Intro: Debs and Songwriting saved me
I gave up alcohol on October 13th 2017. By then I used to drink too many alcoholic drinks almost every day. I was binging on jaigermeister and cheap lager and expensive pina coladas as often as I could. Now I drink 20 herbal teas per day. I’ve lost a lot of friends but I know who the real ones are and I know how unbelievably lucky I am to have an angel like Debs to look after me and to try to look after back…… and the best part? I genuinely don’t care what anyone thinks about my choices. Two things have saved my life: Debs and writing my songs.
Chapter 1: 20 Stellas
The first time I thought about giving up alcohol was following a 3 day bender, which encompassed getting blind drunk at a Simply Red concert and then continuing drinking solidly for a further 2 days to the point where I was throwing pint glasses over my head and dancing around on the street like a cross between Brent and Willy Wonka, whilst singing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”. I ended the session by drinking 20 cans of Stella in an afternoon.
Chapter 2: Boarding Stool
A story that pretty much sums up my school days: during my first few weeks at boarding school I consumed so much free refill Coca Cola at a school outing to the cinema and Nando’s that I shat myself and then shat the bed. The foul smell was noticed from the corridor by a future member of Made In Chelsea who was 4 school years above me. I had luckily just disposed of the turd covered sheets into my laundry bag when he came into my room to enquire “What’s that funky smell Cridders?”. My best memories at school were discovering so much amazing music for the first time with (my few) friends, from Queen to Led Zeppelin, from to Nine Inch Nails to Metallica, from Daft Punk to Dr Dre.
Chapter 3: Piss, Pt 1
Perhaps my lowest moment at University was arriving back from a night out so drunk that I thought mine and Debs’ bed was a loo. I dropped trou and started urinating on my side of the bed, waking up Debs. She tried to get me to the bathroom but it was too late and the bed was sodden. I then continued urinating on the floor of the bathroom. The next morning, I woke up and immediately cried to Debs, “Why is this bed wet? What have you done to it?”. Sadly there is no photographic evidence of this charming memory so, instead, I am writing this chapter of the story with a photo from another happy occasion where I had once again soiled myself in a a kebab shop beside it.
Chapter 4: Driving
My inability to get engaged with anything but pop music has resulted in embarrassment and failure in a number of different contexts, such as the ordeal that went into me passing my driving test. I failed my first 5 tests, over a span of several years. On my sixth attempt, I devised a cunning plan. I looked up the test centre in the UK that had the highest pass rate — Malton in Yorkshire — and, despite the fact it was hundreds of miles away from home, I booked a driving test there with an instructor who I had never met and thought this was all extremely bizarre. Despite these great lengths to “hack the system”, I failed yet again following a long day travelling up to Yorkshire from London and it took another two years for me to pass on my eighth attempt.
Chapter 5: Jobs
My final “job” before I finally had the balls to do anything entrepreneurial, a rather unfortunate tenure at an accountancy firm, lasted a pathetic 6 weeks. Frankly, I only didn’t leave earlier because I was pretty much immediately sent on an audit to Slough and given my own office at the client, where I was able to crack on with season 2 of Boardwalk Empire in peace. During this time I also ran way from work to go to the pub. I ended up at a friend of a friends’ house passed out, face down on the landing outside the bedroom of the friend of a friends’ parents (with them in it). In every office or classroom I have ever set foot in, I have always been that weird, silent outcast, who doesn’t bother and who is sat there daydreaming about The Beatles.
Chapter 6: Elton
Elton John is my favourite solo artist. I have attended over 30 of his concerts, like a football fan would go to games. His drummer, Nigel Olsson, is a wonderful, dear friend of mine and Debs’. The more I got drunk every evening, the more I felt like it was my right to turn off music other people were enjoying at whatever event I was at and stick on a performance of Elton and The Band’s latest rendition of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”. Uber drivers can’t have liked this masterpiece as much as me on full volume, as my Uber rating plummeted to 3.6. When I got sober I made it my resolution to leave behind Elton Tom and return to being Tom Cridland.
Chapter 7: Pig
At one of my very lowest moments, I got so plastered after a dinner of hog roast that I decided to bring a pig’s head on a night out with me, in a taxi and on a bar crawl of Lisbon. When denied entry into a club with the hog’s head, I hid it under a bench. Upon my leaving the club, two people were sitting on this bench, so, keen to recover my prized possession, I said “Excuse me” and got it from its hiding place. They duly screamed incredibly loudly.
