Friday 18 November 2011

How I became a sour-faced spoilsport boring goody-two-shoes

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:
No hangovers
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. 


Alison Cross said...

It's not sour-pussery, so don't think that we're thinking that, we're not!

Makes perfect sense - if you want to feel better, one needs to stop depressing one's system.

Mind you, you HAVE done some wild stuff under the influence. I usually drink too much and end up weeping quietly in a corner and muttering about how my mother doesn't love me ROFPML!

Keep going. We're reading!

Rachel Selby said...

This one is very interesting as I'm not around people who drink other than a glass of wine or two on a Friday night, another shnapps and a glass of wine at tLunch on Saturday and that's pretty much it unless we go out to eat ot it's a special occasion.
I believe there is an alcoholic gene and it's not prevalent amongst Jews. We eat. Thus we can see very clearly how fat and out of shape we are. (not everyone obviously).
I'm finding your journey fascinating and all the more so for being an account of what happened rather than a list of resolutions for the future. Thank you.

Exmoorjane said...

@Ali - What's really worrying is that I've probably got no memory of the REALLY wild stuff. :) And, yeah, that's a good point actually - alcohol CAN bring the truth out sometimes... xxx

@MSM (btw, I call you MSM here as you don't use your real name on your blog so didn't want to assume) lmk if you'd rather I used the R word. :)
Alcoholism and alcohol-related issues are definitely partly genetic. I once went to interview Billy Idol with a Malaysian photographer and we had a drink in the bar and he went bright red and nearly passed out after one drink. Said it was a genetic thing. And yes, some nations are far more prone to alcohol abuse than others - though I think often that can be cultural and geographical.
Glad you're enjoying the journey...not entirely sure if I am or not but hey..promises, promises. :)

F said...

I don't drink much these days, though yes there were some raucous times in my youth. (Which surprises exactly no one, I'm sure.)

Em doesn't drink, and unlike Britain and parts of the US, to get anything stronger than a weak beer in Sweden you have to go to one of the state-owned stores. Which is fine (some people complain bitterly) but I have to actually want something to bother.

Sometimes I like a drink when the mood takes me. It's a mellow, put on some jazz and light some candles and pour a glass of wine and be cozy in my house kind of mood. I enjoy that.

Exmoorjane said...

@Frankie - think that stance wouldn't hurt here - a part of the UK's drink 'problem' is related to cheap as chips supermarket alcohol. Funnily enough this house has enough alcohol to host a week-long party. Just that I don't touch it. Adrian only drinks beer - talking of Adrian, funny thing, he just read this post and said, 'Yeah... I'm off down the pub.' :)
I knew there was something we really disagreed on and now I've remembered it... Jazz. :)

Expat mum said...

I recently did a fun DNA thing on my youngest child. It was more to find out about ancestry (which we didn't) but I found out quite a few health things, including the fact that he has a 1.5 to 2.5 times higher risk of alcoholism than your average punter. Not sure if that's from my side or the other half's and to be honest, neither side would surprise me.
I drink a small amount of wine almost every night (which is far too much, even if you're only considering the calories), but never get drunk. The hangover just isn't worth it to me.
In my 20's working in London, however, it was drinks in the wine bars almost every night after work. Like you, I cannot believe I somehow didn't meet my demise.

Tattieweasle said...

I dont think alchohol does much for me either it is a sop liek most sugarey food becasue I don't know what to do and feel a tad sort of left.
I'd liek to think I can do soemthing but i'm scared about failing...silly really. I shoudl eb old enough to get on with it.
But I get whjere you have been..

F said...


"I knew there was something we really disagreed on and now I've remembered it... Jazz."

You should try Morphine. (The band. :) They go right to my pelvis.

(God I love saying "pelvis." It sounds so dirty.)

Yeah, we have a stash of liquor that gets used more for baking than drinking. (Though come to think of it, a splash of brandy might be nice, if I can be bothered to lug out the kitchen stool to reach it.)

Rachel Selby said...

After decades of virtually no alcoholism and no drinking culture here in Israel, we now have a small (compared to Europe) drinking culture among teens and growing problems. It started with the huge Russian (FSU) immigration in the early 90s. Very many of them were/are not Jewish and drank. Partly the Soviet culture/cold weather/depression and I'm sure partly genetic.
Btw - My real name is displayed prominantly on my blog so are welcome to call me Rachel if you like.

Anonymous said...

Tanks for mansion... :o)

Anonymous said...

Next step... Coffee? :o)

F said...

I love coffee. :)

Anonymous said...

Off course, you do, Frankie! :oD

Exmoorjane said...

I only drink decaf...I love the smell and taste of coffee but don't like what it does to the adrenals... :)

Exmoorjane said...

@Rachel - where?

F said...

I don't object to decaf but it's virtually impossible to find here, and then only in a medium roast. I like it strong, and the darker the better. Speaking of coffee...

Anonymous said...

The leader of Poland's top heavy metal band, Acid Drinkers, says: 'When I drink, I feel like shit in the morning. But when I don't drink, I feel like shit in the evening.' And I don't think he means decaf... How are you this morning, BTW? :o)

Zoë said...

sounds like you have been on the journey I have been on in the past 20 years, I dont drink - cant drink as it makes me very ill (allergy/drugs combo problems)

Its when you resolutely refuse cake and puddings people begin to think you are from another planet. They hate you being that virtuous.

When they tell me how virtuous I am I want to hit them! I am simply trying to live a little longer and protect my sight - alcohol and sugar both have a detrimental affect on my eyes! But who wants to get into all that when refusing a drink or cake? So I just play along!

K like the odd cider - as for your antics when you were younger it sounded like Robyn's lifestyle now! Kids *rolls eyes*

Milla said...

Oh God, I just love wine. I adore sauvignon blanc. We give up every January and I feel vaguely resentful that I feel no better for it, just smug. Some weeks don't drink, but tend to every weekend. But not spirits, not red wine and never ever beer. I've tripped sipping E's over the years and can't get beyond sour, nasty, thin, horrid.
I'm loving this series of blogs. You're not being smug at all. But I still like a venal pointless slob in comparison.

Anonymous said...

Milla... Seconded... Dr Eye Wytte is good for ya... (Ab)so(l)u(te)l(y)... :o)

Dump Him Love said...

I agree with almost every word of this post but at the moment to stop for me feels like one more loss. I do know, however, that I feel much better when I don't drink. Btw who are these people who think you're a sourpuss?

skybluepinkish said...

I have been alcohol free for six weeks. It may not seem a long time but it's a huge step for me. Perhaps one day I will have a glass of wine but not for a long time yet.

Family history plays a powerful part, I too had a functioning alcoholic father (who eventually in his seventies stopped altogether). I not only wanted to stop for me, but for my children. I didn't want them to have a functioning alcoholic for a mother.

I only drank wine, I rarely touched spirits, the very occasional G&T but I could put a lot of wine away and I did it on a daily basis.

Now I am more productive (hey I have my evenings back), and I can sign up to everything on your list! I would love to be able to have the occasional glass of wine, to sit outside in the evening with a chilled Chablis and watch the swallows swoop. But the price is too high and I won't and I feel so much better and so much stronger for that.

Is it serendipity or is it that we seek what we need? Recently several people I know both well and in passing, both IRL and on the net have talked about not drinking. It's good to know I am not alone.