The drinking got worse, if that were possible - by now the amount of whisky Greg drank per day had risen to a full 70cl bottle. It had not been helped by the information Greg had received in A&E from a young doctor, who had told him that although he obviously had a drink problem, he should not attempt to stop suddenly, as this would bring on all sorts of withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, hallucinations, convulsions and blackouts!! He should rather try to cut down gradually by a unit per day until he could wean himself off it altogether. This information terrified Greg and paralysed him. Instead of cutting back, he seemed to want to drink more to ensure he did not get the withdrawal symptoms - the thought of them frightened him more than the drinking to excess itself. Now he started to drink as soon as he awoke in the morning - usually around 7.30am just as my daughter was leaving for school. He would not even bother with a cup of coffee, but go straight for the whisky bottle. He was always careful to have a half-inch of whisky left in the bottle at night, to be sure of a stiff drink in the morning. Then, once Kay had left for school, he would ask me to drive him to the nearest supermarket and stock up on the day's supply - a 70cl whisky bottle and 40 cigarettes. You can imagine what this was costing us each week - and remember, we were on a small pension - so making ends meet was becoming an act of ingenuity on my part.
We always varied the shop. Being in the heart of London, we are lucky to have most of the major supermarkets within a half-mile of us - Sainsburys, Waitrose, Tesco, Marks & Spencer Food, as well as Lidl, Londis, a few small corner shops and a couple of off-licences. There is a Co-op too about a mile away. Not to mention several petrol stations. So we were always able to pick a different outlet on any given day to avoid giving anyone the impression he was an habitual drinker. Sometimes he would be too weary to get out of the car and get it. Sometimes too weary to even get in the car in the first place. In which case, I would be sent out to get it. Occasionally, by very late evening, he would have drunk the entire contents of the 70cl bottle and, just as I was winding down for bedtime, he would demand that I take him out in the car to the all-night petrol station to get another. He still hated the idea of running out and not having enough whisky left to rely on when he woke in the morning, in case he got withdrawal symptoms. I was in a quandary, not knowing what was best - tough love and refusing to get more for him, or getting him a supply to avoid exposing him to the dreaded withdrawal symptoms. The key turning point came horribly one morning, after he had unknowingly run out of whisky the night before. That next morning he was shaking so much that by the time I managed to rush out, buy a bottle and return home with it, he was unable to keep the glass still against his lips and I had to take hold of the glass for him and help him drink. We had sunk to depths we could never have imagined. I now accepted in my mind that he was hooked. He was an alcoholic. It was to be the beginning of a very slippery slope.