I’m making yet another conscious decision to cut down my alcohol consumption. This is approximately the 100 millionth time I have made this decision, and it’s always the last time, yes yes really it is and I’m totally not going to relapse this time.
While I would not consider myself an alcoholic, I do have a strange dependency on drinking.
Because I didn’t really have many friends growing up, when teens hit I didn’t drink until I was maybe 17. And between then and the age of maybe 23, I rarely touched alcohol. Certainly never if I was by myself. Then, after I got out of an emotionally abusive relationship, I started to drink a bottle of wine here, a bottle of wine there. By myself. At home.
I stopped drinking when I moved out of my dad’s house, and eventually got my first proper full time job. Then, when my coworker and boyfriend left me for his ex, got back with me and then was half responsible for easily the most traumatic experience in my entire life, I started drinking a bottle of wine a night without fail.
I was 25 years old, working at a digital marketing company in Leeds as a technical SEO consultant for an Earned Media team who had no fucking clue what to do with me. I spent most of my days just arsing around on the computer, occasionally writing documents that literally no-one would ever read, and feeling incredibly unfulfilled. I would also be hungover, sometimes horrendously, all day.
Looking back, I cringe at the memory of the mornings where I undoubtedly stank of alcohol, stumbling into the office at gone half nine in the morning. At the peak of my depression, I would drink two bottles of wine on a work night and still be hammered while getting the bus in the morning. It was like this for an entire year – hangover, sit at desk, have no-one talk to me, do no work of any value, go home, drink two bottles of wine, repeat. And I would drink alone every night.
Even when I got my job in London, I was still drinking a bottle of wine a night, every night without fail. I told myself this was because for the first 6 months the flat I lived in was utterly horrific – the tiniest room you have ever seen that also somehow had a kitchen unit and a shower cubicle, and a crawlspace that had been marketed as a bedroom.
I did in fact use the crawlspace as a bedroom. There was a urine-soaked mattress in it when I moved in that the landlord refused to chuck out, so it remained propped against the wall covered in a sheet the entire time I was there while I slept on a folded duvet. I’m not exaggerating about it being a crawl space, by the way – the room was about four foot tall and there was a chain running from ceiling to floor which was holding up a light downstairs. £750 quid a month without bills to live in Stoke Newington, if you’re thinking of moving to the Big City.
However, when I moved into a nice flat with my friend JJ, the drinking continued. Any excuse – I’ve had a hard day, I’ve had a good day, it’s the weekend, it’s not the weekend. I did enjoy my job and I was doing alright in it, but I think I was still using alcohol as a coping mechanism for the stuff that had broken me to pieces in Leeds rather than dealing with it head on.
Nowadays, I’d say I drink 4 or 5 nights a week. Again, always alone, and always that bottle of wine. I tend to go for 10% proof bottles, and I always water it down heavily so I can drink it for longer. I will often lie in bed with it propped beside me like a baby bottle, drink straight from it. It’s become a comfort thing, and I realise now that I’m drinking because I don’t fill my evenings with anything else.
When I stay over at a friend’s or a boyfriend’s place, I don’t feel the urge to drink at all. And if I do meet friends for drinks, I am so so careful to only have a couple of glasses of wine – and never ever get drunk. I’m too embarrassed at the thought of being hammered in front of people I love.
This morning I woke up at 8.30am, hungover. I streamed last night, and right afterwards drank a bottle of wine while I was editing a video. Because I always think drinking will help me be more productive. It never does, I ALWAYS end up watching videos of bad Britain’s Got Talent auditions.
After lying in bed staring at my phone, as I often do, on a whim I visited a subreddit about alcoholism. There are people on there who are drinking entire bottles of vodka a day. Some of them out of boredom, some of them to deal with a horrific trauma. I think I drink for both these reasons, but honestly – I’m terrified that one day, I will switch from that bottle of wine to a small bottle of rum. And then to a large bottle. And then to two bottles.
Browsing the subreddit, I realised that I have wasted a huge amount of money over the years to drinking – and a huge chunk of my life. I’m not helping myself by using something so bad for me as a crutch. I quit smoking 18 months ago because I could see I was just doing it for the sake of having something to do – so it’s about time I did the same for alcohol.
I’m not going to quit entirely. I just need to find things to do with my evenings. Living alone, it’s very hard to be strict on myself and find ways to fill those dark hours – the evening is usually when I’m saddest. But there’s got to be something better than what I see at the bottom of a bottle. And of course, there’s no doubt that the sauce is making my anxiety so much worse than it could be.
Or else I’ll become one of those people posting on Reddit, empty vodka bottle in hand, shaking as they ask strangers for help. I don’t think I’m strong enough to get to that stage.