This isn’t a fairytale. But it is a once upon a time, which to me means not to be repeated, although it was a repeat then. I have been thinking about my drinking life recently. The fun of it, the craziness and then some of the more particularly dark shit. I was watching something the other day that sent shivers down my spine and gave me visceral flashbacks to an experience I had in my late thirties. I don’t hold onto shame anymore and this is what it is; I make no bones about the fact that often when I drank things sometimes got out of control.
I met my friend in a new Japanese restaurant that was holding a launch for influencers and critics; my friend socialises and blogs about it for a living so she gets invited out to all sorts of cool London things. I was her plus one that night – it was a Tuesday. “Be sensible” I thought to myself over and over again as I was on my way there “just have one or two drinks and then head home for the last train”. But typical me style I just got so excited by the entire event. I also looking back felt incredibly nervous and I realise now that I often drank to quell the nerves sloshing around my body. So I had champagne, typically a drink I would avoid as errm wine and bubbles to me is like the devils pathway for visiting crazy town. It is too easy to sip down, it feels glamorous, it feels like you fucking deserve it. Seductive as shit and oh so lethal. Quaffing free champagne is even more dangerous. This greedy little pig can’t get her snout into it quick enough. Food was served, tiny Japanese canapes and small bites of delicious stuff and I had no idea what I was eating, I also didnt care. The booze by now had gotten into the blood stream and I felt like I didn’t want any of this to end. This is when I start to get romantic about my London life and think “yes I should be doing this on a Tuesday night, my life should be full of this stuff, I didn’t move to London to sit in on my own in the suburbs being boring as fuck etc” and all reason and logic about my actual life goes out the window.
The night moves on to a bar, bottles of red wine are being ordered. No denying that this collaborative drunkeness between people on a week night is actually really good fun! It feels awesome to just think FUCK IT but then you notice as it approaches 11pm only a few of you are left. All the sensible ones or the ones who have partners or kids have left. Me and my friend stay out, each as bad as each other although she gets a booty call and decides to leave. So now there is me. Me and some fellas I have managed to bum fags off for the last hour. They seem a laugh and they bought me drinks. Next thing I remember is me and one man walking down the street, then cut to us in a corner shop buying wine, me choosing and saying I would prefer white. These little flashback but no real linear memories.
I wake up in a strange bed, it is a hotel room, my dress is over my belly pushed onto my boobs, my pants are on the floor next to the bed, this man is still asleep – its 6am. I pull my dress down and I go to the bathroom and look in the mirror. Makeup smeared over my face, dull grey skin, that grimy hungover pallor and the sweet sickly smell of alcohol coming out of the pores. I take a selfie just so I can remember and punish myself about how fucked up I am. I go back in and the man is awake and I ask him what happened – he is beyond shocked that I don’t remember. He seemed like a nice man, and I take full responsibility cause this isn’t the first time this has happened. He was genuinely upset I had no recollection of the fact we had sex and that we had talked for hours beforehand, drinking wine of course. He told me some of the things I had been talking about and asking him to do and I felt sick to my stomach. It sounded like me but also not like me at all – like a possessed witch had taken over.
I reckon I had drank three bottles of wine that night with little food. He told me he was in London for a conference and that we were still in Kings Cross – he also showed me his wedding ring and I just felt another cold part of me ice over even more. I had to get the morning after pill. He gave me money for it. He told me to take his work phone number and to keep in touch if I wanted to. I called my work to tell them I would be working at home as I had a headache – I was reliable and good at my job so I could get away with things like this now and then. The shame of walking out of that hotel, feeling utterly disorientated and lost…again.
After that night I cried myself to sleep for weeks, I stayed off the booze for a few months. I got myself a full STI check wracked with guilt about my reckless behaviour – the sort of behaviour I would never ever do when sober. This is what I couldn’t understand – that sober me would not act like that.
In context as it is only fair, I had recently lost my Dad; grief was in my life for a few years, right at the forefront of everything – I didn’t realise that at the time though. I felt like I was only breathing properly now and then, that the rest of the time I was under a blanket; a torpor of abject and constant pain. I feel like me now wants to go back and hug the me then and say that it will all get better.
It was around this time I was beginning to question my drinking properly. Only a year before I had done a similar thing but in New York (yea but imagine it ten times more dangerous!). I also looked back on my relationships and the times I couldn’t remember doing things or the arguments due to blacking out drunk. The thing that is so fucked about this is that people I talk to later on who were around me when I was in blackout mode all said I was acting drunk but normal. I won’t go into the science of what blackout drunk is but it is not a good state to be in. Your brain has basically shut part of itself down to protect itself. I never thought that I had a proper proper drinking problem as I only drank every couple of weeks, I drank socially mostly but the kicker is that I couldn’t really know how the night would end up when I did drink. It was Russian Roulette. THAT is a sign you have a problem. When you can’t stick to boundaries, when you know you are pushing it, when you know that one more drink will take you over the edge but you do it anyway.
It was around this time I started hanging out in sober communities and spent the next few years slowly changing things but occasionally slipping back and again back into sexually inappropriate situations like the time I woke up at an orgy (fully clothed I am pleased to say but huh why was I there!). Drunk me is like magnet for the most subversive shit and okay maybe part of me loves that a little but the trick is to do that stuff sober. I am no prude but being drunk and wild is fucked up and fake – if you are going to be wild do it sober. Also for me, fucking married men isn’t something I would ever do sober. EVER. Happy to say that I have left all of that behind me and this year 2020 has proven to be my most happily alcohol free one ever. It is like all the things I have learnt and tried to do over the last five years have come together. Dare I say that I am happy! I walk past that hotel a lot as I now work in the area and I instantly recoil but then I breathe a sigh of relief that I am no longer plagued by that behaviour.
It felt painful to write some of this because I can’t see that woman I was, she feels so far removed. I was just lost, grief stricken and in the end I realise I just wanted wild crazy love. I still do but the right way and at the right time.