23 February, 2014

Nek Nomination, Being Invincible and My March Challenge

Generation #NekNomination have a problem. We slightly believe that we are invincible. For me, this belief started when I was 17 and the normal way to socialise was to sneak into bars with your sister’s ID, down VK Orange and Malibu at the speed of light, have more fun than you ever had in your life (music, dancing, boys, oh my oh my oh my!) and wake up the following morning in your parent’s house feeling great, just a little bit giddy. Then set off quite happily for school. 

This was highly unfair social conditioning. It taught us that 1. getting hammered to socialise was the norm and 2. our bodies can cope with it. A decade later and I cannot remember a birthday, Christmas, reunion, New Year, holiday, wedding or any other vaguely joyous occasion that hasn't involved a lot of drinking. True enough, we aren't the first generation to enjoy a sherry at Christmas, but when you start including in that list First Dates, Last Everythings and queues for Santa’s Grotto, then 2014 has a real problem.

I used to think I was invincible. Not long after the VK days I shipped myself off to University and learnt for another 3 years that ‘socialising = drinking’. Since graduating, I have stumbled home at 7am barefoot, clutching my tiny handbag like my dignity might just MIGHT be in there. I have been to work on 1 hours sleep, wild eyed and napping every so often in the disabled loo (sorry, agency). I've drunk so much wine that I've been sick for 48 hour’s straight afterwards (sorry, New Year’s Day 2008). In short, I have pumped my body with more than its share of toxins.

Over the past few years though, I've realised I hate wasting so much of my precious little spare time hungover, I hated the mess I could create of my life in a mere 4 hours on the sauce, I hated how much I hated myself during and after booze, and how emotional it would leave me for days afterwards. I wanted to be a proper grown-up, who owned it at work, who could enjoy weekends and who didn't lose her phone/purse/life every other week, in between cocktails.

It was only when I stopped going out every single Friday, Saturday and celebration in between that I realised just how unhappy I’d been. My first few months of hangover free weekends were like waking up on a sunny beach, after 10 years in The Congo during the wet season. I’d had no idea my long-term sadness, anxiety and manic moments were so linked to alcohol. You might be thinking 'duh', but although we are told about hangovers, we aren't really told about lasting mental or emotional damage. When I woke up to it, I questioned; did other people feel like this? Why did I experience such increasingly negative effects from booze while my friends could still cane it and barely have a headache the next day?

Me when she doesn't drink over a prolonged period is so happy, healthy, balanced and confident, you almost want to put her in a telly-tubby costume and send her off to teach toddlers about cupcakes, I like this version of myself much better. So I now only drink about once a month on average, but when I do, my body goes mental. I usually get ill afterwards with some virus, and have to miss about a week’s worth of exercise. It also leaves me feeling inherently less happy and secure, and less in control of my own life, for about 5 days. And this is after say 3 – 4 large glasses of wine, which is loads less than I used to sink in a night.

My parents tell me it wasn't always like this. Although men have long since gathered around a pint and women have oftimes needed a gin in darker hours, drinking to so much excess, so frequently, is definitely our very own Generation Y badge of honour. It is only in the past few years that I have questioned this huge part of our culture that so many of us just accept. Yes, a lot of people binge drink, but no, that doesn't mean I have to.

It is easy to abstain when I remember that alcohol has been the ignition for almost every single bad decision I’ve made in my adult life. This isn't exclusive to me - so so many people damage their lives irreversibly via drink. Let’s not forget when Philip Laing peed on a war memorial whilst under the influence, became a national target and got kicked out of uni. OUCH. I felt so bad for him, a victim of Carnage, a victim of his own culture.

It is harder to be strong when I also remember that drink has been the glue which has helped me bond with new people, formed the foundations of many friendships and been a happy release when reality is just far too much. 

I have no doubt it would be harder to make new friends minus booze, not least because we have a lot of questions for someone who doesn't drink; we eye them up like they are about to steal our sandwich and dismiss them as either a bit weird or not fun. Lately, when I have made a conscious effort to not dilute my blood with wine during a social event, it has been a big deal; not so much for me as for those around me, who are like WHY!? WHYYY WOULD YOU DO THAT. Sometimes I just don’t go to things, purely because I don’t want to drink and it’s easier just to not be there than explain myself.

This is really, really bad. Come on, us, can’t we bond over ice cream instead, like Spongebob?

It might be a few years too late for my body, but I'm glad I've questioned this ‘social norm’ and realised I can actually design the social life I want. I will still drink because I seriously love a cocktail, and it would be very hypocritical of me to condemn drinking all together, but I am becoming almost irritated by how big a part of our culture it is. It was only last week that I heard the most ridiculous story about a-friend-of-a-friend who was buried in sand on his stag do while his mates poured an entire bottle of gin down his neck. And not one of those mini bottles you get on the plane. It made me a bit angry and if that had been me, I am fairly sure I would have died.

I do know now that I am not invincible, and that I can feel my body getting weaker with every time I drink to excess, and quite frankly the thought of going Out Out on a school night gives me hives (I did it recently for the first time in years and it was terrifying). I am however not ready to give up drinking all together, and to be honest, I don’t really want to. I want to be able to have champagne at a wedding, and have a few glasses of wine with the girls, but what I am slowly but surely erasing from my life are those episodes I described before, those times from days gone by where a night out ends up looking like a terrorist attack on my body, on my mind and on my life. 

Have you ever wanted to give up booze or questioned how big a part of your life it is? Do you think you could go without? Answers on a postcard!



Usually now I only let myself drink when a special occasion merits it, but there have been so many special occasions already this year that those units are slowly creeping back into my bloody stream. SO, I have set myself the challenge to not drink at all March. I have chosen this month because I have been ill for most of 2014 and really, really need to get healthy again.

A lot of people do Dry January when nothing is going on because everyone is doing Dry January, but for me in March I have: a friend's birthday session, the girls up for a night out, a work night out, a weekend celebrating my boyfriend's Mum's 60th and my own Mum's birthday. I would have at least a glass of wine on all of those occasions. Holy crap this is going to be hard...but now I have blogged it, I have to do it. I will report back each week on how I find it, and how my friends react. Someone please put the Rose on ice for April...

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