Right up until the moment I quit I thought I would always be a drinker. I would never give up alcohol. Life was too short to not drink, surely. I saw anyone who abstained as a bit weird, twisted even and certainly not my people. Drinking was my identity: it wasn’t so much something I did, as who I was.
I wasn’t an alcoholic (although it’s a spectrum) but I rarely went a day without alcohol: a glass of wine, maybe two. Weekends were always an event, whether I was staying in or going out and hangovers were a normal part of life.
My drinking career had been long and illustrious. I drank the most exotic drinks in the coolest places: glowy blue cocktails in Vegas, vodka shots on the arctic circle as the northern lights swam overhead; all night sessions, dancing with pop stars in neon London clubs; Moscow Mules in St Petersburg; Absinth adventures in Hoxton; I prided myself on being able to go harder and longer than everyone else.
Summer 2005 (and most weekends before and after)
One Friday night in June, I was dancing on a table in a cool little club off Regent Street, London. The super famous pop star whose album launch we were celebrating passed me a whiskey and coke and we clinked glasses. Cucooned in a VIP bubble of celebrities, randoms and club cats we threw back tequilas, champagne and partied into the early hours. Warm belonging and electric exctement, wrapped around me in exquisite pleasure. Nights like these should never end.
I wanted to bottle that night and put it alongside all the other nights I had collected. A drinks cabinet of good vibes I could sip from regularly.
As time went on, drinking became like having a time machine in which I could travel back to a former version of myself. If I drank enough I would sometimes get to 17 years old: Giggly but smart, fun but sexy, dancy and dangerous. Other times 22, full of hope and swagger. Don’t you ever feel free if you drink enough? Like you used to when you were younger?
Reality, That Whinging Bitch
30 or 40 something isn’t giggly, fun, dancy or dangerous. It’s responsible, serious, demanding and frumpy. Well, that’s how it felt to me.
Somehow I feel like I have been trying to replicate the past for a long time. The right music, the right lighting, the right cocktails and we could almost be back in 1999. Other people are dancing and laughing, feeling like they are being better versions of themselves, just for the night. I was getting something else from my drunkenness: as far away from ‘normal’ as possible.
When can we do that again?
We must book another night!
When can we all go back to when we were free? WHEN!?
The Nowness Of Now
Back when I was drinking it wasn’t as if I spent every dry minute in a state. I did a great job at being ‘good’ in all the ways that mattered. I was an okay mum, an okay mate and an okay songwriter. Life was okay and I was coping with it’s uncompromising ‘nowness’.
I was coping. I was okay. I was fine….(which stands for Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional, in case you didn’t know).
The more I ran from boredom, the more boring real life became and the less focus I was able to give to its inherent goodness. If you spend today longing for tomorrow then you are literally wishing your life away.
And Then One Day I Quit
I quit. One day I realised that drinking had stopped being awesome. It was no longer occasional, celebratory and life giving. It had become routine, run of the mill and life sapping. Drinking wasn’t my identity anymore, it was somebody else’s: a Liz from the past. I needed to find the real me, in the present.
The awesome highs I had once loved were now few and far between, replaced by a sort of duty to an old friend: a drinking routine that was fuelling anxiety and deep seated guilt.
So, I had an awakening. In a split second everything flipped from black to white. From seemingly impossible to possibly limitless. In a moment I knew I never wanted to be shackled to alcohol again. Yes, it had been good but the party was over and it was time to get my coat.
It still shocks me now to think that I did it. It shocked everyone who knows me too. But there it is. I quit.
Alcohol The Thief
I stopped doing the thing that was taking me away from me. The thing that denied me the opportunity to embrace my life and be everything I could be, here in this moment. Alcohol was severing my connection with myself. It was stealing my time on this earth.
I removed the escape pod and got reacquainted with now. Without alcohol, without intoxicants to escape I was forced to get to know myself right here in this part of my life.
Meeting myself in the now with no place to hide has been the most liberating experience of my life. That is not an exaggeration. Finding out who I really am when I don’t have the opportunity to get wasted has been better than any party I have ever been to.
Grabbing Life By The Balls
I have learnt that I am stronger than I thought, lighter hearted than I feared and more dedicated than I ever imagined. My thoughts are clear and linear and my memory is actually really good when I am not fighting the haze of drunk recall. I have concluded that I am more than okay, I am really good.
Life is more than okay, it’s incredible. The richness of experience I now enjoy doesn’t even compare to being drunk. I don’t have to bottle it and drink from it later. I am in it every day, being, doing, living. I don’t want to miss one bit of it.
I sometimes feel invincible. As if I could do anything I put my mind to. Then again sometimes I feel crappy and bored, as if nothing is going my way. I doubt myself and the decisions I have made. So guess what I do? I face my feelings and I deal with them because I know that I have the resources I need and I also know that problems, inevitably, come and then go.
Nothing lasts forever. Not youth. Not fun. Not wine. Not misery.
This life won’t last forever either. How incredibly sad is that. So I intend to live every minute of it, touching it, feeling it and remembering it. Because, my friends, this too shall pass.