Updated: Apr 7
I watched an episode of ‘Ambulance’ last night. It's an incredible insight into the 12-hour shift of a paramedic. My husband and I sat at opposite ends of the couch with our toes touching counting how many of the emergencies were related to drugs and alcohol.
It turned out to be a depressing game. Apart from the lovely old man that had fallen out of his chair and couldn’t get back up, it was all of them.
A guy chewing his face off on speed, an alcoholic with heart failure, a drunken girl that had cut herself on glass and a drink driving accident.
I found myself googling as the credits rolled,
‘What percentage of calls to the emergency services are drug and alcohol related?’
The answer... 1 in 3. A third! All preventable. I was amazed. I read further..
‘ALCOHOL-related diseases are being blamed for causing the deaths of nearly 6000 Australians each year. A study by the National Drug Research Institute at WA's Curtin University has found an estimated 5785 people aged over 15 died from alcohol-attributable causes in 2018.
It’s a sad statistic. It got me thinking, trying to work out how many times I have been to hospital because of drinking? Was I part of this number, taking up the beds of people with real problems?
I decided to make a list:
1. Sprained my ankle picking mushrooms in 1992.
2. Fractured my collar bone sliding down an escalator 1998.
3. Blew a finger off with a firework on the millennium night 1999.
4. Called an ambulance during a panic attack 2002.
5. Back injury from falling off a table doing air guitar to ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ 2006.
6. Passed out drunk in a jungle. Got Dengue Fever. 2007.
7. Pelvic Inflammatory disease. Sex with a hippie. 2008.
So, er...yes. I am one of those people taking up a much-needed bed in a hospital ward. I never considered that time spent mooching around a damp field and stumbling over a ferret whilst searching for hallucinogens would result in me taking away time of those in need. I was too involved with my party persona to even consider my impact on others. My thoughtless actions were soaked up in the laughter of my comrades.All of my hospitalisations were my legacy and the repertoire I used to keep my gang amused. The crazy life of Vicky; created by me to service others.
I was a non-thinker.. a heavy drinker, that only cared about herself.
I’d never before taken a moment to think about the poor paramedic that had to talk me down from anxiety or the sweet nurse that sawed off the top of my finger as I slurred at her,
‘Ishhh thiisss goinggg to hurrtt?’
“No worrwie, no hurt, no pwoblem’ she’d replied in her soft Thai accent.
She probably had to deal with drunken louts like me every single night. Tourists that had fallen off motorbikes and taken too much yabba. I was just one in a long line of preventable injuries due to over-indulgence. Just another number to add to the statistics.
I wonder if there was a nice old man that had fallen out of his chair waiting in the room next door. Maybe I’d taken his spot due to the severity of my injury. Maybe he was there, holding hands with his daughter, waiting on a flimsy chair in the middle of the night, in pain.
God, I hope not.
Binge drinking is not only a problem for those stuck in the habit, but it’s also be a problem for those you don’t consider. I thought I was funny, but heavy boozing made me selfish. I never stopped to reflect on the people affected by my drinking.
Not only the health system but others too,
The person that had to clean the pub toilet after me. The barmaid I was rude to because it was passed last orders. The taxi driver I promised to pay, then ran away. The owner of the hotel whose door I kicked down. The person I talked about too loudly. The friend I upset. The lecturer I lied to. The parents I stole from. The children I let down. The husband that was worried...
I was unable to see the very deep impression I was making on others. Only now, 2 years sober, am I starting to understand the impact my drinking had outside of my self-interested bubble. I can see beyond me.
My binge drinking affected so many. Some I knew and some I only met briefly. I wish I could have been more considerate, cared more about the people I interacted with. I should have left happiness in my wake, not a toilet covered in vomit.
I plan make up for this behaviour. For for the rest of my time here on this planet, I will leave a tip, write a thank you, think before I speak and make sure I own my mistakes. Bumbling around with no care for anything or anyone...is over.
Being sober really gets the mind functioning again. Parts of it that were closed, re-open allowing me to see my faults. The fuckupery of my past has created fuel, things I can learn from. My past makes me stronger because I am so determined to not be that inconsiderate party person ever again. She’s a fally overy lunatic that only cares about herself.
I don’t want to be one of the people in that show, drooling into a sick bag as the ambulance sweeps around corners, rushing towards the ER. I won’t be one of the statistics.
Life has become about statistics recently. I’m watching death tolls rise and economies fall. I’m staying at home watching news and trying to keep too much from reaching the innocent ears of my children, but, they know. My daughter (4) has developed a sort of OCD, washing her hands and being paranoid about touching things. It’s sad to watch. I’m ignoring it in the hope that it will end. That this will end.
I’m so grateful to be sober right now, able to support them, be there for them and ignore them if need be. Ignoring them is my way of staying sane. I lock the bathroom door, I put my headphones on and sink into a warm bath with a good podcast.
Even when motherhood feels relentless. When the mundanity of self-isolation makes me want to stab blunt forks into my eyeballs, after I’ve cleaned up the play dough and put all the lids back on the felt tip pens for the fortieth fucking time today and I feel like running down the road and shoving my head in a drain, I’m still grateful. (with gritted teeth)
This is all a very weird time. But being positive keeps anxiety from banging on my front door. I’m happy not hiding in my room with a hangover, making excuses why I can’t go for a bike ride. I’m having time with my kids. Its good... and also very, very shit. I like them, one at a time. If there are three within the same vicinity I struggle. That’s when strange gravely Mum voice makes her triumphant return and I sit on the bed afterwards and cry, feeling mean.
I have to admit, that the cold beer in the fridge is looking quite appealing. Sometimes I go and say hello to it. But I know where that leads and what good am I then? Useless and taking up a bed in a hospital ward.
By being sober I’m being more thoughtful. Kinder. It’s better for me and better for the people I encounter.
So, sorry if I puked in your taxi and shagged your boyfriend. I won’t do it again!
pic -I'm making isolation bearable by drawing willies on things.