For a long time I thought I had a love/ hate relationship with alcohol. You know, the one that nearly all of us who sometimes have way too much to drink have. Waking up hungover, mouth like Gandhi’s sandal. Headache, nausea and a screaming desire to piss but an equally urgent one to not move for fear of setting off the trembler device on the bomb in your stomach.
Sometimes waking up still shitfaced, room spinning, fully clothed. Maybe a black eye, or a personal possession mysteriously gone.
Or when on holiday, waking up face down in a ditch with no memory of falling into it, nor of deciding that pine needles were just so comfy to lay on.
Or the crowning achievement. Waking up next to a woman/ man you don’t remember bringing back with you. Bonus points if they are actually attractive.
I’ve done this type of thing in varying degrees for many years and 8 summers in the tranquil, beatific paradise that is Plakias, Crete, Greece where my father retired to in 1996.
I’ve also done it in England, the USA and the Republic of Moldova. I’ve danced on tables in Chisinau. Shagged women in Georgia. Drunk red wine under the Colosseum in Rome, and got in to a bar brawl in London.
That euphoria of the cloak of invulnerability that comes down when I’ve had way too much beer. That sense of humour that makes most things funny. Simply not giving a shit. Finding the bottle to chat up the attractive girl at the bar. All that was what I thought I wanted.
But there’s also been a flip side that for many years I tried to ignore and/ or cope with.
Waking up sweating with a dry mouth and feeling guilty for things I did when I was 7.
Spending an entire day or even two days feeling dog tired but knowing that I won’t be able to sleep from dawn till dusk even if I try.
The emotional chaos that I’d fought so hard to keep down for so long, and was so easy to do in a sober mood with techniques refined from childhood, now torn to shreds by 8 pints of Bastard Strength lager and 5 Jager bombs.
Feeling paranoid and getting “The Fear” so bad that I shun all human contact like a beaten kennel puppy.
Losing the respect of friends and alienating casual acquaintances.
Having blackouts where I’m later told that I was saying things that ranged from “inappropriate” to “it’s a fucking good job they knew you were drunk”.
The list goes on.
This horrendous, enveloping chaos that caused my mind to cannibalise itself was always something I tried to dismiss as unimportant. My friends loved booze so why didn’t I?
This morning I yet again woke up with a shitty hangover and lay on the tacky bed sheets until about 12pm, wondering if I could somehow just ooze there all day and blot out the world. I finally crawled out and spent the entirety of today wondering if I upset the person I was talking to while Portugal played France on two big screen TVs in the local taverna. Red wine and beer churning through my veins, I was paranoid and anxious but looking back on it there was absolutely NOTHING to justify feeling that way.
Right now it’s 9.40pm and about 23 celsius. Everything around me is a lot sweeter, vivid and pure through being booze purged for the last 3 days. Now the yammering nancies of my negative psyche have been banished to the basement, I can reflect on life without shields of suspicion held before me like medieval sigils.
Alcohol is neither great nor shit. It’s not booze that’s the problem. It’s my mindset and personality when I take it to excesses that cause me to crumble like autumn leaves under a size 10 boot heel. Sitting here now I can see that the majority of the problems in my life were caused by drinking too much. Telling myself that it was just that the clothes didn’t fit me, not that I didn’t fit the clothes.
Epiphanous moments come in strange places. For once I’m actually feeling emotions on holiday without a few shots of Mjolnir to propel me forward. For the socially inept such as myself, alcohol can appear to be a godsend. A Grow-It-Quick fertiliser to make the flowers of your soul flourish into bloom only to fade again like supermarket roses. The leaves and branches that sprout from a life without it require a lot more work and TLC.
Maybe this is just a holiday epiphany. Maybe not.
But things feel different.