“You go crazy when you’re drunk.” Says Peter. “Absolutely crazy.”
He’s not wrong. My face turns red and I struggle to swallow the excuses that are about to come babbling out of my mouth. We’re on the top floor of the bookshop talking about our nights out. Peter and Sarah are relating to me how embarrassing I was last week.
Last week, hungover and lying in my bed of pain, I wondered whether I had a problem with alcohol. “It’s only a problem if you need to drink to feel comfortable and get through the day.” Socrates tells me. I have embarrassing flashbacks to having a beer every night, drinking alone and then wandering out to open mic nights. I can’t remember the last time I went to a social event and didn’t order a beer or grab some free wine.
I don’t like being drunk any more. Like food cravings and my mental health, my drinking habits roll around in phases. This autumn, I’ve been drinking like a champion. One beer turns into six. Friends call it a night. My boyfriend leaves and goes home. I always stay to the end, when the chairs are stacked on tables and my last mate standing seems to be speaking in a foreign language. This, I think, is what sets me apart from a regular drinker: I literally can’t stop.
Last week I tried to quit drinking. It was a Saturday and I was at work, mortified. My stomach was churning and I couldn’t even eat grapes without feeling nauseous. My jeans were stained with pizza. I was on my own on the second floor with a lot of time to remember all the stupid shit I’d done the night before. So I sent a few apology texts, prayed no-one would bring it up during the week and decided to change my life.
On Monday, I co-hosted Zombie Cast absolutely sober. I didn’t think I could do it; I mean, I don’t podcast drunk but I need a couple of beers to take the nerves away. I hate the sound of my voice. Ironically, I ended up accidentally blowing my nose live on air but as I sank into bed at 3.30AM I felt proud of myself. Shamefully, fighting the urge to drink is something I genuinely feel proud about.
On Wednesday, I went to the pub. It wasn’t a large gathering. I went with my friend Joe and we played Scrabble and drank soft drinks. Poetry friends were there for the evening too, all sipping spirits, but I resisted. I stayed, kicked butt at a board game and went home grinning. I couldn’t believe I’d been in a pub and abstained.
Friday, everything fell apart. After a shitty week of conversations and worrying about losing my job on the 12th, it was like my resolve completely evaporated. I borrowed money and bought pints. Got drunk. Very drunk. I left my hoodie in the pub and made a German student listen to my ipod with me on the bus journey home. I staggered into a garage and bought a lot of crisps and collapsed in front of Skype and slurred at my podcaster friends for a while. And of course, I woke up feeling completely rotten.
I like being intoxicated. I like feeling “loosened up” and finding everything funny. That’s excuse number one though, because I can achieve this sober. I don’t like feeling out of control, especially when I’m not sure how on earth I get home at the end of the night. I don’t like being the old drunk who stays to the end. When I’m drunk, I prioritise alcohol over work in the morning, home-cooked meals and proper conversation.
Being that drunk is bullshit.
I wish this was a blog post about how I successfully quit drinking for a week, or longer. I really wanted it to be. I looked forward to this weekend and writing about what I learnt during my time of abstinence, but all I really learnt is that I need to stay away from alcohol 100% and not touch a single drop. It’s scary how one pint unlocks something inside me that makes me want to drink and drink until I fall over. I don’t feel that way pre-pint.
I guess posting this “officially” rather than the bite-sized self-pitying version on twitter means I have to try harder. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’m setting a bar somewhere around mouth-level and it’s time to follow through on my promises to myself. No more Hammered Red, no more hurricane of drunken weirdness.
Mine’s a blackcurrant soda, ta.