It all started last Summer. In Ibiza, to be exact (read about that magical trip here) - when my casual relationship with alcohol became ...not so casual. It wasn’t turbulent at first – but then relationships never are to start with, are they? Turbulence develops over time, when you start to rub each other up the wrong way, when you start to let each other down. But I’m skipping ahead.
Aside from a few wild uni nights and the dinner-with-a-friend-turned-2-bottles-of-wine-later, I’ve never really consumed alcohol either a) frequently or b) in large amounts. Ask any family member, I was practically coaxed into drinking champagne on a special occasion. And now? Well I’d struggle to say no to a glass of bubbles. There's been a shift.
The thing is, when you drink for an extended period of time and you’re happy during that period, whether it be on holiday in great company or at university with your closest friends, you begin to associate alcohol with having a good time – quite naturally. You remember the laughter, the inside jokes, the nights out when everything and everyone was fine and dandy. So the next time you’re offered a drink, you remember that time, the one when you laughed until your sides hurt, danced until your feet hurt, shared a moment with someone that made you feel like your heart might burst. So you say yes, remembering that past happiness and longing for a similar feeling of joy.
I’m guilty of this. I’m also guilty of using alcohol as an enabler. I realised I was more confident under the influence; I’d be bold in my emotive expressions, I’d let go, shedding that often-uptight, oh-god-I-have-responsibilities-I-totally-shouldn’t-do-that-mindset. I felt free. And as far as I knew, only alcohol could give me that feeling. I’d feel as if the prison door to my mind had been flung open, setting me free of the hundreds of irrational and anxious thought processes that harbour there.
But as with all relationships, the honeymoon period came to an end. I’ve never needed alcohol but I began to find myself wanting it, a glass of wine on a Monday night, maybe a bottle on Friday. And do you know what? I've come to realise that it’s not uncommon. But I had gone from barely touching a drop to longing for it in the space of six months. And in those six months, I made some wonderful drunken happy memories. But I made some not-so-happy ones too. Nothing major – just the witnessing of its varied effects on others, the way it changes personalities and exposes traits that you never knew existed. Plus of course, I experienced a couple of 24-hour hangovers that made me never want to drink again. Until three days later.
And most recently, this affair between alcohol and I – it’s become a little complicated. Alcohol has stolen parts of my memory, leaving me to wake up the next morning with only the recollection of others to piece together the events of the previous evening. It’s made me question what I’ve said, how I’ve behaved. That saying: "Drunk actions speak sober thoughts” is, in my opinion, perhaps the most inaccurate expression of modern day. Alcohol affects the brain’s ability to control behaviour, it impairs your judgement and self-control. So of course we’re not going to act in the same way as if we were sober. In fact, we’re most likely to act very differently.
I believe mistakes are hard lessons, so I don't have any regrets. I haven’t yet robbed a bank, ridden down the motorway in a Sainsbury’s trolley or committed murder. And I don’t plan to. But I’ve surprised myself once or twice, not always pleasantly. And I’ve put valuable relationships in jeopardy. And for me, there is no amount of Zinfandel, Pimm's or any deliciously cold fruity cider that is worth risking the trust of or hurting those close to me. Absolutely none.
So this turbulent affair I’ve been having? It’s been thankfully short-lived, long before too much damage has been done. But I’m stepping away, pulling back, making our meetings a lot less intense. I no longer want to be on a rollercoaster, being taken for a ride with unexpected twists and turns. I want to choose my own pace, my own path. I’m reclaiming control.
So, alcohol, thank you for the ride, the ups and the downs. You’ve taught me a lot. But I’m politely declining another go. Because from now on, I’m in the driver's seat. And what we have? It’s on my terms.