Old Soak

I recently found out that a friend of mine, Ed, who lives in London, just died of lung cancer aged 45. Now this guy was an ex-alcoholic and lived a healthy life. I think he might have smoked in his youth but crikey, lung cancer? No one gets lung cancer at 45, do they? My first two (un-Christian) thoughts were:

1. He may as well have stayed an old soak and had a good crack if he was going to croak at 45.

2. Maybe that stuff they tell you about London being so polluted it is the same as smoking ten fags a day is true and he literally choked on the smoke.

Ex-alcoholics are a funny bunch aren't they? I had a friend while I lived in London, Alice, and we had many a drunken shenanigan together, dancing half dressed on bar tops to Abba etc. Then she disappeared for a while and when she phoned me she said, "Sorry I haven't been in touch for two years but I'm an alcoholic." I wondered what she was on about since she'd been the sort to have a sniff of whisky and be drunk but she claimed that she'd got to the point where she'd drink every day after work - only three cans of beer, mind - and had stopped answering the phone. I didn't consider this to be alcoholism but horses for courses, she did. So she went to AA and met this guy who has since popped it, Ed, and they hung out with lots of AA people and I met them all several times. They kept telling me I was an alcoholic but I said it was unlikely because if I am home and fancy a drink and there is no booze I will never go out and buy some (chocolate is another matter).

Anyway, I went to an AA meeting once for a crack. Except it wasn't really. When I arrived a famous actor from Eastenders welcomed me with open arms. I said, "Er, I'm not an alcoholic, I've just come along with Ed and Alice." He nodded sagely as if to say, "Denial, oh yes, we've all been there."

One of the major problems with ex alcoholics is that they are always dying for a drink and pretending they're absolutely fine with an apple juice mixed with soda water. I once went to a New Years Eve party full of AA people where there was no booze. Longest five hours of my life. Another time I went to an AA party at a pub (oh the irony) with Ed and Alice and was the only one who got bladdered. I was chatting up this ex-alkie hot guy and took him home and almost got him through my front door - at which point he declared, "I think you're drunk." I said, "So what?" To which he replied, "I am making this decision for both of us: you are too drunk to know what you are doing," and departed. Here's the rub to this story (or rather the lack of a rub): there is no possibility of casual sex with an AA person. That was it. The final cocktail umbrella in the coffin. I never hung out with AA people again.

My opinion of AA, NA and all the rest is that it's mainly about getting someone to listen to your ramblings and if you have an officially sanctioned 'addiction' so much the better. Psychotherapists are pretty expensive and generally a total waste of time.

Do you think that 'addicts' are basically all just attention addicts or that some of them really have some er, gene that makes them susceptible to sitting in large stinking rooms where everyone chains smokes and drinks instant coffee and talks about how mum never loved them etc?

Also, is London really that polluted?