I’m in a restaurant bar that’s full of old mismatched furniture and odd framed photos in an attempt to give the impression of an independent establishment, and helping you ignore the restaurant’s actual ‘chain’ status.
We got the tram here because we are celebrating, and in order to celebrate sometimes you have to travel somewhere so it feels more special. It’s a stormy, hot day, where heavy rain is imminent but until then you try to take as much advantage of wearing a t-shirt outside as possible.
I’ve just handed in my final project for my 3 year part-time Masters and it feels really good. That’s what we are celebrating.
Although finishing a masters sort of feels like the end of freedom and the start of the immense pressure to finally earn money from your newly learned expertise. In comparison, staying in education forever feels more like freedom.
I drink a pint of pale ale. I mainly drink beer these days. I say it’s because I like the taste, but honestly over the years I have had to filter out the types of alcohol I can handle. One by one each kind of alcohol would cause me black out, even after just a few drinks.
But beer feels safe. Beer feels like something I can control, even though after every sip a voice in my head worries about the next one.
“I want another! I want more!” it shouts, tantrum style, between every gulp.
After my second pint I start to feel self conscious of my tipsiness. This always happens. I talk about how much I love drinking. I spend all week excited for weekend pints. And then the minute the alcohol hits my brain I don’t want anyone around me to know I’ve been drinking. I feel paranoid and vulnerable. I have another pint.
After a heavy rain shower we walk back to the tram, heading home. We are going to have a fun dinner, possible involving pizza, and watch something fun, involving Netflix, to continue the celebration.
Due to my paranoia I’m grumpy. I snap back at things that didn’t warrant an angry reply. I want to be alone. I feel dizzy, a little nauseous and warm. I want another drink.
We buy some bottles in Tesco on the way home. Throughout all my years drinking, I’ve never been able to relax when I know the alcohol could end. The minute a bar calls last orders, or the host of a party points out they were running low, I immediately panic. A fight or flight reaction ignites though my body and I will walk anywhere in any weather to make sure that more alcohol is available.
I would hide full pints of cider under my coat leaving pubs so I could ‘down it’ on the street corner while waiting for a taxi. I would pour myself a gin when I got home at 4am and drink it standing in the dark kitchen alone. I went back to my friends house after her birthday a few years ago, blind drunk, insisted she open a bottle of red wine, sat in her kitchen with the blood red glass in front of me, chatted happily then popped to bed without taking a single mouthful. I just needed to know it was there.
We get back to our apartment after our tram adventures. I open one of the bottles of beer and bring it to the couch with me. Within ten minutes I’m fast asleep. I wake up briefly to take myself off to bed, taking a quick sip of the beer first, a little night cap.
The next morning I wake up. I’ve got a headache, a belly full of fear and a whole lot of freedom. And I wonder was there anything celebratory about my day before.
This was the moment I realised that, contrary to everything I believed, maybe I didn’t need alcohol to have fun. It felt unnerving but also like the opening of a door I didn’t even know was there.