I started drinking heavily in my mid teens and continued to do so until I hit 35. I often think about the factors that led me to drink alcoholically, because I know it was more than simply sustained exposure; right from the off I drank to get drunk, and I never, ever got it when people professed to sipping a glass of wine ‘with dinner,’ or to ‘blowing the froth off a couple’ on the way home from work. When I poured the first glass of the night, it was with one intention in mind; to down as much booze as I could get away with before I either a) passed out or b) ran out of alcohol. Whichever came first.
People often said to me that I was lacking some kind of inherent ‘off switch,’ a magic voice that I consistently saw manifest itself in others, and for which I craved longingly, a voice that would tell me to stop when I had had enough; a watchful guardian in my head, telling me to go home while I could still stand.
I have always been a funny bugger, in that I am most definitely an introverted extrovert, or an extroverted introvert, or some such contradiction. Shy on the outside with a lot going on inside and an obstacle sandwiched between the two, preventing the voice inside from being heard. Reason number one why I drank – I am actually a little bit shy, and often struggle to have conversations with people who I don’t know very well. Thus the discovery of the following equation was (for a long while) the key to social success; shy girl + wine = chatty and fun girl. Over time, the equation morphed in to this; shy girl + wine = annoying twat.
Early on in my teens I developed a rabid interest in the opposite sex. I don’t recall ever being struck with a debilitating shyness around boys, but I do know that once I threw some alcohol in to the mix, the dating game became a whole lot easier. So, reason number two; being sexy and intoxicating to the male of the species becomes easy as pie when you have knocked back a bottle of wine. Ditto the above; over time, shy girl + wine = annoying twat of a girlfriend.
I get bored very easily. I often feel as though life is just slipping through my fingers like sand, and I am overwhelmed by a desire to make it all ‘the cream.’ I don’t do banal very well. Alcohol injects fun (for me, this is really an illusion – I recognise that now. When I drank, I thought that those brilliant nights when everyone lets their hair down and bonds over meaningless conversations, and quiet nights at home transform after a few bottles have been drunk to dancing in the living room, I thought that somehow they were real. Like Primal Scream said, ‘we are unified; we are together’). I wasn’t unified and together with anyone; I was becoming discombobulated. On many nights I would find myself waking up in the early hours in a strange bed in the dark, in someone’s spare room, where someone had carried me because I had got drunk and embarrassing. Until the penny dropped, there was reason number three; get drunk and life gets more fun. Reason number four was to drown out the darkness, to forget my worries. Number five, to mask loneliness. And number six, the most stupid of all, to sufficiently wipe away the self-hatred and shame that coursed through every inch of me, owing to the vast amount of alcohol I had consumed the night before.
And the truth is that every feeling that I tried to suppress, every social interaction that I tried to lubricate, and every personality trait that I tried to fake, has blown away like a puff of smoke, now that the glass is empty. Whatever you try to escape from through drinking, it will still be there in the morning.