John beats the booze

John Carter

John Carter

First published in News by

WHILE most men will look back to 1966 with a heavy heart as the last time England won the world cup there is one man who looks at 1966 as the beginning of the rest of his life.

"I watched England win the World Cup but I didn't know at the time because I was too unconscious with drink to realise," said John Carter.

John Carter, 68, lives with Christine, his wife of 32 years, in Sharpness. From the outside the man appears like any normal self-employed, golf playing, charity fundraiser. John, however, has not touched a drop of alcohol for 40 years an accomplishment achieved by taking one day at a time.

"When something is killing you it's not hard to give up but it's the realising it's killing you that's difficult.

"It is very difficult to explain. There are emotional, spiritual and physical hurdles to overcome," said John.

Having suffered at the hands of alcoholism four years ago John made the decision to put his story on paper in the hope that it would speak to and help at least one person.

Pentonville Johnny, the title of the book named after John's nickname at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in 1960s London, was self published three months ago and though not widely available is un-missable.

The autobiography tells the brutally honest story of John's 13 years as a heavy drinker in London's East End. From the age of 16 when, served illegally, he had his first 'real' drink until the age of 29 when he found himself writhing on the floor of Pentonville prison suffering withdrawal symptoms.

John said: "I was told as a kid that if you drank it made you a man. The problem with drink it's legal and it's encouraged. It worries me when I see all these adverts for alco-pops."

In his story John steers clear of glamorising the life of a drinker and in gritty detail re-tells stories that would make the must honest of people tight-lipped.

In one chapter John relives how he made himself sick with drink for the first time: "Everyone was staring at me as I vomited all over my new found, lifelong friends. The embarrassment I felt as those people watched me shrink in humiliation is indescribable."

Without fear of judgement from his Gloucestershire friends who by his own admission did not know his past before the book was published John explains how life as a petty vandal quickly turned to more serious crime like robbing a chemist in a London Underground Tube station.

And predictably a life of crime leads to prison sentences at Wandsworth, Brixton, the Scrubs and Pentonville. But in this tale there are no predictable cliches depicting a band of brothers playing football in the yard until their time is served instead descriptions of dirty food trays, portable urinals and survival of the fittest.

The book reads: "The sound that erupted was almost inhuman, there were screams, whistles and bells, officers yelling, inmates cheering swearing and shouting insults."

But it is the honest reality that John wanted in his memoirs. He said: "The thing is if I wasn't honest then it wasn't going to help anyone.

"It took me four years to write and it was difficult, painful at times."

In the final chapter John finds himself alone in Pentonville prison.

"I thought that drink was the only thing I had left going for me, but after a couple of days in the nick suffering from withdrawals, I began to give it some very serious thought," he wrote.

In reflection he said: "When you realise when you are sober that all your emotional capabilities have gone and you don't care for other people as long as you have got the drink something has got to happen."

For 40 years John Carter has been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous helping himself and others with drink problems one day at a time.

"Suddenly, the feeling of warmness that I had felt in my cell, after attending my first AA meeting, returned and I knew that I had a chance to stay sober if I became a regular attendee and a committed member of Alcoholics Anonymous."

To get a copy of Pentonville Johnny email, john.carter10@virgin.net or visit Cotswold Marketing, Taits Hill Industrial Estate.

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