I Started Drinking Because…

I started drinking because I thought it:

  • Made me cool. There is nothing cool about throwing up all over a pub toilet floor while your weary friend holds your damp hair away from your face for the millionth time. It’s not cool to be so drunk that you let go of your dog’s lead and watch helplessly through blurred eyes as she runs back and forth across a busy road. It’s not cool to wake up not remembering half of the night. It’s not cool to look in the mirror and see red eyes, shame and self-loathing etched into the lines on your face. It’s not cool to shout your mouth off and act like a dick.
  • Made me confident. When I drank I was a fraud. Only when under the influence did I feel confident. Without booze propping me up I was terrified – terrified of human interaction, terrified of strangers, terrified of myself. When I was sober I found it almost impossible to hold eye contact with someone for longer than a second at a time. I’d cross the street if I saw anyone I knew walking towards me, to avoid having to chat. Inside I believed I was worthless and rotten.
  • Made me interesting. Drinking turned me into a boring gob on legs. I’d rant and rave at people, attempting to drill my beliefs into them whether they cared or not. Then I’d pass out on the settee/floor/a stranger’s bed and miss most of the party.
  • Made me deep. Drinking stole all my creativity from me. It made my world small and closed off. I stopped writing, baking, thinking, dreaming big. I lived the most shallow of lives, one that revolved around drinking, the pub, being drunk, hangovers, selfish gains and self indulgence.
  • Made me one of the gang. Almost all of the people I knew as a drinker are no longer in my life. There is a handful that I still see, the ones with whom I obviously had a more significant connection with than purely getting wasted together. But mostly my old drinking buddies fell by the waste side. Wasted friendships, forgotten shared moments, meaningless connections.
  • Made me Me. How do you know who you are when you’re pouring a mind-altering toxin down your neck at every turn? How do you know how you react in a crisis? To joy? In love? As a trusted friend? How do you know how you think? What you believe in? How you want your life to pan out? You can’t know these things when you drink because you are stifling the real you; she or he is trapped within, never being allowed the opportunity to shine.

I stopped drinking when, after twenty-two years, I finally cottoned on to the fact that all the above was utter bullshit. Good decision – and one I will always stick to.

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Whatever Works

For me, a huge part of the difficulty in getting my head around the concept of giving up alcohol for good was an idea I had that being teetotal wasn’t very cool. Call me shallow for worrying about such a thing, but understanding who we are in and amongst a sea of different personalities and working out what makes each of us as individuals tick, is the key (in my opinion) to forever sobriety. It is about discovering whatever works, for YOU.

I always defined myself by my hedonism prior to giving up alcohol. Many of my heroes in music and film as I was growing up were drug addicts and alcoholics, struggling with this addiction or that. The music I listened to (and still do) was/is peppered with references to heroin addiction or booze, withdrawals and lyrics which generally denote vast inner turmoil.

My friends were always heavy drinkers and/or drug users, and a massive part of how I perceived myself was this big hedonistic streak which, for all intents and purposes, pretty much defined me for twenty years of my life, good or bad.

When I decided to give up booze, I was filled with dread that I would become… (Wait for it, the dreaded word!) BORING! How would I be able to maintain the persona I had spent so much of my life creating, minus the several-times-a-week alcohol binges?

Well the answer is, I couldn’t, which is no bad thing because if you were to ask many of the people who’ve known me both as a drinker and since I stopped, they would most likely tell you that I was an almighty pain in the arse with the wine in me, and that since knocking it on the head I am not boring, just normal and a lot nicer. There are also, of course, the people who I used to be acquainted with who don’t know me as a non-drinker, their patience running out years ago as a result of my perpetual car-crash lifestyle, inability to know what or who I wanted which more often than not led me to hurting those who were trying to be my friend, and simply because they grew tired of being with someone so caught up with wine that she forgot to think about anything or anyone else.

Unfortunately you can’t go back, and that damage has been done.

With regards to the ‘cool’ element of boozy living and whether being a non-drinker can ever bring about that trait, here’s what I think about it all now; there is nothing cool about being a selfish drunk who walks all over people and only cares where the next glass is coming from. It is a struggle and a battle and damn hard work giving up booze and staying sober, and reaching that place is a million times cooler than giving into an addiction. And finally, I borrowed a tip from my teenage handbook, and found some ‘cool’ people who don’t drink or do drugs or both, and I use them as my role models. My most favourite of these is Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and if you don’t know their music, try listening to Under the Bridge for a bit of motivation and cool inspiration.

Singer Anthony Kiedis ca. 2002

It works for me every time I feel a sense of ‘I’m just a boring bugger who doesn’t drink,’ coming on, and even if it’s imaginary, I’m going through it all with Anthony Kiedis, which makes it totally cool in my book.