What else did I give up in the Labyrinth? Yeah, yeah, apart from my sanity (ho ho). J
Jeez, I can hear you (no need to shout, honestly) – what a bloody miserable goody two-shoes she’s becoming. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love alcohol. Well, I love spirits. And the spirits love me. I had my first gin aged about ten and I could probably still drink most guys under the table providing we stuck to the hard stuff. Wine and beer? Not so much. Mix ‘em and it gets pretty nasty.
Alcohol has run through my life like a narcotic river. My father was apparently an alcoholic, though a functioning one. I don’t remember him drunk; only sad. But while he went down the pub, my mother went hungry and we didn't get shoes. When he ran out of money, he brewed his own beer and the smell of malt and hops still makes me a bit queasy to this day. Yup, I’m married to a man who makes his living from the stuff – the irony is not lost.
I’ve known a few people who have battled with booze and lost the fight, losing themselves along with their work, their homes, their families, their friends, their dignity. Others came out the other side of the bar and are stronger, more honest people for it. I admire them enormously. People joke about alcohol - time and again I've heard people laughing their heads off saying, 'Oh, I'm such an alcoholic!' like it's fun, like it's a smart thing. It ain't. It's losing your hair and killing your liver; it's vomit and piss and tears and bloody anguish. Don't ever joke about alcoholism.
Of course not everyone becomes an alcoholic, no matter how much they drink. My second father, Big Black Erik the Aboriginal Viking, drank like a bloody fish and did some pretty wild things under the influence but he could give it up pretty much any time. That was me too. At that early point in the Labyrinth I don’t think I even talked to Marek about alcohol – he just said he didn’t drink (apart from virtually, of course) but he talks about it in more detail (and with extreme honesty) in Symphonic Bridges.
I can hear the voices again (I really need ear-plugs). Don’t be such a sour-puss, don’t be such a spoilsport. And again, I’d say, I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink. I’m just telling you what I’ve been up to this last year and why I made the choices I did.
|Possessed or pissed? Hard to tell, huh?|
When we get drunk we get possessed, we really do. We let down the barriers. The occultists say that you should never get seriously drunk because your aura becomes leaky and the spirits (yeah) can hop in and hitch a ride. A Jungian would say that being drunk lets out your shadow (no real surprise that people pick fights or screw around when they're pissed). A shaman would say you may meet the ally – which can be either very good or very bad (typical bloody shamans – fecking infuriating. But we’ll talk about that later).
|Yes she did look like that!|
When I think back to the things I did when I was drunk, I really wince. Admittedly I was young but still….aaghhh. Taking off petrol caps and tossing in lit matches? Smart huh? Jumping into the Thames at midnight in the middle of winter with snow on the ground? Smashing my fist through a window? Lying comatose on the floor so a passing log broke my hand in so many places they couldn't even begin to set it? Picking fights with guys four times my size in dodgy clubs? Waking up in a strange bed and talking to a poster of Farrah Fawcett-Major because I hallucinated it as my friend Sig? Waking up in my own bed with absolutely no idea how I got there because the last thing I could remember was…no, I really couldn’t remember. I couldn’t even move my head. All I could do was look directly upwards and watch my bra swinging gently on the overhead light in the breeze from the open window. I couldn’t even turn my head to see if I had anyone else in bed with me.
When I think back I was bloody lucky I never ended up raped or dead.
But hey, you’re saying, that’s all very interesting and didn't we all do crazy things when we were young but now we’re all sensible grown-ups we drink in moderation, don’t we? We chill out with a few glasses of wine after a tough day in the office; we have a civilised G&T at “gin o’clock”. It’s sociable; it’s civilised; it helps us relax and it’s fun.
Well, it depends. It depends how you use alcohol and what you want from it and from your life.
For me, alcohol had become another deadener. Another way to opt out. Another distraction, another diversion, another way not to face what was going on (or rather what was being denied) in my head, in my life. It was acting as a narcotic and an analgesic. When I downed a few glasses of wine it took the edges off; it numbed the tedium. And I didn’t want that anymore. I needed to see clearly. I needed to feel acutely.
Because I was lucky enough not to be addicted to alcohol, my self-prescribed ‘ban’ hasn’t been total. I have had a few drinks this year, for various reasons – once in Stoke Newington; once with Lizzy; once at shabbat in Tel Aviv and once…but that’s another story… J. And I’m not saying I’ll never drink not never again. Sometimes it does no harm to disorder the senses a bit, to shake the tree. But generally, no.
Have there been consequences for me? Quite a few… Let’s have a look…
Advantages of not drinking:
Skin becomes much softer (less de-hydrated)
Eyes become clear and bright – goodbye to that fetching bloodshot look
Tongue loses that furry covering (actually that’s a bit of a disadvantage too as I kinda loved scraping that off).
Mood evens out. Yup, alcohol is a depressant to the central nervous system.
Weight loss. Oh yeah, alcohol packs a hefty calorific punch and you also need to take into account the nibbles you eat while you’re drinking and the big fat takeaway that calls to you as you leave the pub.
People dump you. Seriously, it’s the best way to find out who your real friends are.
You see clearly.
Disadvantages of not drinking:
You see clearly.