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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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San Sebastián

I’m back in Northern Ireland now and although it’s lovely to be home again for a while I know I am going to miss Spain and my host family. For my last weekend I decided to go to San Sebastíán and I’m so glad I did! I left early on the Saturday and took a five hour bus journey to the North coast of Spain where the landscape slowly becomes more and more mountainous and green- I almost felt as though I was back in Ireland! When I arrived I had to check into my hostel which was called “Green Nest”  and was very appropriately named as it was surrounded by trees and had lovely views of the mountains and countryside.
The green green grass of....Spain

The green green grass of….Spain

 After checking in I decided to explore the city and find my bearings. If you’ve read my previous post about brief encounters you’ll know that I love meeting new people on my travels so I was thrilled when I met three lovely girls from Denmark at the bus stop called Cecile, Emily and Nena who happened to be staying at the same hostel. The first thing we did after getting the bus into the centre was to go to the Playa de la concha and swim in the sea. The weather was absolutely beautiful and Cecile and I made the most of the lovely water in the marina. This part of San Sebastián reminded me a lot of San Tropez and the French Riviera which I suppose makes sense since it’s almost directly on the opposite side of the med.
Me with Emily, Nena and Cecile

Me with Emily, Nena and Cecile

Chilling on the beach

Chilling on the beach

After this we had the chance to peruse the shops at our leisure and stroll along the quaint little streets. We were also lucky enough to see a cycling race called the Clásica de San Sebastián which was taking place that day and has been held annually since 1981. Later we sat on the wall by the Marina at dusk and enjoyed the view before heading back to the hostel.

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La clásica de San Sebastián

The marina at dusk

The marina at dusk

The city happened to be in the midst of festivals so there weren’t that many buses and we just managed to get the last one back at 9pm. The problem was that there were so many people that we couldn’t see where we were meant to get off and missed our stop but luckily the bus driver dropped us off near to where we needed to be and after a slight confusion about where we were we managed to find our way back. I enjoyed having dinner in the hostel and chatting to people of all nationalities. (I shared a dorm with girls from France, Israel and Holland!)

The next day I headed out on my own and explored the city a little further. It really is a beautiful place! I also had the opportunity to go to mass in the cathedral which was a very interesting experience because part of it was conducted in Basco; the regional language of the Basque country. I strolled through a lovely park, saw Zurriola beach and then made my way back to the train station by walking along the river.

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Classic Carousel

san s marinafab fountain san sme in san sview of a bridge

After a long bus journey back to Zaragoza I was pretty exhausted but I really enjoyed my time in San Sebastián and would recommend it to anyone 🙂