When I picture an alcoholic, I think of a red faced 50ish year old fat man clutching a can of Tennants Lager in his chubby hand on which he still wears his wedding band, despite his wife having left him several years ago. He slurs his words and shouts obscenities at his television whilst sitting in his armchair that he bought back in the eighties, where he once bounced his toddler (now an adult) on his knee. His hair is patchy and the contrast between the grey and the red flaky skin does him no favours. He’s completely undesirable. About 3pm every day, he goes to a dingy, dimly lit local pub alone and sits by the bar on a tall stool with dark wood legs topped with a green velour cheap material covered round cushion.
The bartender knows his name (something like Bob, Brian or Big Steve). He knows his order automatically and he sheepishly accepts the man’s money, even when he knows full well that the man really shouldn’t have any more to drink because he’s about to topple off the stool. The man starts to sway a bit too much so the bartender suggests he moves to the table in the corner for the remainder of the evening. He consumes another 8 pints of Guinness and a couple of packs of KP salted peanuts before he decides to leave. He dribbles his way home, walking past the group of youths hanging out in the park who laugh at him, and stumbles into bed without brushing his teeth or changing out of his clothes. It doesn’t matter – he’ll just wear again tomorrow anyway. He wakes up at noon and does the same thing all over again the next day.
The thing is, I have a drink problem and the above doesn’t resemble my life in the slightest, apart from still wearing my wedding rings (wife died in 2013) and occasionally being too drunk to remember to brush my teeth. I am in my late twenties and although my native accent becomes stronger when I’m drunk, I’m pretty fucking eloquent and often don’t come across as drunk. I can debate the possibilities of a resource based economy, recite all the prepositions that make the verb take the dative in German and the books of the Old Testament, and lead a conference call, amongst other things. Heck, I can even type when drunk and put together a blog post for your reading pleasure. Just for the record, I’m sober right now, although I am hungover.
When I’m out and about, no matter how hungover or drunk I am, I have a full face of makeup, meticulously applied eyeliner and I walk with poise in my heels unless I have a blister, in which case I might limp a tad. I am in my late twenties, I hold down a demanding job in professional services, I have a masters degree from one of the top 3 universities in the world (order depends which source you go with), and I have an excellent wardrobe with an array of cashmere, silk and lots of lovely leather handbags.
As a fit lesbian told me last night, I’m “gorgeous” and my hairdo is a “really great style”. What she probably didn’t realise was that I was hammered and I’m drunk pretty much every single day. Most of the time, I drink alone at home – half a bottle of wine a night. The first thing I do when I get in the house after work is take of my shoes and coat. The second is wash my hands of tube germs. The third is pour a glass of wine, unless I’m bursting for the loo. My recycling is stuffed with empty wine bottles and the man in the supermarket on my route home from work recognises me as I go every second day. I don’t really know when this became a problem – some would say that it isn’t a problem because it’s only half a bottle a night – but this started a few months after my wife died. Turning to drink is quite common in widows.
Last night was Friday and I was out after work, not rushing home to watch Netflix for a change. I was well preened and in stilettoes and tight leggings that make my bum look kick ass. I was at the top of the table, the popular one surrounded by the lesbians from work, some of whom knew my wife when she was alive. I was laughing away and regaling my Tinder dating tales of the pansexual with the love birds, the Irish girl with very large labia and the boxer to whom I relayed my worries about the risk of locking in my mortgage rate when she asked what my appetite for risk was (bet she wasn’t expecting THAT answer). I have a propensity to over share when drunk and this may get me into trouble some day. However, I am extremely fun.
The first bottle of wine I bought last night was a cheap house white. Normally I’m far classier and would opt for a South African Chenin Blanc or a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc but since I was having to share with others, I wasn’t going to splurge. What I received was a truly awful bottle of Jacob’s Creek. I believe Jacob’s Creek even have to advertise on the TV. It’s the wine of poor people who think they are refined. It’s vile, VILE. The other girls also thought it was vile laughed about it. Someone else bought a nicer bottle and everyone switched to that, bar me. I didn’t mind at all but I felt compelled to polish off the original skank one. “Taking one for the team” was how I put it, secretly glad that I had an excuse to drink about three glasses. After that, I switched to Corona with lime. It was a lesbian night, after all, and at least it has vitamin C.
It’s this drinking of cheap shitty wine that has made me realise that I really do have a problem. I suspected I did. If it’s alcoholic, I’ll drink it. Today I’m in Scotland and I drank whisky even though I hate the stuff. Drinking alone is never a good thing and my tummy is definitely starting to bulge. Some say this isn’t a problem because I’m young and I’m not drunk during the day. Well, know what? I would be drunk during the day if I didn’t have a job to hold down. I like wine. It liberates me. However, I recognise that I am basically an addict just like the red faced fat man. It’s the addiction part that matters, not the way that it’s packaged.
I am a high functioning alcoholic. There. I said it. I have woken up many a time having no clue what I did the last few hours the night before. There was one occasion where I fell asleep with my hotel room door ajar in Thailand. My first thought upon waking up was to have a feel to check I hadn’t been raped. Then there’s the time I did actually have sex with a man in Thailand. Basically, Thailand was a wonderful drunken adventure and I’m lucky that nothing bad happened but I’ve continued the holiday boozing whilst back in Blighty. It must stop.
But how do I do that when I’m surrounded by peers who drink too and think I’m joking when I say I have an alcohol issue?
Please do leave your comments below. I’m getting lots of private messages and I think those who struggle like me would feel encouraged by reading your thoughts too.