Chapter 8: Piss, Pt 2
On a trip to Los Angeles, as my drinking problem worsened, a colleague and I had a rather entertaining time drinking on our hotel balcony. Things, however, soon predictably turned incredibly uncivilised and the front desk soon called to ask us to turn down the Dad Rock. We ran out of beers so I decided to take a bottle of Johnnie Walker from the mini bar without looking at the price. We drank half of it but I then discovered it cost $200. In my catatonic state, I decided it would be a good idea to urinate back into the bottle and put it back in the mini bar. Fortunately, Debs guessed what I had done the next morning and made me pour it down the sink.
Chapter 9: Eating
Between arriving at University at 18 and giving up booze at 26, I gained 30 kilos. At one stage, I had an addiction to eating two dinners. Normal dinner was at around 8pm and then a second of either a Domino’s or pasta with grated cheese and 10–12 fried bacon rashers on top would be at about midnight. Nights out drinking would involve guzzling thousands upon thousands of calories of cheap lager and alcopops and shots before “soaking them up” with pizza or fries. I was intermittently on some sort of crash diet to combat my greed due to my irrepressible vanity but none of them ever worked. By the time I hit rock bottom, my self esteem was at an all time low as my Tom Cridland trouser buttons would pop off as I attempted to heave my sack of flab into them.
Chapter 10: Drunk on TV
I have appeared drunk on television a couple of times. The worst of these occasions was following an all day drinking session in LA. Following lots of whiskey and cans of lager, I thought it would be a good idea to go to my favourite restaurant. Barely able to stand, I attempted to swagger in and demand to be sat two hours early, despite it being peak time. They declined this request but, undeterred, I then proceeded to down as many Mai Tais as I could. This got me flung onto the street. I then got into a taxi, in which I was mugged, and then literally crawled on my hands and knees back to my hotel, vomiting several times into the street. We set off at 3am the next morning to Sacramento from LA for a morning TV appearance during which I was still heavily intoxicated.
Chapter 11: Karaoke
For about 4 years I developed a progressively preposterous addiction to going to karaoke bars for 8 hour drinking and Elton singing binges. My favourite of all haunts was Cafe da Ponte, in the docks of Lisbon, where the unbelievably kind and tolerant, Tiago, who somehow remains a friend of mine, would permit me to behave like some sort of demented Elton John impersonating clown on speed. On one occasion I literally sung about 30 songs in one night, including Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, which includes a 5 minute instrumental intro and is 11 minutes long. My seemingly bottomless karaoke appetite was never satiated.
Chapter 12: Injuries, Pt 1
The amount of injuries that I’ve had as a result of boozing is extremely difficult to keep track of. There was the time I got smacked in the face with an ashtray in a Lisbon dive bar for using someone’s cigarette lighter without permission. Or the time I pilfered a bottle of Grey Goose from behind the bar of another dive bar and got lamped in the face as a result. Or, indeed, the time I got hit in the face with a cobblestone whilst stumbling around drunk (again in Lisbon) and had to have my eyebrow stitched back together in Addenbrooke’s. It’s been my fault every single time.
Chapter 13: Injuries, Pt 2
The worst injury from drinking began at a school reunion lunch. I was still at this “lunch” at 9pm, having been the only participant in a “drinking completion” that had resulted in me making such a fool of myself that I was shouting at an old teacher of mine to come on a night out to Mahiki with me. En route back to London, I tripped on a shoelace at Slough train station, falling down a flight of stairs and cutting open my face and legs. My knee had to be stitched by paramedics on the train, my trousers split open and were covered in blood, as was my face. When back in London I decided to embark on a worrying nervous breakdown, which involved running aimlessly round Green Park in tears after plenty more pints in a pub round the corner.
Chapter 14: Tooth
It may shock you to learn that all of my top teeth are fake. Once upon a time one fell out. Keen to avoid showing off my hideous toothlessness to my Aunt who we were meeting the next day, I placed the tooth carefully on the side of the kitchen top, ready for the dentist to glue back in. Debs then disposed of what she thought was a lemon pip on the kitchen top. She awoke to a tirade of abuse from me, asking where my tooth was. Within seconds she was rooting around a bin liner for it. She should have been giving me a slap in the face. Debs has constantly stood by me, no matter what. If you too have someone wonderful in your life, I hope you don’t take it for granted like the pig I have been all these years.