Jumping off the Booze Bus.
I'll stick to making it for other people to drink :)
I haven’t really written anything for the last six months bar the occasional drunken rambling trying to put some order into everything that has happened in such a short time. I, of course, haven’t been able to. Everything is still chaotic, discombobulated and too painful and so, in true K style, I’m going to skirt around everything that happened and pretend it hasn’t.
So what’s this about then? Well, it’s about the sudden realisation that I have buried my emotions underneath a carefully crafted facade of caring for other people for six months. I have pushed aside my pain to support others in theirs. I’ve ignored it, limboed under it, run from it. And recently, those people I have thrown my soul into supporting… Welllll, they are recovering and don’t need my masking ministrations anymore. I have nothing more to hide in, I have to confront my emotions. Eurgh.
With this in mind, four days ago I stopped drinking. Not for a few days or a month this time. I’m out for good. I’ve battled with this for a couple of years, the pinballing between complete abstinence and binge drinking for months at a time, and working in the beer industry made it incredibly difficult to a) stop drinking or b) control my drinking.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had a writhing ball of wormy anxiety in my stomach. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t anxious (apart from the occasions I have been shitfaced and unable to remember or feel anything before waking up riddled with even higher levels of stomach worms than before). From bullying to abuse to Domestic Violence, there were many factors that created my anxiety and whilst I have spent my life trying to resolve these in therapy, I have always fallen back on my old friend booze to forget a problem I could not fix.
But he’s the type of friend that ghosts you for months at a time. Or deletes you from social media for no reason. Or invites everybody to the pub except you. It is not a good friend. But you’ve known each other for so long and sometimes, it’s just so hard to break the bonds of time and habit and parasitic symbiosis that you fall back to them in your weakest moments, unable to remember which one of you is the parasite. It is the booty call at 3am, from the guy that wasn’t even good in bed, that you whisper yes to because even that colossal wankpuffin is better than sleeping alone. It is the guy who tells you that men like him don’t marry women like you, but you let him stay anyway and cry yourself to sleep for a week afterwards without ever challenging him. It is the ex-boyfriend, claiming he is single, who tries to hook up with you while his girlfriend is 8 months pregnant. Alcohol, for me, is every relationship I have ever had with an abusive, manipulative, narcissistic piece of shit. Alcohol is every bit of shame, guilt, anxiety, fear, pain, embarrassment, humiliation, depression and blackout that you can find, rolled into one big fuck off lie that none of those things exists. Until the day after.
I have been hiding from my feelings, using alcohol as the ultimate dismissive drug, since I was twelve years old. Back then, binge drinking on a Friday and Saturday night was the norm, with a two litre bottle of white lighting and a bottle of 20/20 on the beach with boys from the local high school. Some of us were tall and big chested, getting served was easy in a small minded, decrepit seaside town on the East Coast. Others had older siblings who helped us buy booze underage. Others had well stocked drinks cabinets that we could raid and nothing was ever said about replenishing them.
For a long time throughout my life, especially during my teenage years, I hated myself. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I hated everything about myself and did everything I could to try and be somebody else. The discrepancy between ideal me and actual me was so Psychology 101 that it actually pains me to think about, especially as a Psychology graduate. A course chosen to fix all of the issues I had been told I had (and to be fair, a few of them I definitely had), even after being advised not to do that by every faculty I visited. Eventually, I managed to surround myself with people who loved me for the hotpot of insecurity that I was (and occasionally still am) and I started to see myself through their loving eyes.
It's been a long time since I have felt my teenage self-hatred monster rear its ugly head and, having spent a week or two looking for it and finding it, I can only find it when I drink. Where inhibitions are lowered and I rapidly regress to the fucked up, unloved, attention seeking, lying twelve year old who first started using alcohol as a crutch to forget everything about herself and her life. I’m 33 years old now and I don’t want to be that person anymore. She was awesome and absolutely fucking FEARLESS, but she was a child who needed love and support that was never given to her and now, the adult version of her has everything she ever dreamed of. Not the usual childish dreams of Princes, castles and Unicorns, but those of financial stability, inner peace, love and a normal life. And Unicorns. I do still very much want a Unicorn. It’s time to let my inner child, and all of her sadness and pain, go.
In the last few years, I have nurtured myself, my relationships and my career to a point where life is wonderful. It is not without its challenges and maybe it could be a million times better, but it is undeniably wonderful. My husband and I have cultivated a safe haven of a home that I have never truly had before. A place where physical violence will never be seen, where abusive words will never be spoken, where windows will never be smashed and where doors will never be kicked down.
We don’t argue in this haven of ours. We may exchange the occasional frustration ridden word (me, to him) but we do not argue. Until I am drunk. And stubborn. And cantankerous. Unable to control the vitriol that hides in me, passed down by parental figures who once honed its use so well. Those vestiges of a twelve year old me that I need to let go.
