Wine – sophisticated beverage or rotting fruit juice?

What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?

This blog serves partly to cleanse my inner self of all the negativity I put it through as a result of binge drinking for twenty years, but I hope that it also acts as a catalyst for others to question their own relationship with alcohol and maybe set out on the path to change.

Some memories that I recall from the alcohol-fuelled existence I endured for a fifth of a century are painful to write about, although ultimately, this blog is making me feel better, happier, more balanced. Writing is the best method for me to throw out my feelings and give them a good shake, before replacing them in a more structured and productive way. In doing so, I hope that what I write about resonates with, and helps, others who have their own battles with alcohol to win.

My thought for the day goes like this; on Sunday I picked up my daughter from a swimming party and drove home through an area that we used to live in several years ago, when I was probably close to my worst in terms of booze. We drove past an off-licence, the one where I used to buy most of the wine I drank, the one you see in the picture here – The Dram Shop.

The place where I spent literally thousands of pounds on rotting fruit juice

Now I am not apportioning blame to the people who own or run this shop – they’re merely representing society’s overriding perception of wine and its place in our lives. It’s just that now I don’t drink, I see wine for what it really is; overpriced, up-its-own-arse liquid made from rotting fruit; its warm, fruity notes and buttery textures, its opulent style and crisp, acidic tang, all flamboyant semantic creations dreamt up by people who are at once in denial about alcohol’s characteristic, first and foremost, as an addictive drug, and who are primarily after making a quick buck.

Inside this off-licence, the walls are made up of shelves of dark wood, stacked to the rafters with bottle upon bottle of ‘quality’ wine. The assortment of wine on offer is divided in to country or area of origin, so you will see labels bearing the words ‘South American,’ ‘Chilean,’ ‘Bordeaux,’ ‘Australian,’ ‘New World,’ and so on, each with a short description of the individual wine and its supposed taste. The staff are well-equipped with knowledge about their produce and are quick to leap to your side to suggest a ‘complex, yet delicate Chablis,’ or a ‘Gewurztraminer, rich with a honeyed sweetness,’ should you demonstrate the merest hint of hesitation.

Inside this shop, I fooled myself repeatedly about my addiction to alcohol. It mattered not that I had just stumbled in there after sinking a few beers in the pub down the road, only to buy yet more of this poison we call alcohol to drink when I reached home. Forget the fact that I had already superseded the government’s recommendation of alcohol units per week, four times over, and was about to add to my intake substantially through the consumption of a crisp Pinot or a velvety Merlot.

I was a wine connoisseur; I knew my Chablis from my Chardonnay, and I was happy to pay through the nose for a damn good bottle of the stuff. It is only now, with the benefit of many months of sobriety behind me, that I see wine and the way that its drinkers perpetrate the myth that it is somehow refined, elegant and sophisticated, for what it really is; one of the cleverest and most effective examples of marketing ever developed in the Western world. I am eternally grateful that I woke up and smelled the Cabernet Sauvignon, so to speak, once and for all. 

When was the last time you felt really, truly lonely?

I lay alone in the dark, sensing that the bed was all mine. The clock said 8 pm but that made little sense to me – it had been morning not five minutes ago. Voices, barely audible, filtered in from the living room, and I remained still, my heart beating violently.

I was about thirty years old, stuck in between two relationships with two equally unsuitable men. One, an old friend, was someone I loved dearly but with whom I shared zero sexual chemistry; the other was his polar opposite – not very intellectual, a manual labourer, physically extremely attractive and a heavy drinker. Of course. Both were heavy drinkers.

For several months I had been pinballing to and fro between the two of them; the manual labourer doing nothing to stimulate me mentally, and so weekends spent with him would be followed by a desperate need to indulge in some food for the mind with the old friend, the one who was terribly intelligent and articulate, funny and kind, but for whom I felt nothing in a physical sense.

This particular weekend I remember feeling exceptionally confused and reckless, frustrated by the absence of a single man in my life who met all my needs, rather than these two semi-perfect partners.

On the Friday night I had gone to the pub with Mr. Physical, played a bit of pool, drank large quantities of strong, continental lager and smoked too many fags. We’d returned to his flat late to discover his flatmate and a bunch of his friends pre-loading with shots in preparation for a party.

I remember walking in to the party later on with all those men, grabbing a beer and swaying a little whilst chatting to someone, anyone. That was about midnight, and then my memory goes black. So far, so familiar. On such occasions, I never intended to go out and get absolutely out of my skull on booze, it just kind of happened. One minute I felt ok, the next I would be waking up hours later as if I had been abducted and then unceremoniously dumped by a bunch of memory-zapping aliens. I could never remember a thing.

When I awoke at such an odd time, 8 pm, in one of my unsuitable boyfriends’ beds, I knew something really bad had happened, something that went beyond the norm. It didn’t make sense that he wasn’t there; it was extremely out of character for me to be waking at 8 pm – where the hell had the day gone?

I just lay in that big, otherwise empty bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to his flatmate talking to someone in the living room. That feeling came again, the one that made me desperately want to crawl out of my skin and in to someone else’s, somebody good. I couldn’t call anyone, I was too ashamed. How can you make it sound normal, that you have woken up a couple of hours before you should be going to bed, unable to remember anything? I had no idea what had happened, and I couldn’t talk to anyone.

