8

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

so-sober

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.

1

My unofficial guide to dating

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Well they’re not my favourite pair…

Disclaimer: Before you read any further please be advised that I am actually the real life incarnation of Bridget Jones (I’ve even gone to a party dressed up as a bunny when everyone else shunned fancy dress) therefore I am in no way a relationships expert. Any advice I give is purely my own opinion and you heed it at your own risk 🙂

1.) Delete Tinder
Do it now! Tinder may seem like fun but no matter how many stories you’ve heard of people who found their other half on it you’re most likely just to end up with a load of pervy messages and a swiping addiction.  I’ve never actually been on a Tinder date since the one time I did try to arrange a meeting the boy stood me up *cry*.  In the end I just had loads of matches and was meaninglessy making small talk and engaging in pun wars with people I was never likely to meet in real life. An app can and never will replace the feeling of meeting someone in a bar or a club. It takes away all of the romance, the rush you feel when your eyes meet across the dancefloor, that nervous beating in your chest. It’s time to take instruction from the ever wise Dora the explorer. Swiper no swiping! Adios Tinder.

2.) Get out there!
Now that you’ve deleted Tinder you’ll have lots more time to actually go out and meet new people. You can’t complain about never meeting someone special when all you do is stay at home and watch Titanic in your underwear. Don’t be afraid to make new friends by going to different places and perhaps joining a new club. It can be all too easy to always stick with your same circle of friends but branching out will give you more confidence and ultimately increase your chances of finding Mr. Right.

3.) Don’t rule out the “boring” ones
Ok so he doesn’t have tattoos or ride a motorcycle but the boy with glasses who’s reading the Independent will most likely be kind, friendly, loyal and less likely to have a criminal record. “Interesting” boys like troubled artists who smoke weed, write poetry and wear bandanas may make you think you’re in love at the beginning but in time you’ll realise that you fundamentally have little in common. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go for a certain type of guy. Just don’t make that your only reason for falling for him.

4.) Don’t be too crazy
We’ve all done crazy things in the name of love like stalking someone on Facebook or perhaps solliciting a tarot reading to ask questions about them (not me of course) but it can help to take a step back and ask yourself if it’s really love or just infatuation. It can be easy to come on a bit too strong and make it obvious that you like someone. Play it cool in the beginning. I don’t necessarily mean wait three days to text back or some other silly rule. Just try to figure out if he likes you too. Are you always the one to initiate chats and dates or is it a two-way street?

5.) Spanx to the max
So you’ve been asked out on a date. Congratulations! Now the only problem is deciding what to wear. Unless you’ve been born with perfect genetics or are extremely athletic you’re likely to have some body hang ups. Whatever else I’m wearing I always feel most confident when I have my Bridget Jones knickers on and confidence is extremely attractive. So go on, buy yourself a pair! You won’t have to suck in your stomach anymore!

6.) Be yourself
Who else would you be? When you’re on a date it can be tempting to come across as a better version of yourself by stifling your snort when you laugh or denying you have an unhealthy obsession with cats. It’s these little things however that make you who you are and if they’re enough to turn off your date then he isn’t worth your time in the first place. It might not seem like it but one day you’ll find someone who loves you for all of your little quirks and won’t run a mile when you tell him you have four cats.

7.) Never sext!
Dirty texts are fine (if you have a way with words) but it’s best not to send naked pictures of yourself, ever. There’s always the chance that you’ll accidentally add it to a group message, your boss sees it or it ends up going to the wrong recipient. It’s also best not to give anyone material with which they could potentially blackmail you in the future. Even snapchats can be screen shotted and remember that once something’s on the internet it will haunt you forever.

8.) Sexpectations
You’ve probably heard your granny say at some point that “men only want one thing” and sadly that can be true. Don’t feel pressured into jumping between the sheets if you don’t feel ready and never do it on the first date – no matter how hot he is. Physical intimacy is an important part of relationships but  someone who respects your boundaries and makes you feel comfortable is worth waiting for.

9.) Don’t argue over the bill
Being the modern woman that I am, I personally prefer to always pay my own way and split the bill. If however the guy fervently insists on picking up the tab I’m not going to kick up a fuss – it would be unseemly and ultimately quite awkward. Sometimes I think boys just like to pay to assert their masculinity. Either way, it’s up to you how you react but there are worse things than having someone buy you dinner.

10.) Don’t stop believing
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. You may have to wade through a sea of frogs and go on some downright ghastly dates till you find your Prince, but he’s out there, trust me. He may not ride a white horse but you’ll find him eventually. Don’t let bad experiences with the other sex knock your confidence or get you down.  There’s someone, somewhere waiting for you, and he’s wondering why you’re taking so bloody long to get there!