Lions and Foo Fighters – a tale of two visits to the ANZ Stadium

In late June 2013, my alcoholism was reaching it’s nadir fuelled by job insecurity and personal relationship issues.  Or more accurately, they were two of the excuses I made to justify my drinking.  If I am honest, I would have been drinking heavily even if things were going great because at that time I had, for want of a better term, completely lost my soul.  I had lost my work ethic and my contribution to family life was purely financial; I was never there emotionally, and if I was there physically I was usually so far gone that I might just as well been absent.  Earlier in the year we had bought a house but before I had paid the first mortgage instalment, my employer announced that they were in financial difficulties and were looking to reduce their wages costs.  I was the highest earner in an office with sluggish business; my position was in serious doubt.  Eventually I was made redundant and re-employed with a 40% pay cut and a demotion of two grades.

It was against this backdrop that I traveled up to Sydney to watch the final test of the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia in 2013.  The test series was nicely balanced at one a piece and a great game was promised.  Unfortunately after drinking solidly from about 6am, my day became one of recurring blackouts, occasional clarity and general stupidity!  I have virtually no recollection of the first half, but as friends wisely limited my access to alcohol during the game, I do remember that the Lions put in a storming performance in the second half to win the test and hence the series, by 2 tests to 1.

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The next morning, I was booked on the train back to Canberra and headed to Central at about 10, with the intention of doing some shopping on George Street first.  Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I got as far as the Palace Hotel, an old haunt, and decided to have one drink.  Unfortunately, one is too many and 100 is never enough, and the inevitable happened- I stayed and continued drinking.  As the departure time for my train approached, I was settling in.  I then had a brainwave: I would fly back to Canberra!  The flight is only about 30 minutes, compared to over 4 hours on the train.  I could stay in the bar a while longer, hop on a train to the airport, get the next flight and still be home on time and nobody would be any the wiser.  Genius!

Of course, that is not what happened.  I arrived at Sydney Airport at about 2pm and went to get my ticket.  First set back; the next flight wasn’t until 6pm.  This was a Sunday, not a week day with flights every hour.  So, I did the obvious and went to the bar.  Second set back; I missed the flight!  I had to go out and buy a second ticket and that flight was another 2 hours wait.  I eventually got home after 10pm, about 5 hours later than planned.  Well, the best laid plans of mice and men….

A few months later everything came to a head and I entered the detox unit at the Canberra Hospital on 17 October 2013 and I haven’t had a drink since.

In January 2018 I returned to the ANZ Stadium, this time to see the Foo Fighters.  Booking my ticket only a week before the concert, I was unable to get a seat in an alcohol free zone, so I was a bit anxious about how I would feel, especially in the lead up to the show.  I’ve found that once the main event has started, I’m focussed on that and I’m not too  bothered by what is happening around me.

I stayed in a ‘safe’ hotel, i.e. one that doesn’t have minibars in the rooms, which was a short walk from Central Station.  Arriving early at the stadium, I was feeling the anxiety build whilst queuing for a T-shirt.  Once inside the stadium, I found my seat and then got some food, ensuring that I had plenty of water available.  The first support act, The Preatures played a short but impressive set.  I wasn’t so impressed by Weezer though.

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I was feeling quite comfortable as there were a few families near me and not many people seemed to be drinking.  That did change just as the Foo Fighters took to the stage and all seats around me filled up.  The show was great, it was wonderful to be able to remember it the next day, and now as I write this.  Whilst not the visual spectacle presented by Muse, I enjoyed it more as they avoided obscure tracks unlike Muse.  By the end though, I was very tired and beginning to get a bit uncomfortable with the way the couple in front of me were getting through 4 scooners every 20 minutes or so (like I would have done) so I decided to beat the rush for the train back to Central.  I was able to listen to the encore tracks as I made the short walk to Olympic Park Station anyway.

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It was good for me to lay the ghost of that Lions weekend to rest, and I have some great memories of the show.  One enduring memory is that of the display of ‘torches’ in the crowd whilst the band played Hero.

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