Sunday, 12 March 2017

Motorbike muggings, struggling sobriety and falling off the wagon in Indonesia (Asia pt.1)

The constant cycle of beach, sleep, repeat in Australia became so tiring after a month I decided I needed a holiday before I start a new job in Sydney. And it took less than a day in Asia before instantly regretting it.

The first thing I was told after arriving in Bali is how safe it is for tourists. "Everyone is Hindu," a guide explained. "So they believe in karma and all that." Fast forward a few hours and I was at the centre of an elaborate street robbery carefully executed by some form of Indonesian drug lord. There I was skipping through the poverty stricken streets with a spring in my step, Norwegian boy by my side, when a bloke on a motorbike snatched our bag before speeding off into the slums. Credit cards, cash and iPhone gone forever.

They say these things always happen so fast - and it did. I Bali even noticed as thankfully it was my mate Simen's bag and not mine. Sorry, pal. Another one of the lads also had his phone snatched earlier that day and I've since lost my favourite hat. Not quite as dramatic but still a little upsetting. I hope they have Jamie Dornan play me in the inevitable movie remake of all this.

If you're after a relaxing break, I'd probably give this place a miss. It's a clash of burly Australian blokes on a budget looking for both a piss up and pussy, petty street crime, rabid dogs and cash strapped locals happily harassing you everywhere you go.

"Be careful of swimming in the sea at night," another tour guide told us. "There's no sharks but you do get locals hiding in the bushes waiting to steal your stuff." How very Hindu of them. But If you're after an hour massage, happy ending and optional finger up the bum for the price of a loaf of bread back home then get booking ya self a flight!

Same if you're into dirty cheap knock off versions of high street products. My carefully collected wardrobe of vintage Nike may as well be Primark for the price of it over here. Authenticity lost amongst the masses of dodgy ticks and polyester piss takes.

There's loads of pretty temples to see if you're into that stuff too? I'm not particularly but had a nosey anyway. I wasn't inspired or enlightened. The highlight of this mosquito infested, crime riddled, overly humid hell came simply from the people I met along the way in these images. And obviously the laughs we shared.

Apologies for the overly negative update, other than appointing myself as the person to tell you what Trip Advisor fails to, I'm simply disappointed in myself. This vacation also abruptly ended my struggling sobriety. I am officially off the wagon after 456 days.

In August I was fortunate enough to have a slight heart to heart with a hero of mine, Dougie Poynter, who has faced similar issues and he confessed: "The first year is the easiest because it's all new, then it gets difficult." And he wasn't wrong.

I wouldn't say I was addicted to alcohol, but I definitely abused it. Then again, AA define an alcoholic as someone who is powerless to drink, rather than addicted, regardless of quantity consumed. Which I most certainly was.

My decision to quit came because I'd reached a point in my life where I realised my relationship with booze was based solely around a need, rather than a want. My reasons were never genuine. I didn't drank because I wanted to, I drank because I felt I had to. I reached a point where I felt not only couldn't I enjoy myself without alcohol, but I couldn't be myself.

I became reliant on the carefree and confident person a certain level of intoxication would create. A few drinks for dutch courage became a few drinks for every occasion. Day or night? Who gave a fuck.

Shit day? I needed a drink. Meeting someone new? I needed a drink. Filming something and being on camera? I couldn't do it sober. Heading to an event after work? I'd start secretly sipping on Vodka after lunch to lose my inhibitions in time. I'd even sit alone and pre-drink before the pre-drinks to try and combat the anxiety of interacting with people.

The greatest irony? The more I drank, the more successful I became. Each drunken video I'd upload or tale I'd type out would translate to more book sales, subscribers and sponsored work. I remember once I was approached by a a bunch of online followers several years ago that had been waiting to greet me in a train station – and as I later lurked their Twitter accounts to see the selfies of us they shared, they said I was boring. "He's more fun on YouTube," one wrote. A crushing comment I've never forgotten.

I then spiralled into a phase of not only drinking for confidence, but drinking to become the character people apparently preferred.

A viscous cycle.

And then I decided it was time to cut the bullshit and find comfort in who I really am. Alcohol is something that should be enjoyed, not relied on. It was sadly just never that way for me. The second you feel you need something, rather than want it – is when you need to sit yourself down and have a think. The same applies to the various other vices I see so many people turning to for some escapism. It's a dangerous cycle of self-destruction and inevitable depression. That's a whole other story, though.

After fourteen months of resisting I like to think I'm now strong enough to simply enjoy alcohol. Well, I hope I am. But that isn't stopping the feeling of failure I currently have in my stomach as I share this with the world.

I can't decide if I'm finally starting to live again or simply taking a step backwards?

Time will tell I suppose.

I'd love to hear your thoughts? Tweet me at @Joshua_Fox