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  • Writer's pictureJaye Gaff

I need to talk about alcohol

I don’t drink. I haven’t drank in ages and it’s such an ingrained part of Australian culture that I am seen as weird. I grew up around alcohol. My father definitely had an irresponsible relationship with alcohol. He was always drunk. Always far too inappropriate and naked. He encouraged me to drink from a young age. Plied me with beer.

My relationship with alcohol around my mother and siblings was this — I felt they liked my personality when I was drunk so it felt very performative. I wasn’t fun without alcohol so dance monkey dance. I also drank around them to lessen the pain I felt when there. I wanted to die around them so alcohol dulled the edges of a life with them in it.

As soon as I decided I wanted to get pregnant I stopped drinking and that wasn’t hard because that’s what you’re supposed to do. And I didn’t want to drink around my child because I find it very… wrong. But I still had my mother in my life (as well as my siblings) and I couldn’t be around them without being impaired. So I drank. And I drank quite heavily. Before I saw them to psych me into seeing their faces. While around them to try and turn myself into someone they would like. When I got back home to forget I had seen them that day.

When my anxiety got really bad and I finally went to the doctor, they told me I couldn’t mix my medication and alcohol. And, so, it was a convenient way to stop. But that craving for alcohol to blur the harsh realities of life has never gone away.

I tell people I don’t drink because of the medication I’m on. And that is the truth. But it’s a convenient one. The real reason I don’t drink is because the only way I know how is to drink to lessen pain. To blackout. To feel better. And alcohol should never be used that way. It is fair to say that my mental health greatly improved as soon as I cut my family out of my life. They were my triggers. No amount of therapy or medication could do what really needed to be done — never see them again. They were not healthy for me. But my brain still tells me, when I’m in physical pain or am fighting with my Husband or child or someone at work has pissed me off, drink - you know you want to. Remember how good it feels?

If they were still in my life I would still be using alcohol. I know that for a fact. So, while I could just snap my fingers and be done with it, that coping mechanism has never really left me. It’s still there. I do wonder if I am genetically predisposed based on who my parents are. I dream of being an alcoholic because it just feels so delicious. I loved getting black out drunk. I loved drinking until I fell asleep. That all feels amazing to me. I still miss it.

I can’t remember the last time I touched alcohol. It will have had to been almost 10 years now. Maybe 9. I am committed to never drinking again. But… I am still fearful of what alcohol does to me and I’m not sure that’s ever going to go away. My Husband and I were talking recently about making a beef and red wine casserole and I flipped a bit. I know we can’t have alcohol in our house and I can’t be near the stuff.

I have a heavily addictive personality. I also have fabulous willpower. But it feels pathetic, almost, that my Husband has to be tasked with the role of buying the tiniest amount of cooking wine. That he has to be the one to pour it in the food and he has to dispose of the rest. I do not trust myself around the stuff. I doubt I ever will.

I remember at my sister’s wedding, my mother’s boyfriend kept pestering me to drink. One won’t hurt, he said after I explained I was not medically allowed to drink. My sister’s drunk Husband told me I was so boring without alcohol. And maybe I am. But I don’t really care. And, really, why would I listen to people who are telling me to defy doctors orders so I can become more palatable to them? Can you imagine if I did give into peer pressure? Honestly…

So, while I may have never technically reached rock bottom with alcohol, I do feel like an alcoholic. I crave the stuff. And not just to have one… to have fifty and no longer feel. And that terrifies me. I think it always will.

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