A Break-Up Letter to Booze
I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship lately. I’m not very happy, and no — it’s not me; it’s you.
Most of the time, I am an interesting, composed young adult. But all it takes is a small dose of you, and my hidden feelings are aired out for display. I then look like a blubbering idiot, and wake up choking on my regret.
At 17, you warmed my blood and imbued so much liquid confidence that I could consume as much of you as I wanted and still feel on top of the world. You brought out a shining sense of my own self, and I jumped on a “friendship” fuelled by my confident, alcohol-soaked ego. You made me into a more fun version of myself – or so I thought. You could barely touch my fully-functional liver, and I could rise the next day feeling alert and well-rested despite ejecting the contents of my stomach on a mate’s porch the night before.
This happened more than once throughout my 18th year, but I was buoyed by the support of my fellow binge-drinkers, convinced that having fun meant playing King’s Cup before waltzing up to a bouncer to advise him that I was sober and he should indeed let my friends and me in. You were also a critical element to my job in hospitality, and I invested much of what should have been my life savings on your liquid form. I found myself at countless bars across Brisbane, and even at a beach party in Thailand under a full moon, convinced that this was definitely living, Barry.
At 20, I decided I needed to focus on other goals. My relationship with you deteriorated as I realised I didn’t really need you. I became stronger on my own and could talk to other humans without needing the warm sedation you provided. I went about my daily hobbies and found my sober interactions far more fulfilling than the half-remembered conversations with Steve or Nick or whatever his name was. You fell by the wayside, but every month or so, I’d allow you to make a casual appearance.
Soon enough, my appetite for you increased once more, and I began party-hopping for the Year of the 21st. I still pursued my hobbies, however, and you were my second choice: waking up for swimming training in the mornings did not leave room for any trace of a hangover. I focused on my sporting goals, and this satisfied me more than any night dancing to Kanye and telling boys I was too good for them (though that was pretty fun).
But your presence was never obsolete. The after-parties to any sporting event were based on the consumption of you, where somehow, months of sacrificing fun (read: booze) for the pursuit of endurance was somehow made up for with a night at the Rolling Rock in Noosa, despite no one remembering what actually happened.
When I was 24, you muscled your way back to a central role in my life. I moved to Spain for the summer, and my working holiday treated me to daily surfs, free accommodation, free food and, best of all, unlimited free alcohol. A standard drink in Europe can be 5 euro or more, so I would’ve been silly not to drink as much as I could! Wouldn’t I?
My Great European Summer gave me experiences such as attending a huge wine fight in Basque Country, where we drank and absorbed wine until it was baked into our skin; vomiting out of a second-storey window after a huge night drinking sidra in San Sebastian; and boogying at parties in German beer halls, where 1-litre steins gave us the gall to fight even barmaids. We were asked never to return to one of the Oktoberfest halls, but it was worth the fun. Right?
I constantly felt a low-grade anxiety to stay drunk, and kept you within reach at all times to stay one step ahead of my poor, workhorse liver in social environments. When I was smuggling spirits into a seven-day music festival in Hungary in the lining of my backpack, did I realise my behaviour was similar to that of an addict? When I was drinking in the gutter outside a festival in Barcelona because the booze inside was too expensive, and I felt too sober to enjoy the music, did I acknowledge that I was seeking you out like a stage-5 clinger?
I did not.
Alcohol, I am not dependent on you, but I am incapable of saying no once I’ve had just one drink, especially when those around me are consuming you. Would anyone even notice if I didn’t drink? Years of cultural conditioning are affecting my judgement, and I have the prevailing attitude that I must consume you to have a good time, even though all you ever give me is a handful of regret and terrible nausea. I even choose to buy you when I’m sober on the pretext of having a good night. But I’ve come to notice that much of your effect is a placebo, and that I could carry around a glass of water and still feel the same exuberance from socialising without my money going down the drain – literally and figuratively.
Alcohol, I’m not breaking up with you, but I do feel like this relationship is becoming one-way. You’re sucking the joy out of everything lately, so I’m just letting you know that I don’t need you to enjoy myself anymore.
I’m a fun, interesting young woman who don’t need no booze to show her a good time.
Cover by Drew Farwell