Hi, I'm Em and I'm not an alcoholic.
When I was younger, maybe from the age of 16-18 (prime binge drinking years) I never really drank that much. I'm not sure why this was the case, but i never really got it. Perhaps it was because I hadn't yet developed a taste for wine and I was too scared to admit to my mates that I didn't really like vodka, perhaps it was because I wasn't old enough to buy it. Or perhaps, more likely, it was because I was scared of losing control and embarrassing myself.
Unsurprisingly, I eventually outgrew this fear and in the years that followed I have been sick in many a place, forgotten countless nights and well and truly got the hang of social drinking. I know my limits, I know that prosecco gives me killer headaches and that jaegerbombs stop me from sleeping. I love to be out drunk and dancing on Thursday nights through to Sunday morning and I know how to navigate a hangover (packet of pomme-bears and a full fat coke) but I also know that if I'm at home in front of the telly, of an evening, that I don't need a glass of wine, in fact, it wouldn't ever occur to me that this was even an option. (To my mind that's still a luxury saved for exhausted mothers when the kids have gone to bed).
But then, as I have blogged about a fair amount in the last few weeks, I developed a bastard of a stomach condition (IBS on acid basically) and was told that, for the next six months at least, I couldn't drink. (Nor could I have caffeine, sugar, red meat, gluten, dairy etc etc.) Initially, as I have spoken about in the past, caffeine was the real bitch to kick. Without my realising, somewhere along the line I had developed a caffeine addiction and that was to date, the hardest thing that I have ever done. By comparison, I didn't think that drink would be that big of an issue for me to stop, like I say, I was a social drinker through and through, surely I could suck it up for half a year and celebrate in the fact that unlike my hopeless friends I could have weekends totally untainted by hangovers?
I think I might have been being a little bit naive.
Since I haven't been able to drink I have had to do the following things sober: halloween. A drinks party. A 10pm dinner with drunken friends. A theatre trip. A few hours in a nightclub. Six dinner parties. Countless other nights with friends, at their houses and out at restaurants.
There have of course been elements of this that have been good; I've saved a small fortune by not spunking all money on shots that no one wanted in the first place. I know for a fact that I haven't accidentally insulted someone and then forgotten about it. I have got a shit tonne more done at the weekends. I have been a useful guest and a good host. I haven't thrown up in ages. (High fives all round.) But accompanying that smug feeling, there is also a very big sense of FOMO filling my little world right now. I had to leave the Halloween party at 1am because I was so tired, in fact, I have been the first to leave pretty much every occasion since my diagnosis and have simply not bothered going to everything else because I know that I won't be able to enjoy it if I'm sober and miserable. (I also ought to add at this point that the condition does make me feel ill quite a lot so I know that when my stomach is the size of a beach ball and i feel like I'm birthing an alien that I won't be good company).
Last night was my toughest one to date. I was at a dinner party with a group of people that I really didn't know that well. They were all either from a military background or Northern Irish, so drank, a LOT, and everyone was there for a good time. I didn't want to have to explain to every person there (who has only ever met me in the past when I've just had the one eye open and dribble falling out of my mouth) why I wasn't drinking, I didn't want to be a bore. But if I'm honest, that's a pretty tricky situation to navigate. I lasted remarkably well if I say so myself, only leaving at 3.30am and when I got into bed I thought 'yes Em, at least you didn't miss all the fun stuff...' only to realise this morning that everyone else called it a night at 8.30am and if their stories are to be believed, all the juicy stuff happened in the five hours between my departure and normal people's breakfast time.
There's no flipping way that I could have lasted until that time. No way on earth. So, what? Am I just destined to miss out on everything until I can eventually start ripping my liver to shreds again? Will I even have any friends left or invitations arriving if that's the case? And more pressingly than any of that, my main concern is a question that I can't shake from my mind: am I even interesting to anyone when I've not had a drink?
I obviously wasn't the one that initiated the table dancing last night. I wasn't the one that thought it would be funny to start a mashed potato fight and I was the first one to escape from the rowdy group hugs. And so as my friends all woke up this morning and rubbed the sleep out of their eyes, and the red wine stains from their teeth, did they remember that I was there at all? Do I appear in any anecdote? Or was my contribution to the evening nothing more than warming up the soup that everyone ate for dinner?
Well the good news is, they were all pissed. So they won't remember ANY of it. They won't remember how the table dancing started, they'll just be tentatively aware that it happened. They won't remember who it was that was responsible for the chunk of mashed potato hurtling towards their face and they of course won't remember a bloody thing about any big hugs, least of all who was in it and who had the bad manners to back out first, they also won't remember that it was I that warmed the soup, but I'm okay with that.
There are two ways that I can look at this really:
It's fucking shit, this is the worst six months of my life, no one gives a shit about you, you're boring, this will be a year of your life that will have NO good stories in it. OR. This is fucking shit, this is the worst six months of my life, but it's not forever, my friends still love me, booze does not make me an interesting person, on the contrary, it makes me a hot mess nine times out of ten and this is a year of your life that will be filled with the best stories because you will remember all the MORTIFYING things that my friends did.
Alcohol is a very funny thing, and I'm not proud to say that I do miss it, I really do.
But. I realised last night as No Scrubs came through the speakers that there was not a reason on this earth that I couldn't dance to that. No, it didn't come as naturally to me as it does when I'm inebriated BUT, nobody else in that room knew it, to them, I was just somebody else having a good time. And to my friend who's party it was? Well I was a fucking God send because I was ready and waiting to kick start the clean up operation for them today, feeling fresh as a daisy.