8

What it’s like to be a 22 year old alcoholic

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Me at my 20th Birthday party…before I passed out on the sofa

“My name’s Kathy and I’m an alcoholic.”

Those were the words I thought I’d never be able to admit to myself.

But sitting in a dank and dreary church hall I found myself saying them to a dozen complete strangers.

This was the first step in my recovery.

I have now been sober for 17 days and feel happier than I have in months.

That’s 17 hangover free days, 17 days of not feeling sick or embarrassed or ashamed, 17 days of mental clarity, 17 days of thinking positively, 17 days of the rest of my life.

I’m not going to pretend that it’s been easy though.

It’s been so tempting just to have a sip of someone’s drink when it’s been offered to me, so tempting just to have one or two when I’ve been out with friends and everyone around me is getting loose and merry.

But my problem is that I could never just stop at one or two drinks.

I could never be content with feeling tipsy and most nights out would always descend into the oblivion of a blackout.

That’s what makes me an alcoholic.

When I went to my first Alcoholics’ Anonymous meeting I wasn’t yet sure if I was an alcoholic, or rather I didn’t want to admit it.

In my view giving myself the label of “alcoholic” would be hitting rock bottom.

But the truth was I’d already hit rock bottom long ago and then proceeded to plateau on the lower slopes for a while.

In the end admitting that I was an alcoholic wasn’t any scarier than anything I’d already been through due to alcohol and it was what has enabled me to take that first step on the ladder to spiritual recovery.

When you’re in your twenties most people turn a blind eye to your alcohol abuse since they think you’re just going through that “party phase” and are exercising a right to be young, wild and free.

But behind the laughter and the slurring of words there is often a deeper, darker expression of pain which no amount of wine or beer can hide.

It was when I woke up in hospital after falling over and suffering a concussion that I decided enough was enough.

I’d had enough of not remembering , enough of hearing second-hand about my drunken exploits, of being overcome with regret and shame, of putting myself in a position where I was vulnerable enough to be manipulated and abused, of having too many close calls and too many near misses.

It was time for a change.

I’m not going to be that crazy party girl anymore but that’s not really who I am anyway.

I’m a fun-loving extrovert, a journalist and writer, a dreamer, traveller, artist and musician and I don’t need alcohol to be any of these things.

Having suffered from depression and anxiety I have now had the epiphany that I also suffer from alcoholism – possibly the most deadly mental illness of all.

I say this because alcohol itself is a depressant so using it to cope with your problems is just a vicious cycle which will only ever make things worse.

It’s also too easy to hide.

Most girls my age go out and binge drink on the weekends, they fall over, they swear, they maybe have one or two more than they should but few people would consider that they could be alcoholics.

But that’s the thing about alcoholism.

It isn’t ageist or sexist, it doesn’t matter if you drink alone or with friends, if you get drunk every day or just binge on the weekends, if you do it at home or in a club.

There’s more than one way to be an alcoholic.

As someone who’s never been able to say no to a drink I’m looking forward to saying yes to a life of abstinence.

It doesn’t make me boring or dull but rather allows me to be me without the oppressive chains of an illness over which I have no control.

So the next time you’re egging your friend on to do a shot or drink up, or get another round in, just pause to consider if it’s really the best thing for them.

Alcohol is fine in moderation.

But for people like me it’s a curse.

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6

Treats and Tribulations: Part 1

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I’ve just started working in a dessert parlour called Treats on Manchester’s Curry Mile.

It’s not the worst job in the world but right now I’ve just come home from a 9hr shift and the thought of doing it all again tomorrow is bringing me out in a rash.

Still, a job’s a job and I really am in desperate need of the dollar.

My career development loan is taking so long to come through I’m beginning to wonder if all of the Co-op bank’s admin is done by carrier pigeons (at least it would be 0% emissions.)

Anyway, the author Philip Roth once said “Nothing bad can happen to a writer; It’s all material” so here is the first installment in a series where I shall chronicle the trials and tribulations of working at Treats.