In this haven of ours we don’t lie, cheat or manipulate. We don’t physically fight or verbally wound. We love so much. We fill this haven with laughter every day. We dance around the kitchen, we snuggle our cats and we invite in the people we love the most. This haven of ours is sacred. So it is about time that I begin to treat it with the sanctity that it deserves.
Drinking has always enabled me to lessen the wriggling worms of my anxiety. I know they are still there and they know they are still there, but we’re all drunk and languorous. We can’t be bothered to cause problems. If I could stop there, what a delight that would be. To have one drink, or two, to take the edge off and enjoy the moment. To stop there, with the gin glow and brighten up the world. But three starts getting louder and louder and louder and louder. Four starts slurring and insisting, really loudly, that they are NOT FUCKING DRUNK.
Five wants to take on the fucking world and has already forgotten about the Morrisons delivery that’s just turned up twenty minutes away at its house. Six. Well. Six is a fucking arsehole. Six gets so wankered by 4pm on New Years Eve, that it has to have nap and leave its husband to entertain their guests until 10pm when it manages to pull its shit together and join the party.
Seven, eight, nine and ten are colossal wankers and purely create additional pain for the next day; physically, emotionally and monetarily. They spend £40 on takeaways or meals out that they don’t remember, argue with their husband on the way home and refuse to walk home with him. They’re dicks. Proper fucking dicks.
Then appeareth the morning after the night before. The flashbacks of shameful memories that can’t distinguish between reality or dream. The sticky sweats, the sickness, the shits. The thumping of a thousand tiny plastic swords against the surface of your brain. The lethargy, the hunger, the sickness. The suffocating dryness of your mouth, infused with the taste and smell of stale vodka, vomit and fucking cigarettes. You don’t even smoke. The inability to keep even a sip of water down. The having to drive home knowing full well that you are not safe to drive. The cancelling of plans because no, you can not get out of bed today. Topped off with the incessant fucking writhing of the wiggling anxiety worms that are now full grown, two metre long snakes and they are beating you to death from the inside. AND NOW THEY’RE IN YOUR BRAIN. The shame spiral that swoops you up in it like a tornado and banishes all logical thought. The texts you think you should send to apologise for being a douchebag dickhead but you can’t even write them because to do so is an admittance that you have a problem and your behaviour last night is only the beginning of it. When you say never again, but you mean until the next time, the next party, the next stressful day at work, the next night.
And the cycle begins again.
When I stopped drinking for a month in January (because I spent the whole of December completely wankered and fucked myself up on New Years Eve), I remember telling people honestly that I had stopped drinking because I had a problem with alcohol. No further detail, just the acknowledgement that I had a problem and I was trying to manage it. A conversation started about drinking and because my weekly units were maybe half or even a quarter of some of theirs, it was decided that I didn’t have a problem because they didn’t and so therefore, I couldn’t. I was told that I would have the worst night ever on a night out because I refused to drink. I was asked REPEATEDLY if I was pregnant, even by my friends who know how hurtful comments like that can be.
Stopping drinking, just for a month, for Dry January, made me more of a social pariah than if I had started taking heroin. Because in questioning my relationship with alcohol and admitting that I had a problem, there was the insinuation that other people should do the same. Other people have a different relationship with alcohol than I have. Other people might not have used alcohol as a social crutch for 21 years since they were 12 years old. Other people might not bury every difficult emotion under a catastrophic hangover which can only be slept through for 36 hours. Other people might be able to have one drink and stop.
There was no defining moment this time. No hellscaped hangover to promise never again. No argument with a friend that made me feel like shit. No shame, guilt, humiliation that triggered this decision. Just a timeline of little things that all triggered a change in mindset at the same time.
My excuse for so long has been, “Well, I work in the industry so it’s impossible to stop.” A few months ago someone in the industry that I respect a lot made a very emotional post on Facebook about their drinking and how it had ruined everything that mattered to them. They stopped drinking and continue to thrive in the industry.
Another friend reminded me of our many years sober friend who now runs a successful Whiskey business.
A fellow poet stopped drinking a few weeks ago and is still alive and writing and thriving.
A couple of bloggers I follow stopped drinking and continued to write brilliantly engaging posts and THRIVE.
I’ve always had a fear that alcohol is the only thing that makes me interesting. That without it, I am boring and unable to create, to write, to bond. My social anxiety and general social ineptitude makes it difficult for me to develop relationships sober. But being drunk makes it impossible for me to maintain positive relationships so… Swings and roundabouts. I might not be able to make new friends easily but at least I can’t lose the ones I have through drinking.
I used to hate myself all the time and now I only hate myself when I’m drunk. If that’s not a good enough reason to quit, then I don’t know what is.
And no, I’m not fucking pregnant.