I’m currently a morbidly obese, daily drinker who smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day.
However, in just under a year’s time – I’m going to run the St. Levan 10k in Cornwall.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they are faced with a moment of crisis. Mine came earlier this year, when I suffered a minor heart attack whilst drinking at the Pub. It was a galling moment and not one I wanted to repeat.
Up until very recently, I’ve been a heavy drinker.
I’m a big guy, so I need a fair bit of booze to feel the effects of the alcohol. Over the years, as I’ve put more and more weight on, the subsequent depression has led me to drinking almost every day. So when it comes to the weekend and I’m ready to really get on it, I can end up drinking up to 12 pints in a single session and then there’s also the food that goes along with it to consider.
I’m not a complete animal – I’m not doing any of this drinking alone.
Any regular drinker will know that an addiction is always built up through the systematic removal of societal norms – which are replaced with new standards, usually reinforced by the behaviour of your surrounding peers.
My crew down at The Nag’s Head are a good bunch at heart.
The East End of London is full of colourful characters who all belong to a bygone era of Football Hooliganism, Pie & Mash and Pub Lock-ins. My local is an establishment that is endemic of Great Britain’s drinking culture – an East London drinking hole complete with darts board, ageing bar maids and the smell of stale smoke from the 90s. My Father took me here when I was a kid, I’ve grown up with the locals and their children – they’re practically family.
That’s why it was such a difficult decision to leave them behind.
It was just a standard Saturday afternoon, when my heart decided to give me the biggest scare of my life.
I was maybe 8 pints in, with many more ahead of me, watching the game with the boys. I’d just finished my second Steak Pie & Chips of the day and was looking forward to starting my third when a pain began shooting up my left arm. Trying to shake it off, I reached for my pint but I couldn’t quite make it. I knocked the drink over and slipped from my chair. When a guy my size falls from his chair, it tends to be something that everyone notices.
Thankfully, Barb was quick on the draw calling the ambulance – it wasn’t the first time she’d seen something like this.
When I woke up in the hospital, my bed side table was jammed with ‘Get Well Soon’ cards and brightly coloured helium balloons. My chest ached and stung with every breath, as I craned my neck down, forcing my chin into folds I could just about glimpse a padded lump over where my heart should be.
“You’ve had a bypass, Stephan. You’re not well and you need to make some changes to your lifestyle.”
The Doctor’s face was serious and that’s when I felt a sinking feeling in my heart – this wasn’t a medical issue, it was emotional. I’d made a wreck of my life and I now needed to fix it.
I was told to stop drinking, stop smoking, eat well and start exercising. To do all of these things, I had to leave London – leave The Nag’s End and my family.
That’s why I’m in Cornwall now, staying with an Aunt with less than a year to get into shape and run the St. Levan 10k.