This is a weird post to write.
It’s weird because until I’d gained distance from alcohol, I never knew there was a story here to be told.
It’s been three and a half months since I last got drunk. Three and a half months since I last felt that sweet, warm buzz from a couple of drinks. Three and a half months since I last let alcohol lighten my mood and loosen my mouth. I can’t tell you that it’s been three and a half month since I last drunk alcohol at all, because I have had the odd mouthful of prosecco on special occasions.
I didn’t think I’d need to, or that I’d want to. But hey, doesn’t life always have a habit of surprising you? Of forcing you to learn something new about yourself even when you’d really rather not know?
As a teenager I treated alcohol the way a lot of teenagers do. I drank to gross excess, I was completely oblivious to my limits and I put myself in a lot of situations that in hindsight, were both dangerous and y’know, completely and absolutely mortifying.
(I can only be forever thankful to the technology lords that phone cameras were not what they are now).
I drank, not to escape a life I didn’t want to live, but because I wanted to feel like a better version of myself. I wanted to be sparklier and cooler and more confident – I wanted the bravery to act out the scenarios in my head that sober me couldn’t handle.
I wanted to get rid of the inhibitions that I was so sure were holding me back from living my best life – the inhibitions that stopped me being popular or having a boyfriend.
And, as I’m sure is the case with many of you reading this, the older I got, the more I was able to control my drinking. I still drank a lot, but the nights that were completely blocked out by darkness became less and less.
I became aware of my limits and how much I could handle, and the nights of ‘LOL LOOK SHE’S PARALYTIC’ became almost non-existent.
And, seemingly, the more I’ve become OK with who I am, and the more that I’ve found stability in all areas of my life, the less I’ve turned to alcohol as a way to make me cooler or more confident.
But, and this is a big but, it’s only been in the weeks and months since finding out I was pregnant, that I’ve realised how much I still rely on alcohol – even as a functioning, kinda-got-her-shit-together adult.
That, despite the fact I no longer put myself in danger or drink to excess, I still need it the way my teenage self did.
Call it a comfort blanket in awkward situations, a healer when times are stressful, a guiding hand that lets me enter a secret wonderful world with friends and family.
I can’t pretend I don’t adore the way that alcohol – when drunk sensibly – allows your thoughts and ideas and words to flow more freely. I love the way it opens up parts of you that are sometimes held back by fear of what the world will respond with.
Many of my favourite conversations and moments over my adult life have been spurred on by a couple of drinks. The nights I spent drinking red wine and playing games with my older brother and cousin as we shared family stories once hidden from the world. The date nights with Chris that drifted into the early hours as we shared everything from our hopes and dreams to our darkest memories with each other. The nights in Thailand playing Polish card games and drinking £1 cocktails with my younger siblings as we talked about all the reasons we loved our grandparents.
Alcohol undoubtedly opens up a channel that in day-to-day life, doesn’t seem to exist.
It allows us to bare ourselves and the reality of who we are without restriction.
I don’t remember the last time alcohol made me act in a way I’m ashamed of, but in the past few years it has been an aid to my life. It has, in some way, enhanced my memories, my experiences and my relationships.
Which seems an utterly bizarre thing to write or to think or to feel, because alcohol has such a bad rep. And so to admit some sort of closeness to it, some sort of reliance or need, must mean that I have an unhealthy relationship with it, that I am somehow broken.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I suspect it lies hidden somewhere in the inner workings of British culture. That our inability to be open with emotions and feelings, and our infamous unaffectionate attitude, drives us towards alcohol – some of us to large, dangerous amounts, and some of us to more subtle, casual amounts.
We seek a mental state that relaxes us and helps us switch off, a place that makes us feel more open and warm towards other people.
I dunno. I’m literally just rambling to myself now and aimlessly throwing ideas out there hoping to validate the way I feel, but I just wanted to open up the discussion.
To hear other people’s thoughts and experiences surrounding that infatuation with that first cool glass of wine on a Friday night.
Because it can’t just be me, right?