plain band”, Mhairi said.

“Is it a wedding band?  Is it for your man here?” the assistant enquired as she showed her a selection.

“Yes,” Mhairi replied.

“Oh, that’s lovely and when is the wedding,” she said.

“Now,” Mhairi said and slipped the ring onto my finger.

The assistant started crying; I started crying — I’m crying now!  Mhairi just smiled and said:

“That’s that done then.  I’m tired now; can we go back.”

She was one principled, strong-minded and passionate lady.  I loved her very much.

Being married had never been important to us; in fact, a few weeks’ earlier the hospice chaplain had asked if we wanted to get married.

Hospice care extends so much further than medical care for the patient; it reaches out to the extended family with support and counselling; a level of personal inclusion and time which cannot be delivered in a general hospital environment.  We could even take our labrador, Caoran, in to visit.  He was very popular with staff and the other patients loved making a fuss of him and giving him little treats.  In fact, his visits were actively encouraged by the staff and were acknowledged as being therapeutic for the patients.

One day the staff surprised us both by telling us we were going on a trip.  Mhairi at that time was no longer able to go out; so we were very intrigued by what they meant.  With great hilarity they announced that Mhairi was moving down the corridor for the weekend and off we went in procession; Mhairi took the lead in her wheelchair.

The staff had temporarily converted two rooms into a bedroom with a double bed (two singles pushed together) the connecting room into a lounge/dining room with television and CD player.  We were served a silver service, candle-lit dinner by Mhairi’s sister and her staff and I stayed over for two nights — so did the dog; his bed having been surreptitiously delivered. I was instructed, accompanied by hoots of laughter, to go home and get my jammies!  I mentioned earlier that hospice nurses are very special people!

It was our last two nights’ together as a couple.

This is not the time or place to discuss the politics of funding end-of-life care; I mention it here only because it was so important to Mhairi — she had strong political views on social care in our society.  Anyone, any family, who has to experience the long journey of suffering and caring for cancer sufferers and all terminally ill patients know the importance of our NHS and the funding assistance to charitable hospice services — we should treasure them with pride.


Ruby Pipes

soft landing” © ankakay, 2009. CC BY 2.0. I packed up my things at the coffee shop, rationing breaths. Used words sparingly. I’d reached the edge.

I kissed Mason and threw an, “I love you,” over my shoulder as I charged down the steps. Picked up momentum as I headed across the street, back toward our apartment. Counted cracks in the sidewalk, steps. Watched my feet dodge in and out of my line of vision. Held my breath. Clamored through the front door, made it to the elevator, lost it.

An hour later he opened the door and found me still laying on the floor. Catatonic. Dropped his bag and draped himself over me. I immediately started sobbing again.

That’s the world we’ve been living in.

As a writer, I felt I should be able to find words for it. The hot anger, the senseless desperation, the hopelessness. The ever-resurfacing frustration…

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My first book


I was very moved by the guest blog posted earlier.

I am in the process of writing a book on how my life has been affected by the illness of alcoholism.  As yet unfinished; this is a look at the first two pages:


“That’s me on my own now.”

This short sentence haunted me for many years.  This is what my partner, Mhairi, said to me just after receiving the news of her illness, her cancer, being terminal.  At the time I could not understand what she meant, as the support network of family, friends, medical staff, Macmillan nurses, etc., comprised of many caring and loving people.

Now I understand: but this understanding only became clear to me when I had to face my own demons, my addiction to alcohol, my alcoholism.  The answers, the coping mechanisms, no matter what help is offered, spiritual or practical, are inside our own head.

I hope my story will help someone who is struggling with addiction. We only have one life, one story; variations of the same theme; the illness of alcoholism, the illness of addiction.

“That’s me on my own now.”

My journey

It has taken me fifty years to accept the fact that I am an alcoholic; fifty years of heavy drinking; fifty years of denial; fifty years of a slow, but nonetheless progressive, downward spiral.  I suffer from the illness of alcoholism, of that there is now no doubt.

I dislike the expressions “functioning alcoholic”, “performing alcoholic”; it conjures up an image of someone who lives and copes with the illness of alcoholism while still drinking.  This can never be true.  An alcoholic who continues to drink will die.  There is a huge difference between a heavy drinker and an alcoholic.  Let me remind you with this short extract from the definition of alcoholism; recognised by the World Health Organisation:

“Alcoholism is characterised by an increased tolerance to and physical dependance on alcohol, affecting an individual’s ability to control consumption. These characteristics play a role decreasing an alcoholic’s ability to stop drinking. Alcoholism can have adverse effect on mental health, causing psychiatric disorders and increasing the risk of death or suicide. A depressed mood is a common symptom.

Please note that in my writing I do not recommend any particular methodology for coping with addiction.  There are many schools of thought: religious, spiritual, group therapy, rehabilitation programmes, detoxification programmes, counselling, etc., etc., all endeavouring to cope with the many forms of addictive behaviour.  The prime factor in my coping mechanism is the recognition and understanding in my own mind that I suffer from an illness that needs permanent vigilance and acceptance that abstinence is the only answer — there is no cure.