In the interests of openness and honesty, I have to declare that this post was not easy to write. It has left me feeling quite vulnerable, but I hope it can resonate with, and potentially help others in the same or a similar position.
My relationship with alcohol is a long and complex one, and a regular topic for me during my counselling sessions. My dad was an alcoholic and his parents were too, so I guess you could say it’s partially genetic. I know that I have an addictive personality, which is another factor that comes into the mix.
My dad drank from as young as I can remember, switching between what he would drink at a period time. At the end of his life, his drink of choice was whiskey and water. He came out of hospital on his birthday when he had a feeding tube because of the cancer, and syringed a shot in through his nose; he then said it was a waste because he couldn’t taste it! At his wake, we did so many shots of Famous Grouse it ended up coming out of my nose.
I remember dad coming home one night with a hole in his jeans and blood running down his leg. I don’t remember how old I was but he looked badly hurt. ‘Dad what’s happened to your leg’, ‘oh that must’ve been where that dog bit me’ he replied. I lost count of the nights he would fall asleep in front of the telly with a drink in one hand and a fag in the other.
I think I use alcohol as a vice because of social anxiety. I’ve used alcohol for a long time as a crutch in situations that I think I am going to feel uncomfortable in, to make me be ‘more fun’. Having done Dry January a few times, and more recently Sober October, I’ve had to face a harsh truth: alcohol doesn’t make people more fun, it just makes people more annoying!
Over time however, my use of alcohol for anxiety has decreased, and I find that I’m drinking just because I want to. Yes, I sometimes still use it as an escape, but it is during these times I will often take it too far. I have been in situations that I have looked back on and thought ‘wow, I can’t believe I’m still alive’. The unfortunate reality is that alcohol is extremely addictive, and I don’t know if I will ever master the art of moderation.
Recently I have been more intrigued by the idea of becoming T total, even reading a number of books on addiction: ‘Recovery’ by Russel Brand and ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’ by Catherine Gray. The harsh truth is that it is extremely difficult to drink in moderation, because even after 1 drink, you will be more susceptible to the suggestion of a second, and a third; and before you know it you’re doing tequila shots on a Monday!
The sad truth is that most social situations revolve around alcohol and drinking. In Britain especially, we will use any excuse to have a bev. Celebration? Pub. Grieving? Pub. Fuming? Have a beer that’ll calm you down! Sad? Drown those sorrows! But whatever it is we’re feeling at the time is only heightened by drink. When it comes to the more negative feelings, how the hell do we expect a depressant to help? And if you’re not drunk crying, then you’ll certainly be crying when the hangover comes to get you (see below).
When I look at how far I’ve come in my relationship with alcohol, I feel quite proud. From the girl chugging straight vodka at the age of 13 when my parents separated, to the ‘party Gem’ who barely slept from age 17-21 and managed to hold down a job and a relationship, to someone who can now have 1 or 2 drinks, or get completely drunk and not feel guilty or overwhelmed by alcohol.
My counsellor said something which I think is important to share. I said to her ‘I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t go to counselling?’. She replied ‘some people have much easier lives’. So I guess what I want to say is, wherever you are in your relationship with alcohol, appreciate the journey you’ve come on, and in the words of my 92 year old nan ‘don’t judge others until you look at yourself’.
Alcohol- because no great story started with eating a salad.