Regret is a dog from hell

Mr Hyde

I’m tunneling into the city without a hangover or a badger and Chekhov’s gun is locked and loaded, ready for ACT III and that gossipy fucking chorus. I need shirts, lots of them because I’m a worker now and workers need to look like they’re working hard, and white shirts are symbolic of modern labour.

But first I need to take a deep breath and try to explain myself the best I can.

I have been sober for exactly five weeks and I have so much excess energy that I go to sleep looking forward to getting up the next day. I also do yoga now. Ashtanga yoga, at 6am. I rise at 5:30am and walk through the dark backstreets of Brunswick to the yoga studio next to Jewel Station. Yoga relaxes me but I don’t like closing my eyes in a room full of strangers. It’s not that I feel vulnerable, it’s just that I’m worried people will read my mind and see what I really think of them.

Being sober means being more aware and, unfortunately, that heightened awareness can feel like paranoia. Alcohol is a wonderful buffer that keeps reality at bay and shields you from other people’s opinions of you. When I was in a constant state of drunkenness I was blissfully unaware of the thoughts of others. I’ve probably pissed off more people in one night than most people do in a lifetime, and I didn’t feel their penetrating gaze on my tarnished conscience. People had to tell me and, when they did, I’d politely ask them to, ‘Shut the fuck up’.

No drunk wants some loose-tongued lizard regaling them with their nocturnal sins, while they’re nursing the mother of all hangovers. Our motto is, ‘If you can’t remember, it didn’t happen’, and anyway, the friend who wants to interrupt your self-loathing with the embarrassing details of the previous night doesn’t really want to help you. All they’re doing is scrambling up to the moral high ground out of some misguided sense of entitlement.

Well, at least that’s what you think when you’re knee deep in a whisky Jacuzzi, with the devil dancing on your tonsils and a cactus crawling up your liver.

The drunk is a poor man’s Prometheus tied to the front bar, awaiting his fate every evening while the other drinkers stomp their feet on the carpet to the beat of the eagle’s giant wings.

Yes, people tried to help me but that help fell on deaf ears because I thought I had all the answers, even when I could see the dot of the eagle appear on the horizon, hungry for its nightly feast. I suppose Prometheus is the patron saint of alcoholics, and he knew all about regret.

Now there’s a word. You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced regret and when you do experience it, you wish you could go back in time and sort the shit out. But even if you did go back in time and sort the shit out, you’d still be afflicted by regret. Just like a Jehovah’s Witness, once you invite regret into your life, you’re fucked…

… and the moment you sober up the regret rolls in. It starts with the dreams. Anxiety dreams and nightmares that have been queuing for months, waiting for a chance to tread the boards. I kept having dreams about friends being eaten by sharks but the worst one was about turning up to work wearing a sweater vest. Yes, the shame of wearing a sweater vest was worse than a shark attack. Plus, the sweater vest was covered in red wine stains. When I woke up from that dream I went for a 3am run around Princes Park just to warm up my cold sweat.

But the heightened energy of sobriety is the hardest part to control. The drive to do things, to take that image of the warm, dark pub out of my mind and toss it into that landfill of regret. That’s what fuels the paranoia. The mountain of regret that I’d swept under the carpet because another Bloody Mary beckoned. Sitting in a pub, bar, kitchen or bedroom, as long as I had a drink in one hand and a Peter Stuyvesant in the other. When I was in that state, regret backed off and the day started off right.

Now, the doors have opened and last orders have been called there’s no escaping the demons. The fuckers are out there, circling my wagon train but I’ve broken the chains and climbed off my craggy peak.

I’m tunneling into the city, a subterranean white collar worker looking for white shirts because white shirts mean hard work and hard work purifies the soul and chokes regret or that’s what I’m telling myself. I suspect this might be bullshit but what else can I do?

There are six bullets in this gun and I plan to be very selective in how I use them. The chorus is first and then…

“I sat in the sun on a bench; the animal within me licking the chops of memory; the spiritual side a little drowsed, promising subsequent penitence, but not yet moved to begin.”

–  Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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About callumrscott

I’m a Writer, Literary Agent, and Social Handyman, who oscillates between being elated and very angry and sometimes both at the same time. Through my research as a writer, I’ve studied many forms of masculinity, in particular, hyper and protest masculinity. My other main field of research is transgression or the rituals of transgression and the performative nature of this behaviour. Apart from researching, writing, directing and fixing, I enjoy a good pint of stout and I live in a flat, close to my favourite place, the mall from Dawn of the Dead (2004). My greatest disappointment in life is that my first memory turned out to be a lie. I didn’t lose a red wellie on a beach in Orkney and now I have no first memory, just a lot of stories about alcohol and bad decisions.

4 responses to “Regret is a dog from hell”

  1. finchscott says :

    Amazing posts. Loving them.

    Thanks for letting us into your sanctum.


    Date: Fri, 8 Aug 2014 02:38:21 +0000 To:

  2. MyKingdomForASmoke says :

    Hey Callum, well done on your continued sobriety, exercise regime and word production.

    I thought I might give it a go myself, and you are right about the energy improvements.

    That being said, withdrawing from nicotine makes me feel like gnawing the bark from a particularly old and craggy tree. The alcohol is surprisingly not an issue at all.

    I also thought I’d give the exercise thing a red hot go. Result: I got myself swooped by a bastard myna around Princes Park, for no reason at all, today.

    Oh the indignity!

    I have managed to crank out some creative words that will be published next month in a local paper, so that’s something, I suppose.

    I am looking forward to your next instalment, which ought to be any day now, by my calculations. You are such a great storyteller.

    • callumrscott says :

      Hey Spiltwine – Always a pleasure to hear from you! The continued sobriety is going well but the yoga has slipped as work has got busier. So you’re addicted to the durries and been attacked by that pesky Myna down Princes Park – a lethal combination! I know them well. When you get published send me the link please, I’d love to have a read of your writing. In the meantime, take care. Cheers – Callum

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