I hate it when Mum asks me what I’ve been up to as there is no way proper to say “Binge drinking”. It is not socially acceptable to inform your Mother that you drank so much in one sitting you threw up when you got home. At some point this morning. Maybe 2-4 am. I’m not sure. That’s a Blackout for you. Unconcious time-travelling. In the snap of my fingers, I went from leaning against a bar to waking up, in bed, face to face with crimson puck saturating on my cream carpet. Yep, there’s that Shiraz I ordered. Money well spent, I think. My hangover was so intense I could barely stand while showering. That’s when you know you’ve really done a number on yourself. When you have to lie fetal in the shower to make yourself clean.
Here in Sydney Australia, It’s the evening. I am still recovering 8 hours after waking up. My head feels like it was operated on. Today, was another beautiful sunny day. When I moved here 18 months ago, I assumed I would be healthier due to Sydney’s abundance of Sunshine. I’d become an outdoors person. A jogger. A Yogi. I’d meditate, eat kale, and never have another blackout again. But as I rest here on my bedroom floor, lying profusely to my Mother, I cannot pretend anymore. I have a problem.
I know I sound like an alcoholic, but believe me, I’m not. I’m a binge drinker. After another heavy night a few months ago I went four months without drinking. I don’t crave it. I can work, eat and play all week without drinking. However, I am there are many shades of addiction. The problem lies when I start drinking. As soon as a red wine hits my lips, it’s full steam ahead. Guns blazing into oblivion. Red wine is my biggest downfall. I love the stuff. I love it so much I find it impossible to stop appreciating it. After just a couple of drinks, it’s like the devil on my shoulder leaps into action. The angel on my left is disconnected, and that self-sabotaging beast yells “Another!!! Fuck a glass, Let’s order a bottle. Then some arsehole (usually me) orders shots, 7 hours go by and hello sick covered carpet.
I’m not religious, but I do like the analogy of the devil whispering into my shoulder. It sums up the voice in my head who encourages me to keep going. I am not alone in hearing that subtle voice of temptation after a few. All my friends drink like I do. We all promise to have just a few.
“Just the one Sarah.”
1 turns into 3. 3 turn into 20. Fast forward 9 hours and you have 6 adults struggling to bathe. I’ve spent today like I always do after listening to my shoulder demon. Alone. Avoiding civilisation and direct Sunlight. The plan for my day. Excessive amounts of Netflix, ice-cream and complex carbohydrates smothered in dairy. The diet always starts tomorrow. I avoid looking at my bank statement. I don’t want to know how much I spent because this only increases my shame spiral. I’m meant to be saving for, oh I don’t know, a future. Another day procrastinating. Avoiding my goals. Staring at the ceiling wondering why the fuck I keep doing this to myself.
Britians binge drinking levels are among the highest in the world, and Australia isn’t far behind. Revenue from alcohol sales in England would plummet by £13bn if customers complied with the recommended drinking guidelines. No one it seems drinks the recommended limit. In a major study regarding a healthy level of alcohol consumption published in the Lancet medical journal alcohol led to 2.8 million deaths in 2016. It was the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability in the 15 to 49 age group, accounting for 20% of deaths.
“Current alcohol drinking habits pose “dire ramifications for future population health in the absence of policy action today”, says the paper. “Alcohol use contributes to health loss from many causes and exacts its toll across the lifespan, particularly among men.”
Most national guidelines suggest there are health benefits to one or two glasses of wine or beer a day, they say. Something I regularly remind myself if I’m feeling a bit guilty having a wine (probably many) with my evening meal. However, the results are in. The new recommended amount is none. The safest level of drinking is zero. This would be easier to digest if you weren’t encouraged to drink all throughout the day. You can buy a bottle at the cinema now. As I sat down last week at my hairdressers, she poured me a Processco. From the Bar, she has just finished installing in the back of her salon. The women now has Processco on tap. You can even buy beer at the gym. When you think you can escape the constant stream of persuasion from friends, billboards, supermarkets and the vast array of bars scattered on today’s high street, it’s right there on your TV. Glamourised in commercials. Enforcing a message. Drinking is normal. You should do it on your own, at work, with your friends. It’s sexy. It brings people together. You will be left out if you don’t.
It is isolating to imagine a world where you don’t drink. When I expressed this issue with friends, they laughed. This is why I am here in Sydney. To have fun, adventures. Not to worry about things too much. In many ways, I am fortunate. I have a great job as an art consultant. I have lived in Dubai & London. I have backpacked across Europe, America and most recently Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. I have future plans to visit New Zealand, South America and many other places. However, I am anxious. Somehow along the way drinking has become a vital part of my life. I’m placing grog above everything. Savings. My health, my happiness, my personal goals. Drinking takes over my weekend. It is at the centre of my socialising. My go-to fix for a stress release. Alcohol is number 1 on my radar for dealing with life. And it’s taking its toll.
I have been anxious since I was a kid. I’ve had many low moments and several times in my life I’ve had prescribed antidepressants. Anxiety & Depression is common. I don’t know many people who aren’t suffering from something and like me, handling it in the wrong way. My health is never a priority. My confidence stems from how much I have drunk. There are days when an intense feeling of hopeless dissolves my insides. I still haven’t lost the Christmas weight I put on six years ago. I’m not in a Career I love. I am not where I wanted to be at this point in my life. And it’s my fault. I’ve been running from my issues for years. Now approaching the end of my twenties, I realise how tragic it is that I am still uncomfortable in my own skin. So, in short, I am not putting up with this shit in my thirties. The anxiety, self-sabotaging behaviour and lack of productivity are going.
This is my project. If I am going to be dry for 12 months, it is going to be worth it. Goals which I had hoped to have completed will be slowly ticked off during the next year. Some are travel goals. I want to throw myself into Nature. Others are more emotional (corny), and one is hopefully going to lead me down a much more creative career path.
- Swim with Whales in Exmouth
- Snorkel with Turtles in the Barrier Reef.
- See the Milky Way
- Volunteer – do something Nobel
- Meditate in Milsons point, New Zealand.
- Salsa dance in Buenos Aires
- Get my health back.
- Change Careers
- Finish my Novel.
- Lose the Anxiety.
- Start singing again.
- 12 months sobriety starting with 16/10/18