“Looking back, I felt very insane.”

Sean’s voice creates heaviness in the small study room. His eyes fixated out the window. Outsides, leafless trees sway in a slow-moving rhythm. Above them, the sky is grey giving the study room it’s blue hue– darkening with time.

At first glance, the twenty-eight-year-old seemed like a regular university student who went to the gym and frequently participated in class. After speaking to him multiple times prior to this interview, Sean gave off an air of happiness and serenity. In the shadowed room, his voice was full of emotion and torment. His facial expressions shifted from happiness, lament, sadness, anger, and peace. From vigorous hand gestures to intense stillness, there was no doubt that Sean’s story was pure. At the end of the interview, the sun gleamed into the small room showing how much beauty exist behind pain.

Sean Hutchison is the Toronto based author of the short story, ‘Zef and I’; a compelling non-fiction about his experience with alcoholism. He was born in London, Ontario before moving to Ottawa from ages two to twelve. He now resides in Toronto with his older brother. He enjoys travelling and sharing his experiences of addiction, in hopes to raise awareness. After being diagnosed with a learning disability at a young age, he found himself struggling with confidence and purpose. As he grew away from school he found comfort in excessive partying and drugs. He has been sober for 4 years.

 ‘Zef andI’is a pure insight of the downfall of addiction. As the story progresses, readers learn that Zef is the alcoholic alter ego of the protagonist. Sean’s writing technique in this story is beautiful, simple, and horrific.

 

INTERVIEWER

What made you decide to write about your experience?

 

HUTCHISON

During the period that I was addicted, I would write therapeutically. I was lying and hiding from people around me. I was trying to keep this façade that everything was in order, but it was unbearable because I was going through a lot of darkness. Journaling helped. Writing this started as a creative writing piece for one of my university courses. We were asked to do a narrative essay. My piece was a bit longer than it was supposed to be. The professor was moved by it and told me it could be published. So I submitted it to a University of Toronto competition and it got accepted for publication. I was assigned an editor. It changed a little bit from the original point though. I thought to myself before writing, “what do I actually know about?”. So I wrote about alcoholism and addiction because that is what I knew. There was never a point where I felt like I had to come up with anything.

 

INTERVIEWER

What was the writing process like? Did you find yourself having to revisit emotions that you hadn’t felt in a while?

 

HUTCHISON

That’s a good question. The process was very much revisiting. I feel like I had such a rich tapestry of memories to choose from, but I had to pick out certain parts. Like “oh this was a good moment of how horrible it was, this was a good moment where I was ending the cycle and starting to get sober”. When I wrote about it, I had to remember some vivid memories. There is this scene where I wake up in my room think I’ve been drunk for three days, but I was drunk for fifteen days. That was a little bit before I got sober. I don’t even know if I did a good enough job capturing how dark it really felt. (Pauses) It was a horrible experience. It was also therapeutic in the sense that it reminded me of how good life has gotten, and how I should be grateful. It also reminds me why I am not drinking. Sometimes there is temptation when people are going out and having a good time. And it’s like, “you’re not just drinking because you have a little bit of a problem, you were absolutely insane!” (Laughs).

 

INTERVIEWER

In the story, ‘Zef’ is introduced as a friend that you apologize for befriending. As the story progresses we learn that he is an alter ego. What made you decide to make that separation between Zef and Sean?

 

HUTCHISON

I think the reason that I made them a separate person was for literary effect. I wanted Zef to appear as someone that wasn’t identified with me as a person because, I see my addiction as who I am. I wanted to isolate Zef as a separate person so the reader can detach me from Zef. The reason I apologize for Zef in the beginning was because, I had no idea that anything I was doing would become dark, it was pure fun. So he’s my friend but if I could look back and talk to myself when I was 15, I would say “You need to watch out, it’s so fun now, but it will turn into something that will almost kill you”.

 

INTERVIEWER

Not trying to make Zef sound like a ghost, but does Zef still visit you?

