I’ve always been enticed by drinkers. I thought of them as my kind of people. They were fun. The life and souls. I could pick them out just by scanning the room. I searched for flushed cheeks and up turned glasses, bad dance moves and raucous laughing. I would be drawn like a magnet to the loudest crowd, the table full of empty bottles. I was comfortable in these boisterous groups, protected by my tribe, walled by bedlam.
At school I had a rebellious teenage gang. We smoked behind the bike sheds, and we bunked off school and rolled up carrot shaped spliffs. When at University, I found a girl tribe. A group of wild cats that were vehemently loyal. There seemed to be an understanding between us, that no matter how drunk we got, we would take care of one another and fight off any predators that were unwelcome or thirsty for some easy, drunken flesh. When amongst this motley crew I felt part of something, like a gang member. It was addictive. Acceptance is a drug. Having a pride of hungry lionesses prowling in my corner gave me a high.
Nights out were always long and adventurous. Our stories the following day were shocking and hilarious. We laughed as we sipped on Sunday shandy’s and gave each other pats on the back for living up to our sordid reputations. At the time, I thought this approval was what I craved, but living up to a riotous reputation had consequences.
Stupidly I guessed my friends had expectations of me and I began to try and fulfil a role that led me into problems. A drink driving charge, an overdose and lots of regretful one night stands. That’s how bad my need to be accepted was….my own health and safety was on the line.
Being the girl that didn’t care was a dangerous game. But the people, the ones I chose, thought I was great, they couldn’t see that I was at risk, and neither could they as they were also falling down the hole, falling with smiles on our faces.
There was never a reason to look inwards then, even when the red flags were being waved all around me. I chose my reputation over my own health.
When our studies finished, we left the red painted town and drifted across the map. They went home, to boyfriends, to new jobs, and I found myself with no qualifications (having been too hung over to go to lectures) and no friends. I was lost without my tribe around me and being alone was way too confronting. So, I packed the party into my rucksack and jumped on a plane to find a new crew. More people I could hide behind.
Travelling was the mask that could never be removed. I could surround myself with carefree nomads and change my colours to suit my environment. I could be whoever I wanted and what I wanted was to be drunk. Moving from place to place hid the fact I drank every day. If people noticed, I did a runner, packed my bag and got the fuck out of dull town. All I left behind was a full ashtray, some empty beer bottles, and the odd broken heart.
When I drank, I made sure 'my people' consumed as much booze as I did. I hung around with DJ’s, bar managers, bouncers, drug dealers and any other misfits that seemed on my wavelength or had a few bob to buy a round. I used people as a disguise, a way of hiding my overindulgence. I hoped that my mates were too wasted to notice how quickly I was drinking, or how annihilated I was, or that (heaven forbid) I had a drinking problem.
People were my safety net, my support when I couldn’t walk and my excuse to carry on when the pub closed. Having people around me that were just as invincible as me meant I could blame everyone else but myself for over drinking.
‘That Kerry is a bad influence! She got the shots in!’
‘It was Dan’s fault, he wanted to stay until closing.’
‘I couldn’t leave - it was Dad’s Birthday’
A life spent pushing the blame onto others so I never had to look inwards.
I never stopped to address the mess I left in my wake or confront the crazy behaviour. I didn’t need to. Drinking was my entire identity. I was good at it…. Until I wasn’t.
When I look back, I realise the people I surrounded myself with were a boarder. A barricade of protection that allowed me to stay in a place I felt safe…. beyond the wall was a war I wasn’t ready to fight. I didn’t even want to peek and look because seeing the carnage would mean I had to let go of everything I knew. Taking up the fight meant I would have to look at my drinking habit and honestly, giving up drinking seemed far messier than carrying on.
‘Well, if everyone else is doing it, then I can too.’
And of course, everyone was doing it… that’s who I chose. That’s who kept my wall from crumbling down.
Social binge drinking is so bloody clever. It seeps into our lives and makes us feel like we belong. It tricks us into believing we need it to relax, to laugh, to have fun, to have friends! When really it is taking away who we are.
Binge drinking took me away.
Away from myself and away from true connection.
I was someone else for far too long.
And Honestly, I’m a little bit annoyed with myself. I feel ripped off that I didn’t get to live a full life for all those years, I’m pissed off that I did not respect who was underneath that big thick layer of booze.
But, weirdly, I’m not angry with the people.
The people just do what the people are supposed to.
There is a quote I read the other day,
“ONLY WHEN IT IS DARK ENOUGH, CAN YOU SEE THE STARS …” —RALPH WALDO EMERSON
I think the people that we surround ourselves with also need to go into the dark in order to see the light. The people are just doing reacting to life, to trauma and to social anxiety. Drinking is part of the human condition.
We were all stuck, caught up believing the hype, trapped in a culture where we needed this lubricant, this drug, to feel free and feel accepted.
Drinking means we plonk ourselves in a vicious circle of enablers, in so deep that it’s easier to carry on, than address the issues of an entire culture.
But there is hope,
A change happening. I can feel it. The people are starting to understand there is something else…..
and it’s exciting.
The sober curious movement recognises the damage alcohol is doing and giving us a space where we can question it. Its aiding in understanding when people are good for us or bad for us and we are learning what helps us thrive in our environment rather than grin and bare it.
We've all reached a point where we comprehend what’s at stake. The short-lived highs are not worth the big lows, that party girls with having panic attacks, the lushes drinking alone and the life and souls with depression... are beginning to look up and see the stars.
That’s why talking about alcohol addiction is essential.
A vital part of allowing others to find their voice amongst the noisy crowd. To teach people not to scan for the people just as lost as them but the ones that are choosing something better.
The people are speaking and it’s beautiful to see the world tune in.
So, keep telling your story. It allows other to look up and see what’s shining so brightly in the dark night sky.
This weeks Episode of Sober Awkward is all about the people. The ones we drank with and the ones we live with now we are sober. Just find it on Spotify and iTunes.
Follow us on Instagram @soberawkward and @drunkmummysober mummy.
Head to www.drunkmummysobermummy.com for more information on being sober in this booze fuelled world.