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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Under the Bridge

My beloved Red Hot Chili Peppers

This morning as I drove my eldest daughter to school, we had our usual spat over which radio station to put on (she likes Capital (urrghh) and I favour Radio 2). We’ve been having the same semi-serious argument on the school run for approximately a year now, ever since she grew old enough to stop listening solely to the music that I, so devotedly, brought her up on. I think back fondly to the halcyon days when she had the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana and Blondie on her iPod, whereas now she is all over Ne-Yo, Rita Ora and Nicki Minaj and has developed an irritating habit of dissing my music choices (should I ever be lucky enough to get something of my choice played).

As we drove along, her singing merrily to some R&B drivel, me gritting my teeth and telling myself that in just another few minutes I would be able to switch over to Chris Evans and the interminable noise I was being subjected to would stop, I caught a hold of myself and had a quick reconfiguration of my thoughts. Isn’t it the law that all parents hate their teenage children’s music? And that when those teenage children are parents, they still think that the music they listened to as a kid is brilliant?

Example; Haddaway, What is Love? I love that song; when I hear it I am instantly transported to a nightclub in Greece, me aged 19, dancing on top of a podium (hhm, yes, really) wearing a very small top, tight hipster shorts and boots. Even at 8:30 am returning home from the school run, if that song comes on the radio, the volume gets cranked up and I am a happy bunny. It changes my mindset for the better and makes me feel younger.

In my darkest drinking days, I was ridiculously obsessed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I still love them, but back then I was annoyingly infatuated with them; I have lost track of the number of times I watched ‘Live at Slane Castle,’ bottle of Pinot to hand (or three), losing myself in Anthony Kiedis and his wonderful, bizarre dancing. I fell in love exceptionally hard with RHCP owing to their lyrics about addiction (albeit their demon was heroin, mine was a nice Chablis or Pinot Grigio from Waitrose). Under the Bridge was, for me, not so much about shooting up in downtown LA with a bunch of Mexican rude boys, as lying on the settee with a cut crystal glass full to the brim with wine, Sex and the City on the TV and a copy of OK! on the coffee table. Otherside meant finding a way to get over the self-hatred I used to feel the morning after excessive amounts of booze the night before, the sense of desperation in the song being utterly relevant to where I found myself mentally, most weekends.

I have always loved many different types of music, but pretty much all of it is from when I was growing up. There is the odd current song that I hear on the radio that becomes a new favourite, but it’s rare. I am emotionally attached to the music of my youth, and from later on in my life, from the days I spent struggling with depression and the abuse of alcohol.

I gave myself a silent smack on the wrist this morning and bit my lip when I felt the urge to shout “What’s this rubbish? Who the hell is Nicki Minaj anyway??” Instead, I drove along in silence, focussing on the thoughts I have written about above. It is my darling daughter’s God-given right to love music that I hate. It’s what she should be doing. And when she is in her 30’s and 40’s, her kids will be telling her that Rita Ora is rubbish, and that she should get with it and start listening to whatever claptrap they are fixated on. At least, I hope they will.