And in fabulous news: I’ve been published by a magazine!
It may not have been using my full name (perhaps, as a writer, I will go by just one name, like Madonna?), nor in the words I’d carefully curated (“the publication reserves the right to alter letters”), BUT I’ve been published and even ‘paid’ for the pleasure. In a spectacular array of Dead Sea Spa Magik products, no less. My skin will forever be silky smooth with a salty aftertaste.
All jokes aside, I am filled with joy that the magazine chose my letter to print and comment on, if only with a few words. The magazine in question was Healthy, which, according to its strap line, is the ‘UK’s No 1 wellbeing magazine’. With largely well researched, informative and interesting content gracing its pages.
And then, something not so helpful. A short snipped which read:
New research shows binge drinking can trigger long-lasting genetic change, leaving you craving alcohol even more. Two genes are implicated in how we control our drinking: one influences our body clock, the other our stress-response system. Scientists compared moderate, binge and heavy drinkers, and the two genes changed only in binge and heavy drinkers. Another good reason to stick to only a couple of drinks a day.
‘Only’ a couple of drinks a day?!
In ‘Healthy’ magazine?
The first time I thought my drinking wheels may have come off was only a few weeks in to my time at university, at the tender age of 19. I’d woken up with a right cheek blossoming with an intricate web of broken veins.
I’d seen these veins on the fright-inducing street dwellers as a little child in my home town in Finland. The men and women of an indeterminate age that my grandparents would do their best to shield from my view as they’d walk me home from nursery via the park. Sometimes I hate to admit that Finland really does look like an Aki Kaurismäki depiction.
And there it was, the same spider’s web, burning, on my cheek.
The lure of reckless nights out, with boys to kiss, luminous drinks to down and underground clubs to frequent proved too much to resist for the girl that had just been released to the world from a cold town uncomfortably close to the Arctic. I willed the visit from the face-slapping-fairy to be an isolated case.
Over the ensuing 23 years I would consider my drinking on and off, always finding a comforting notion to wipe off any fears that I may be overindulging:
‘It’s just what we do when we are young and experimenting.’
‘It’s just what living in London is like.’
‘It’s just our work hard, play hard culture.’
‘It’s just how I relax at the end of a hard day.’
‘It’s my me-time now that I’m a mummy.’
Working meant that I naturally could not drink every day even if I had wanted to. (Sometimes I surprise myself with my sensibility. This cannot be said for the times that I heard bird song for the second time in a weekend without having slept. Those wretched birds.)
But, when I left the tough industry I had been in for 17 years just over a year ago, such restrictions were a thing of a dull and restrained past. I was now happy to spread my wine wings, one wobbly wing at a time. Wine o’clock kept creeping ever earlier egged on by notions of how in order to be a great writer surely I would need to imbibe like the best of them.
It was then that the cheek-slapping-fairy turned up again and this time it stopped me in my ‘sticky with spilled wine’ tracks. Drinking every day was what finally got me to see and accept that all was not well.
Still, it had gone on for months, and whilst I’d pretended to have a fabulous time as I drank my way through a corner shop’s worth of plonk, it was simply a vehicle to drown the frightened and lost young girl of 19 still within me. That girl that needed the booze to kiss the boys and to enter the labyrinths of clubs with the pounding music, to give her a shield of amber armour. Even if it might make her stumble just a little.
So, when I read about how mummies need their wine o’clock or how a glass of red wine a day helps keep you from keeling over from a heart attack I despair.
For, I cannot help to think where I might be today IF in stead of stories like these magazines were filled with articles about the true damage that alcohol causes to both physical and mental health; how alcohol breaks up families; the cost to society from lost working days and the huge financial costs of the alcohol related healthcare; and how, far from being the social lubricant that it is painted as it often provides one with false and empty friendships and romantic relationships that start their life in a haze where neither party inhabits their true selves.
I will never deny that I have had a lot of fun over the years, and books will be written about those booze-filled days. However, having discovered life A.B.C. (After Booze-Filled Carnage), in its full technical’s-colour beauty (insert acid joke here), I am reminded of why I write this blog: in the hope that it will touch somebody’s life somewhere at a crucial point. Somebody who’s perhaps at the tender of age 19 (the age I first questioned the amber nectar flowing through my life), or perhaps a more mature at 42 (the age when I finally turned off the tap). Somebody who, whilst surrounded by a society where daily drinking is normalised is thinking: ‘but is it really?’