First of all you should know that The Curry Mile is basically the hub of the Asian community in Manchester; a long strip of curry houses, shisha bars and the odd dessert place.

Treats is one of these and is positioned next to Afghan Cuisine and opposite our fierce rivals Gelato Passion.

One day I channelled my inner Bond-Bon girl as I was sent on a spy mission to buy a waffle from Gelato Passion so we could compare and contrast.

All I needed to disguise myself was to remove the plastic gloves and apron.

It was the perfect ruse.

My boss concluded that ours is better value but I decided not to point out that since we charge extra for strawberries and ice cream it works out at the same price.

Sorry, I’m waffling.

My manager Yasser is Syrian, as are my co-workers Luis,Mohammed, Einad and the younger Mohammed (who we call Moha) is half Syrian half Lebanese.

With the exception of Yasser and the older Mohammed, my co-workers aren’t very good at English and only ever speak Arabic to each other which often leaves me trying to figure out what’s being said from context and hand gestures.

I’ve also learnt to just smile and nod when they’re all laughing about something which I don’t understand.

Still, being a native English speaker does have its advantages since I’m able to advise on the spelling of labels for the cakes and other items. Eg. You can get a “shot” from the chocolate fountain not a “chocolate shut.”

We sell a wide range of cakes ice-cream, milkshakes, waffles and crepes as well as some things I’d never come across before like a pink Pakistani tea called Kashmiri chai and a dessert called Falooda (rose syrup, ice cream, vermicelli, milk and basil seeds) which is popular on the Indian sub-continent.

I’m paid below minimum wage at £5/hr when at 22 years old I should be earning at least £6.70.

When I tried to broach the subject with Yasser he just said “£5 is good for Curry Mile” and explained that the other guys get paid even less!

I know it’s not ideal but I’ve found it hard to find any other job and I know it’s not forever.

I also know that some of the others are in a much worse position.

Luis, for example has a degree in Financial Analysis which he completed in Jordan before he came to the UK.

He needed to improve his English in order to do a Masters but due to the conflict which broke out in Syria he has been unable to return home to visit his family and misses them a lot.

When he told me this it helped me to put things in perspective a little and made me grateful for the fact that even though I’ve moved away from home, I always know that my family are safe and well.

As a wise man once said:

“Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.” Forrest Gump

0

My unofficial guide to learning shorthand

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Shorthand; a necessary evil if you want to be a journalist.

It’s also the reason why I haven’t posted in forever since I’m expected to do two hours of practice every night.

That’s two hours of drilling special symbols, dictations and generally losing the will to live.

This level of dedication is however necessary since in order to pass my exam I’ll have to be at a speed of 100 words per minute.

FML

It’s not all bad though.

Our shorthand tutor Ed is young, good looking and laid-back and constantly tells us to not lose heart.

For anyone else who is embarking on this perilous journey to here is my guide to learning Teeline shorthand.

1.) Practice, practice, practice 

Shorthand is a skill and like many skills it comes easier to some. That said the best way to improve when you’re starting out is just to practice as much as possible. Once you’ve got the alphabet down and know some basic theory the best thing to do is keep going over and over your notes. Practice on the bus or the train. Make up sentences in your head and write them out in shorthand. Try to eavesdrop on conversations and transcribe them back. Use every spare second to spruce up your shorthand. It all makes a difference.

2.) Specials are your friend

Shorthand specials exist to make your life easier so every time you learn a new one make sure to commit it to memory. Make a little dictionary of specials and copy them over and over again until they become an automatic reflex. They’ll make your life easier in the long run. With Teeline there is also the possibility of making up your own specials in some cases so try out what works best for you. For example I use three ‘O’ indicators for over and over again. There’s also a girl on my course who uses the shorthand for the letter ‘Y’ when she wants to write ‘why.’  Whatever you do though just make sure you’re consistent.

