I’ve always had an unstable relationship with alcohol – and I will explore this in more depth when I feel strong enough… but I want to tell you about the one week of booze-induced fatigue that would bring the whole drama to a head.
Not more than a month ago I was clinging steadfastly onto the party-girl persona I had adopted in my late teens, and yet, try as I might to deny it, that stubborn thing called ‘maturity’ had already made other plans.
I went on a night out with the ‘squad’ and, considering my past, I was on relatively good behaviour. Four ciders at pre-drinks, a couple of cheeky Sambuca shots in the club accompanied by the small-but-way-overpriced bottle of Corona. For me, this was playing it safe. I was convinced that I had control over the situation. I arrived home at 4am, unscathed and vomit-free. This is how grown-ups do it, right?
Well, the week that followed felt like the longest week of my life.
Saturday – the ‘day after the night before’ – was not so terrible. The hangover was just rolling up her sleeves at this point. But come Sunday morning, I was terrified of getting out of bed for fear I would feel the whole world fall around me. I was anxious and exhausted. My body begged for me to stay in bed and sleep through it.
But it was with steely determination that I pulled myself out from under the sheets and professed to my husband, “I will be going to town today”! I took a shower, put some slap on, and channelled a positive, youthful energy that was totally unfamiliar to my current authentic state.
You would think that having suppressed the hangover for nearly two days I would have slept like a baby by Sunday night. However, this was far from the case.
For the week that followed, I suffered nights of insomnia. Sure, I’d sleep at some point in the night, but only for a few hours, before I would start to experience vivid dreams of chaos, shuffle myself awake, hallucinate, panic, and ruminate over the most unimportant matters until I was abruptly interrupted by the morning alarm.
If someone gave me a quid for every time I said “I’m tired” in the office that week, I wouldn’t need to go back to the office anymore. I could barely concentrate on the smallest tasks, and as a result spent the day feeling ashamed by my incompetence but too fragile to do anything about it.
By Wednesday night I had finally had enough of my fatigue and leaned on the booze for consolation. Three large wines down, I could barely articulate myself and I was acting like class-A lush. Granted, I slept the whole night through, but what followed were yet more sleepless nights filled with anxiety and regret.
The next weekend arrived. My husband and I were due to go out again for a friend’s gig, but my irritability was dialled to 11 thanks to a toxic combination of alcohol dependency, sleep deprivation and self-pity. We got into a brief squabble about something insignificant, and it ended with me throwing myself into bed for a pre-night-out-nap. During my duvet-grumbles, I experienced sensations not too dissimilar to nostalgia, but this was more sinister than a little trip down memory lane. I was taken aback by my own angry inner-voice:
“Well, sod it. I know I said I wouldn’t drink tonight but… sod it. I’m angry, and I need wine. I need wine to get through tonight.”
My inner alcohol-addict had been quelled for quite some time with practice, so the emergence of her harsh tones took me by surprise. I hadn’t needed alcohol in this way for a couple of years, after one traumatic ending to a bender taught me a much-needed lesson. I never quit the sauce, but I was certainly more disciplined, with the occasional less-horrendous bender thrown into the mix for good measure.
I had used these more ‘successful’ nights out as support for my argument to never quit entirely. I had finally sussed it out.
But this protest, and the desire to comfort myself with wine despite how burnt out I was in mind, body and soul, felt so out of sync with the soul-searcher I had taught myself to be, that it created an integral shift from deep within. This had been a long time coming.
I wasn’t completely aware of the shift just yet though, as I proceeded to nap on it, and then pamper myself for the supposed soirée ahead. I was minutes away from my decision to pour myself a glass of vino, which would be under the pretence that I was a glamorous wife just allowing herself the luxury of (£5 Hardy’s Bin) wine before blossoming into a city socialite.
And then my husband walked over, equally burnt out, but by work, not booze. We stood there, looking at each other, with our baggy eyes and sunken postures, and without needing to say much at all, came to the agreement that something didn’t feel right about leaving the home that night. But very unlike the me who usually listened to my inner wine-guzzler, my reaction was one of sheer relief. My longing for rest far outweighed the ‘fight for the right to party’.
So we cancelled our plans. And within an hour I was back in bed. And I slept the whole night through.
That weekend, I woke up to the epiphany that – drum roll… – alcohol is bad for my health. It might not be bad for everyone, but it’s bad for a lot of people, and it’s definitely bad for me.
People reading this might think that I give myself a hard time because I don’t drink every night or put whiskey in my cereal. But this isn’t about quantities or stereotypes. I had come to the realisation – and it took bloody ages to get there – that I depended on alcohol whenever the going got tough. But now it was time to grow up and feel all the feelings.
Knowing how much good work I had done to get over the hurdle of eating disorders and Depression, I came to a conclusion that my drinking was an act of self-sabotage, a refusal to let go by my younger, less confident self.
So I’m kind of on a mission now. I’m on a mission to protect myself and put the booze obsession to bed. This might be the toughest act of self-love I ever experience, and I haven’t really thought it through… but I’m a woman who lives by her intuition. I’m going to put my warpaint on and give it my best shot.
Is it possible than I can live an alcohol-free life?
…more on this as it develops…