I have this image in my head of what a night out in a pub or club looks like – Everyone looks very glamorous, there is a lot of laughter and flirtation, the banter is flying… (now that I think of it this image is very similar to what most alcohol advertising looks like) It’s important for me to remember that that’s not what it looked like when I drank alcohol. When I drank, it kind of started like that, but it usually ended with mascara running down my face, high heels in my hand.
Of course there were good times, especially in the early days. I loved how alcohol seemed to let me be myself – freed me of my inhibitions. Everyone was my friend, or so I thought, and life was sweet. I had a large circle of friends and most of them had no problem with the fact that I regularly got drunk enough to black out, fall over, or both. In fact, for some of my drinking buddies it was a form of entertainment… “What’s Katie up to this time?”
In my late teens and early 20s, it didn’t matter that much. I was having fun, and if embarrassing myself occasionally was the price I had to pay, I was fine with that. Over time, though, things began to change. My friends were maturing – developing careers, getting married, having kids – while I was stuck in this live-for-the-weekend (or occasionally Tuesday) party lifestyle. The days when I could spring out of bed after a wild night were gone, and horrific hangovers were starting to take their toll.
I cringe when I look back at photos of that time now. I’m overweight, red-faced with booze, and just all over the place in 90% of them. I feel sorry for the girl in those photos, who had to drink to escape how she felt about herself, to distract her from constantly feeling not good enough. I tried desperately to convince myself that I was having the time of my life, but in reality I was incredibly lonely. Today, I have much more confidence in who I am. I face life instead of running from it.
On the morning after my last binge, I decided enough was enough. I didn’t want to live that way any more. I was a bit scared about the idea of giving up drinking, and I wasn’t sure if I could do it – but I did. I asked for help and I got it. I haven’t had a drink in almost two years now and my whole life has changed- I honestly had no idea how much of my time and energy alcohol took up. Without it – and the hangovers – I took up hobbies, I changed my job, I made new friends and I became closer to my family. I started travelling again. I’m healthier and happier.
I lost a lot of drinking buddies; people I had nothing in common with apart from a love of the sauce, but my real friends are all still there. I go on nights out with them to bars and clubs, and when I wake up the next day, I feel great. I don’t have The Fear, no regrets. I chat and laugh and dance and I go home when I want to. I used to make fun of people who went into bars and pubs and drank tea, and now I do it all the time.
Like everyone, I have good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks – the only difference is that now when I’m lonely or sad or angry, I deal with it instead of searching for a solution at the bottom of a glass of red. If I can do it, anyone can.
If you’re concerned about your drinking, you can take this quiz developed by John Hopkins University to find out if you might need help.