 

HUTCHISON

He does. My first five months sober I was plagued by cravings or urges to drink. There is an insanity here because, the voice would come and say “have one drink”. In the past 15 years I have never just had one drink. The second I have a couple, or one, I completely lose control and horrible things happen. So there is a degree to insanity when I am fantasizing, “Oh it would be nice to have a beer on the patio”. That’s not reality. The reality is that I would have one beer on the patio and my priorities shift. My values shift and I don’t care about anything. I remember two years ago when I just finished my exams, it was one of the first sunny hot days. I never cared about The Blind Duck (campus pub), but I looked at the way the sun was shining on it. My jeep was at school, and I thought “I could go in there and just drink”. I remember thinking of UTM as an island and my family would never know. I become terrified because my thinking hadn’t gone there in 8 months. Then I called my sponsor and went to some meetings, and immediately got back on track.

 

INTERVIEWER

In the department store scene, you show admiration for Zef when you say,

“But in an odd way, I fall in love with Zef then and there. He is the embodiment of what I can only think. He is apathy, rebellion and freedom in motion. If I am ice, then Zef is wind.

Would you say that, in a way, you liked what drinking made you become?

 

HUTCHISON

Yes, it’s exactly like you said. I often felt really restless, discontent, and anxious. When at work, I didn’t talk to people. When people came up to me, I was anxious. Honestly, I was so sensitive! Then as soon as you put a few drinks in me, I would break a window and tell a police officer to go f*ck himself (laughs). I was completely courageous. I hated that job at the department store and when I finally got fired, it gave me this feeling of, “Yes! I am breaking out of the system, screw capitalism”.

 

INTERVIEW

Throughout the story you shared some memories going in and out of the hospital because of seizures, and withdrawal. Did that cycle of having to go back to the hospital affect the way you view hospitals?

 

HUTCHISON

(Pause). I don’t think it affected the way I view hospitals in a profound way. Sometimes I go and put on meetings at the detoxes to help people get sober. I’m supposed to stay for 9 hours, and I used to leave within an hour because I just couldn’t handle how horrible I felt. The look of them reminds me vividly of being there and it gives me a dark memory, but it reminds me to stay grateful and sober.

 

INTERVIEWER

Did you make any friends while you were there?

 

HUTCHISON

When I was in the asylum, everyone appeared like ghosts. I was in a temporary psychosis and was interpreting people as actors I created. I thought there was two different mafias out to get me. I believed my dad was an evil mad genius, who paid off half the city to spy on me. The people I imagined also seem like ghosts. Half their faces, in my memory, is faceless. It’s really weird. It’s like a dream. But, I didn’t make friends. (Pause) I didn’t make any friends.

 

INTERVIEWER

If you had a chance to re-do the whole thing from the first drink you ever had, would you have done things differently or would you go through it again?

 

HUTCHISON

Where I’m at now… I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t want to change my past because, I think I’ve learned so much. I don’t know what would happen if I’d maybe been a lot more wholesome and maybe gone right to university. (Pause) But I would do it all again. If I had to go back and know that I had to go through it again, I would be like “I am not doing it”. I couldn’t endure it again. It was just horrible, even the thought of some it… I don’t even know how I did it without killing myself. (Pause) It was so dark. Other times it was hilarious and wild, but overall it was just- (gags) it makes me nauseous just thinking about it right now.

 

INTERVIEW

What would you tell someone that’s going through the same thing, something you wish you were told?

 

HUTCHISON

You know what’s interesting? I think would just talk about my experience. If the environment was right, I would tell them my experience. In my experience when people told me something, I just got defiant and would block them out. But when people talked about themselves and I am able to passively listen, it impacts me way more than somebody telling me what to do. So I think hearing so much alcoholic sharing in AA, it seems there is a universal experience that people can relate to with addiction. I would tell them what I’d go through. If I were to tell my younger self something, I would tell myself what my future holds.

 

 

_________________________

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this inspiring interview! To read sean’s story please check out the amazon link below:

 

©aishaadams2019

Posted by:A'Isha Adams

Mind of a frantic poet. Ambition of an entrepreneur. The heart of an old soul.

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