3.) Size matters

If you’re shorthand isn’t as small as it can possibly be then you’re never going to improve on your speed. It’s as simple as that. Just make sure that you can discern between your bigger and larger letters. For example a small ‘w’ needs to be smaller than a ‘wr’ blend and likewise with the ‘mr’ and ‘lr’ blends.

4.) Use all the resources you can 

It’s best to use a range of resources. I would recommend  Shorthand Games for a funner way to practice the basics and Teeline Online for some free dictations.

5.) Get a grip

A pen with a rubber grip is a must, especially when you get up to higher speeds. If you don’t have one a rubber band works just as well to stop your pen from slipping.

6.) And finally….

1

MorocCATS – Chefchaouen

I’ve just come back from an amazing couple of weeks in Morocco! As a self confessed crazy cat lady, it wouldn’t have been a proper holiday if I hadn’t befriended and photographed all of the furry locals so look forward to more cat pics from my travels.

Chefchaouen is a beautiful town in northern Morocco and its characteristic blue and white buildings make the ideal backdrop for some perfectly poised putties…

ps. Stay at Hotel Souika if you want an extra dose of cat.

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This cheeky cat was trying to steal my breakfast..it’s hard to say no to those eyes though.

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A little cat family I found on the terrace of a restaurant.

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PicMonkey Photo

This is Mowgli and…

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…this is Simba.

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The two very cute resident cats in our hostel.

0

A day in the life of a final year languages student

These days I rarely get a chance to update my blog. In fact sometimes I forget I even have one until I tack it on to the end of my list of hobbies which I indulge in when I probably should be doing other things like reading about post-feminist film theory. Anyway, it occurred to me that even though the tagline of my blog is “the musings of a languages student” I’ve never actually done any sort of post which makes reference to studying languages or just being a student in general. So, here’s what a day in the life of a University of Exeter finalist is like…

8.00 am

Wake up and turn off annoying vintage style alarm clock.

8.15 am

Get up when proper phone alarm goes off.

8.30 am

Have breakfast: Weetabix with almond milk, pumpkin seeds and banana since I’m no longer just content that I’m saving the lives of enough animals by simply being vegetarian – veganism seems to be the ultimate ethical lifestyle.

9.00 am 

Walk/run to campus because I never seem to leave exactly on time.

9.35 am 

Enter Italian oral class flustered and sweaty from jogging up the hill and also because Devon has a weird humid climate even in January.

11.00 am

Head to the library to study and somehow seem to spend an hour doing nothing at all.

12.00 noon

Write an article about an anti-social seagull

13.00 pm

After waiting in a queue for quite a while I get a delicious wrap from a place on campus which is called “Comida” even though it has no connection to Spain/Spanish.

14.40 pm

Whilst being pensive during a French translation class I realise that I have a chin hair – merde.

15.30 pm

Decide to troll the student forum for Grad ball theme ideas by posting – “Cats cats cats – a party where everyone is a cat.”

16.00 pm

Read about post-feminism in the media

17.30 pm

Make dinner and face derision from housemates who snigger at my love for mushy peas and Linda McCartney sausages.

18.00 pm

Agree to going out even though I know I have to be up early tomorrow and I have lots of work to do.

21.00 pm

Go out on the premise that I will have one drink and one drink alone.

21.30 pm

I’ve had 4 drinks because it didn’t make sense not to benefit from the 2-4-1 cocktails deal.

22.00 pm

Dance in a club during a beats n bass night and feel that my arms are working independently to the rest of my body.

23.00 pm

Have a drunk conversation about life after university and plunge into a temporary existential crisis.

00.00 midnight

Walk home and take solace in the fact that there are many people much drunker than I am eg. a Rugby boy in a pink tutu

1 am

Debate whether or not to get chips

1.15 am

Get chips

2 am

Read e-mails and realise that I’ve got a place on a journalism course starting in September!

2.30 am

Lie awake with nervous excitement

3.30 am

Fall into a deep sleep filled with dreams about cats in formal wear.