Alcohol and I have a fraught history, but not in the way most people have. I remember back in the year 2000 when we came back to school after Christmas and the New Year (of course it was a special one). I was 14 (and 350-something days) then and it’s one of the first times I remember getting the feeling that I still experience to this day. One of being a child in an adults world, of being socially undeveloped. All my friends had stories of how they got drunk and had such a wonderful time, it seemed everyone did that except me. At that time, drinking seemed to me to be something that adults did, not me. Of course, legally that was true but it’s rare to find people who don’t drink before they’re 18 these days. I don’t know why it didn’t seem appealing to me, I was never one to go out of my way to “rebel” against authority so it had no illicit lure to me.
After that, they became more and more fascinated and obsessed with drinking and how much they could handle. I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision not to drink, I just never started. That was around the time I found myself increasingly wanting to get away from the people I once called friends. The ones who made me feel worthless and shit every day. This was another avenue for them to attack me with. By the time it came to get our GCSE results, they’d planned a piss-up celebration and I engaged my best avoidance tactics to make sure I managed to get in and out of school without bumping into any of them, take the phone off the hook and hide upstairs in case they came round to try and drag me out.
Even when I was old enough to legally drink, I still didn’t really want to. I’m not sure why, I think was afraid of losing control and letting my guard down, the guard which however weak, still defended me slightly from what I (sometimes rightly) perceived as threats. I couldn’t let myself be known and crushed, back then I just wanted to be invisible. I began to loathe the thought of it, mostly because I associated it with those people, those so-called friends attacking me and laughing at me for not joining them at the pub. I don’t know whether they knew how much they hurt me, I doubt they did.
I hesitated about writing this part because it’s to do with my family, but it affected me so severely I think I have the right to discuss it. My mum is normally a fairly quiet, inoffensive person but when she drinks, she acts foolishly. The first time I remember her dragging us into it was when her boyfriend first came to meet us at our house, she ended up arguing with him and shutting herself in her room, leaving him with us at 10pm downstairs not knowing what happened. She imagines things or reads too much into things and gets mad about them. The worst time of all was on her birthday in 2004. Her boyfriend had come to stay the night (he lived quite far away from us) and they had both had some wine with dinner. Later on my mum got angry with him because she said that he was looking at my sister. It’s worth mentioning at this time she was 16 and he was in no way interested in her like that, my mum is insanely insecure and jealous. She freaked out and started hitting him and threw a vase at him. My sister and I were in a complete state of shock, we’d never, ever experienced anything like this before. I can’t ever remember my mum and dad even arguing with raised voices, let alone physical violence. She was trying to hit him and he tried to hold her away and we just didn’t know what to do. My sister and I ran outside in tears and in the panic we decided to call the police because the amount of screaming and smashing made us seriously think that one of them could get injured or worse. They came round eventually but the argument had calmed down by that point, her bf was sitting in his car – he couldn’t drive home because he’d been drinking. The policeman told us that when he went into the house, my mum offered him a piece of cake, that’s how drunk she was.
When we dared to return, my mum yelled and screamed at my sister for calling the police, but what else could we do? When she is drunk like that, I honestly think she could end up killing someone. She stormed off upstairs, packed a bag and walked out saying that she was going to move out and live with her sister. I was seeing my life fall apart in front of my eyes. I had no idea what I was going to do, I’d been hoping to get things back on track after dropping out of uni because of yet-to-be diagnosed anxiety earlier in the year but it seemed everything was exploding right in front of me. I sat at the outside table and cried more than I ever have before. I wept like I was mourning the death of a loved one and I was shaking in full panic attack mode. Above everything else I wanted to comfort my sister, she was only a child and no child should be subjected to that, blamed for that outburst of idiocy. My memory is hazy after that but I remember waking up in my bed with my clothes on from the previous night. When I dared to venture downstairs, my mother and her boyfriend were sitting there like nothing had happened, like it was some hideous nightmare I had. They were opening her presents and playing at happy families but I could never look at her the same again.
I can never forgive her for what she did to my sister. Although she is very resilient (far more than me) I think it hurt her badly too. We haven’t spoken about it much since, except with knowing glances whenever my mum has a glass of wine. My mum hugged me and said “I’m sorry” but that didn’t really cut it. I don’t think our relationship has been the same since. I used to trust her absolutely, she was someone I always loved and never hurt me but that was the worst day of my life and she scarred me forever.
In the following 2 weeks, I had the strangest sensation I have ever experienced. I felt like I wasn’t quite there and I was kind of on autopilot. Words came out of my mouth and I walked around but it wasn’t me who was in control. I later learned that this is called depersonalisation and is a recognised psychological symptom of anxiety. We were planning to go on holiday the following week and it did happen, though I feel like I wasn’t really there for it. Luckily she refrained from drinking for the week. After we came back, it wasn’t long before they broke up, unsurprisingly. Ironically (well it’s not really irony, I know but I can’t think of the right word) it was the day I was starting college after being out of education since my acrimonious departure from university, so when I needed the most support, my mum was off work crying her eyes out because she’d been dumped. Marvellous.
Since then, I’ve never felt the desire to get drunk. I never want to behave like she did and still does (although to a much lesser extent thankfully). I used to kid myself and pretend I was above it all and I’d think to myself that people were sad if they needed to be drunk to have a good time. Of course now I’m the ultimate example of someone who has a chemical dependancy in order to even be capable of going out of the house. I never made my holier than thou attitude public, in case you think that is one of the reasons for my unpopularity by the way.
I’ll leave it here for now because this post is almost essay length already and it’s nearly 3am. I hope you enjoy this insight into the fucked up world that is my life.