Whenever I wonder if I over-dramatised my alcohol dependency, whether I was just a social drinker who once in a while went a bit too far, I remember that night. I stayed on my own in his bed, wide awake, until the early hours of the following morning when he returned home, slightly drunk. My heart weighed a thousand tonnes, my eyes dead with the resignation that I had done something that I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to know about. The self-hatred gnawed at my insides like a rat. I never asked him what had happened; I couldn’t bear to hear his answer.

 That was the loneliest time of my entire life.

Letter to me, 20 years from now

A while ago, I wrote a post entitled ‘Letter to my 14 Year Old Self,’ so I really felt inspired to write this letter to me in twenty years, when I saw it as a Daily Prompt on the Daily Post.

I’m an atheist so I struggled with the concept of a Higher Power when I first gave up drinking. An alternative source of motivation to help me stay away from the booze came from an image I kept in my head of me in the future; a version of me that I would be proud to grow in to, rather than the grumpy, stressed pisshead who I had turned in to, in the last few years that I spent drinking. I knew that I had to become that woman in my head, otherwise I would be letting myself down big time, and I couldn’t stand living with that sense of failure. Below is a letter written to that imagined future me – the one who helped me get booze out of my life once and for all.

Not me, but a random woman writing a letter.


Twenty two years ago you stopped drinking alcohol. Do you remember that chapter in your life, the drinking days? Does it stand out in your history as a definitive period, or has it now been consigned to the ‘insignificant pile’ of your memory?


Funny how, when you were in the middle of it all, you couldn’t imagine another way, an alternative way of living. For years you thought you would always be a boozer, forever wasting your weekends in a haze of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, constantly picking up the pieces after foolish nights out where you made an idiot of yourself, again and again.


So, was ditching alcohol the right thing to do? Do you regard the making of that decision as a defining moment in your life? I suspect you do. If you hadn’t made that choice, you more than likely wouldn’t even be around to read this letter twenty years from now – and if you were, your liver would be shot to bits and you’d look like shit. I bet if you had continued to drink, you wouldn’t be in a relationship either, certainly not with your beloved soul mate, the one you became engaged to in a tent in Cornwall, June 2011. And if you hadn’t embarked on the path of sobriety, you wouldn’t have the wonderful joy of close relationships with your two girls, both of whom will be adults now and maybe with children of their own, making you a grandma.


Do you have that kind of relationship with them? Did you turn out to be the kind of mum that you always wanted to be?


When you stopped drinking it seemed like the only choice to make. Do you remember that moment of clarity when you woke up the morning after your last drunken episode, so full of self hatred and remorse and fear, so fed up with failing to live up to your potential, and hell bent on climbing off that ride? Does it still haunt you – that feeling of being alone, terrified, sliding down in to oblivion and without any certainty that you might discover a slip road, a route off the madness?


My guess is that life became a whole lot better, fuller and happier in the times that followed 2011, the year you had your last drink. I imagine there will be a few regrets, but they won’t be the sort that turn in your stomach like a rusty knife, gouging away at your inner soul and inflicting self hatred over and over, like a relentless torturer. God, those mornings when you used to lie in bed, crying and cursing yourself, wishing for anything that you could turn back the clock and wipe away the events of the previous night. Do you still think of those times? I hope that if you do, you think of them thankfully – that you regard them as the foundations of a new you, a better you, the right you. Because if those times hadn’t have happened, you never would have stopped drinking – it had to get that bad for you to put an end to it, once and for all.


In your mid thirties, things were just coming together. You found optimism around that time, something that had been lacking previously. The future suddenly began to look attainable, bright and full of possibilities. I hope you managed to fulfil all the dreams that you formulated in that period, when you first gave up alcohol.


Can you recall how much more energy and passion you discovered post booze, for everything, or has that just become a happy norm rendering you unable to remember ever being any different? It’s funny to think that in twenty years from now, those couple of decades you pissed up the wall boozing will be a distant memory to you. It probably won’t even seem like you anymore; the you that is together and fit and healthy, mostly happy and steady, dependable and predictable, I bet she won’t recognise the old version – depressed, wallowing in negativity, drowning in wine and shame, and unable to find her place in the world. It’s odd to imagine that the boozy you was something of a blip, you but with errors, a Lucy possessed by demons – demons that I hope you saw the back of.


Did you finally put all your ghosts to bed? Did you forgive yourself all those misdemeanours, the messed up relationships and bad moods, the wrong turns you made here and there, as you tried to navigate your way out of the labyrinth that alcohol abuse led you in to?


My wish now, in November 2012, is that in twenty years you will look back over your life and see that boozed up woman, the younger you in her teens through to mid-thirties, drinking, smoking, in denial, frightened, ashamed, loud-mouthed, terrified, nervous, anxiety-ridden, panic-stricken, alcohol addict, and you will dismiss that chapter as a bit of a cock up, a bump in an otherwise smooth road. My wish for you is that life without alcohol became the absolute norm.


At the time of writing, in November 2012, I think I am already profoundly different to who I was just two years ago, so who knows what the next twenty years will bring? I am no longer frightened to catch up with you, future Lucy. I trust you and when we eventually meet, I know you won’t have let me down.

Nb. here’s the link to the previous letter I wrote, to the 14 year old me –