I woke up this morning with a pounding headache. The baby cried in her cot for twenty minutes or so, a low-level grumble that gradually grew to a full throttle scream, forcing me to drag myself out of bed and bring her downstairs for her milk.
Last night, I and the other half went out in town for Halloween. It was rammed, the bars full to bursting with revellers in fancy dress costumes, a malevolent exhibition of devils, witches and ghosts, incongruously sipping pints of lager and smoking cigarettes in clusters in doorways and on pavements. After giving up the breastfeeding, I decided that a little glass of white wine would do no harm – after all, if I have managed to maintain my sobriety for almost two years, then surely I can’t have had that much of a problem. I threw caution to the wind and got a large glass down my neck; I joined the masses, discarding my odd status as teetotaller.
As always happens when I and alcohol come together, one glass did nothing to satiate my thirst for that crisp, cold wine with the slight acidic tang, and so I bought another, and a third. I don’t remember getting home, my memory blurs after an argument I had with the other half; he made the mistake of attempting to curtail my alcohol intake, and I let him know in no uncertain terms that this was something I should and would allow myself to do after all the sacrifices of having a baby and breastfeeding for months on end.
I was still dressed when I awoke at six this morning, which then became five owing to the autumnal hour reversing. My tongue felt as though it had doubled in size, furry and dry against the roof of my mouth. When I looked in the mirror my mascara had streaked across my cheeks, my over-sprayed hair was stuck up at all angles like a scarecrow’s. I could smell alcohol on my own breath. The baby was an inconvenience, waking up so early and forcing me to cope with my debilitated physical state in such a hurried fashion. I wanted to sleep it off until noon. I crept out of bed not wanting to wake her Dad – I couldn’t face the recriminations and tongue-lashing that I knew would be coming my way as a result of my behaviour last night.
I hated myself as I took each step carefully, ensuring I didn’t trip in the darkness. I tried to smile and comfort the baby but she knew I was not myself and recoiled slightly when I lifted her from her bed.
My eyes stung, my head thumped and my skin was slightly moist with the glistening sheen of clamminess. The extra strong coffee made my heart beat too fast and I had to fight hard to regulate my breathing. Serious dehydration is no laughing matter. After drinking the coffee too quickly, I felt a surge of bile rising in to my throat and threw up suddenly in to the kitchen sink, whilst the baby looked on, questioningly. I hated myself again. I started to cry, and she stared blankly as my tears rolled off my cheeks and on to the wooden floor.
You know this is fiction, I hope. My other half did go down town last night with his mates, and I stayed at home with his visiting sister, and both my lovely daughters. We watched X Factor and chatted. The baby woke up at 11 pm, distressed, and we calmed her right down straightaway, coaxing her tears in to a smile within minutes. The dog became terrified and anxiety-stricken after a few fireworks exploded nearby; we settled and comforted her. We were all asleep by midnight, drifting away in to drug-free slumbers, recouping and recharging ready for another day.
I woke up at five am, opening my eyes and settling my gaze on the beautiful cherubic baby in the travel cot beside our bed (a bedroom reshuffle took place as the other half’s sister is here for the weekend), watching her smile and stretch out her fat little hands to demonstrate her desire to be cuddled. I was instantly awake, feeling full of energy and happiness, ready to look after my family and to enjoy whatever the day may bring. Later, when my other half described what the city centre was like last night, full of Halloween-inspired ghouls getting plastered, I remembered how I used to be all those months ago; that waking up and feeling as though I had some terrible illness each weekend was utterly normal, a sacrifice that I was willing to make in order to drink alcohol. I would waste entire days, unable to achieve anything other than muddling through, coping, waiting for enough time to pass for the hangover to subside. I would snap at my eldest daughter, unwilling to spend time enjoying stuff together, unable to find the motivation to think of anything interesting to do.
I would worry about how much money I had spent the previous night, who I had offended by saying something stupid, who I had flirted with and made a fool out of myself in front of. I would fret about my health, worry that everyone would think I was an alcoholic and stupid, that I couldn’t hold my booze like they could, that I was a lesser human being. And then I would go and buy a couple of bottles of wine and drink those to numb the misery. Words cannot describe how happy I am that the first part of this blog post is fanciful imaginings, how grateful I am that I finally saw the light, and how wonderful it feels to know that I will never, ever spend another morning like the one described above.