One of the things that people find quite strange abut me is the fact that I’m a convinced teetotaler. The last time I tasted alcohol was Christmas 2008, when, back home in Romania, I had a glass of red wine with my family and friends. However, there’s no apparent reason for my refusal to drink alcohol. It’s just that simple: I don’t drink. This has been quite a problem in my eight years in Thailand as everybody (Thais and expats alike) expect foreigners to be heavy drinkers. On several occasions “fellow expats” got offended by my stubborn refusal to join them for a drink and on one occasion things became very confrontational.
So, with my total disinterest in alcohol, I started reading Dead Drunk by Thailand-based Irish writer Paul Garrigan with no real expectations. What I found intriguing enough to make me read the book was the front cover and the book’s subtitle. The pictures of enormous Buddhist statues and of a man passed out with a few empty bottles surrounding him accompanied the following words: Saving myself from alcoholism in a Thai monastery. Published in 2010 by Maverick House, Dead Drunk is Paul Garrigan’s story of alcohol addiction and amazing recovery.
The first one hundred pages of the book present Paul’s initial experiences with alcohol and then deal with the oncoming addiction and his failures to stop drinking. The reader follows the author through the pubs of Ireland, England and Scotland, where a repetitive story is soon obvious: alcohol abuse not only affected Paul Garrigan’s health, but also his social life and mental functions. Failed relationships, thoughts of suicide, unsuccessful attempts at joining rehabilitation programs, and a degrading standard of life eventually make the writer admit to himself that things had to stop: “I had been addicted to alcohol for 20 years but I couldn’t face another day of it – I would rather die.”
Paul’s desire to see the world and his fascination with Thailand was probably his only ticket out of this state. After (another) failed attempt at leaving his dark past behind and becoming sober in Saudi Arabia, where he ended up making his own booze, Paul settled down in Thailand, found a woman who loved him and was ready to start a family. Only that, his “old friend,” the bottle, wouldn’t let him be. No matter how hard he tried, he would succumb again and again: “I was tired of being an alcoholic. I was tired of being in recovery. I was tired of being like a victim of this ‘deadly disease.’ I was tired of living in fear of the day that I might relapse.”
At the age of 31, with a damaged liver caused by a life of long-term alcohol abuse, Paul realizes that his life had become “completely pointless.” His only way out seemed to be Wat Thamkrabok (วัดถ้ำกระบอก, in Thai or “The Temple of the Bamboo Cave,” in its literal translation), a Buddhist temple in Saraburi Province, famous for its detoxification program of both drug and alcohol addicts. The monks (both foreign and Thai) at the temple had a very down-to-earth offer for Paul, who recalled in Dead Drunk the words of the Swiss monk who admitted him: “He explained that the temple could detox my body and provide me with the tools which would make recovery possible, but the willingness to stay sober had to come from within me… The real work of recovery had to start and finish with me.” The methods that alcohol rehab programs use in treating patients often vary, with some of them going for the spiritual approach that has proven to be just as effective as straight up clinical ones.
The experiences he went through, the friends he made, the stories he heard, and the things he saw at the detox temple are dealt with in the second part of the book. Paul Garrigan takes his satja vows and promises never to touch alcohol again and submits himself to the grueling detoxification program at Wat Thamkrakok. Drinking the secret potion made of many Asian herbs and then vomiting it all out, thus cleansing the body on the inside, went hand in hand with Buddhist meditation and physical labour. After following this program for one full week, Paul Garrigan became a new man with a new life. A life he is now living happily with his Thai wife and their child in a village in Thailand.
Dead Drunk is a story of survival; Paul Garrigan’s survival. It is also a testimony to the powers any addict can command so that they quit their addiction and start living a good and healthy life. More importantly, it’s a story of lost and found hope. It’s a painfully honest story written from the heart of a man who’s seen the dark side of human kind, but who had the strength to find his way back to light.
A talented writer with hundreds of articles published on the internet, Paul Garrigan maintains a comprehensive blog, where he writes about his former addiction and helps, through a handful of media, other addicts stay away from alcohol.
Here’s one of his videos in which he talks, in his peculiar Irish accent, about his book, his addiction, and his recovery:
Purchase this book now from Maverik House!