“Absolutely Not An Alcoholic”
Am I an alcoholic?
Some might say that if I have to ask myself this question, I probably already know the answer.
I sit here writing this with a margarita close by and a small child watching my every move, sipping on her juice box. She’s got dark curly hair framing her face and large brown eyes that remind me of my own. I wonder what she thinks of me? If she thinks I’m cool, sophisticated? A mysterious woman drinking out of her effortlessly elegant glass garnished with black salt at two in the afternoon.
I was reading in the park, enjoying the peace, when a message popped up from a friend about a new lunchtime happy hour she’d found. All cocktails are $10! I was brushing the grass off myself on the walk over before I’d finished reading the text. Did I even grab my book? Fuck.
I told myself I wouldn’t drink on this trip up to Cairns. Four weeks away from the wine world (my usual world). Away from people whom know I love a drink. Away from people whom I would normally split a bottle or three with.
When I look down at my glass, I notice how much I’ve already drank compared to my friend. She’s been here 25 minutes longer than me; I only have the dregs left.
I joke that she’s not seasoned enough. Not keeping up. Not a veteran like me.
I get no rebuttal. She downs her drink.
Fuck. Am I an enabler now?
I reminisce on my drinking. Sitting in Switzerland by a lake drinking coronas at 11am. Visiting a favourite wine bar in Adelaide every day after work and on my days off. Innocent “this will make it better” drinks every time a friend got dumped. Late night after my part-time uni job, stopping in at two or three bars on my way home. Sometimes with friends, sometimes alone.
The waitress asks if she can get me another one. I refuse, knowing full well that I’ll order another in five minutes. She approaches my friend: someone else in the industry who appreciates a fine drop.
“Oh well, if you’re going to!”
We laugh and I order a Bellini. Fuck.
We’re sitting with another girl. She’s working and, when offered a drink, politely declines. She’s giving up drinking. She has drunk every night for the past six, and has decided it’s too much. She tells us she thinks it’s scary how easy it is to slip into a bottle of wine or a few beers a night. Addictive. I nod in a concerned manner and agree that it’s a good idea.
Inwardly, my brain is working overtime to think of the last time I had a night when I didn’t drink. I’m coming up blank.
Life should be celebrated, right?
So do what you want every day, right?
Today could be your last… right?
The waitress brings over our cocktails. I’d already noticed a dry mouth feel and wondered if this is how people addicted to smoking feel when they’re in-between drags. Craving the next one. Craving the next anticipated sip. When did sipping turn into a habit?
“God, they’re good aren’t they?”
“So bloody good… I wonder what their spirit to juice ratios are?”
Bartender to bartender, we nod together and exchange pensive looks. The other girl is offered a sip, politely declining once again. The ladies next to us, elderly and distinguished, finish their cappuccinos and leave. Cappuccinos? In this balmy 28-degree heat? You must be joking. I don’t really like coffee. Most hot drinks are improved with liquor anyway. Baileys. Whiskey. Rum.
When did I start drinking? At a normal age. 14 or so.
Drinking seriously? Once I started working in bars.
I take a sip of my Bellini.
Yes. Definitely bars. So, probably 17?
Not unusual but also not ideal. It’s easy to drink when everyone around you is five years older and enjoying the harder spirits.
Drinking is fun and I really like the taste of most alcohol. Me and my uni friends used to joke that yes, we are alcoholics. But functioning. As long as you can continue working to society’s standards, it’s okay. I find that that’s the beauty of being an adult. You can drink whenever the fuck you want. It’s like eating cake for breakfast and cheerios for dinner.
I’m not the alcoholic who has lost all sense. I’m not begging on the street or blowing all of my money on alcohol. I’m not drinking at 7am. I just have alcohol when I want it. Which I’m allowed to do as an adult. I’m a grown-up. I can make my own decisions.
I find myself justifying and unnecessarily defensive.
I take a sip. Fuck it’s good. I really do wonder how she made this Bellini so much better than any other I’ve had before. This drink is taking me slightly longer than the last. I think I’m consciously pacing myself. I don’t want anyone to notice how fast they’re going down.
Could I ever not drink for a month? I reckon it’d be a lot harder than I’d like to admit. It’s not that I have an addictive personality or anything. I just enjoy the casual demeanour of having a glass of wine.
I take a sip.
I very, very rarely drink to get fucked up. And I know I can drink a lot.
Sometimes I take pride in my lack of intoxication. I can drink friends under the table. I can do numerous shots in a row, and being a bartender, I know my limit and when to time my water breaks. I know what I can drink and what I can’t. What order I should drink certain alcohol in… aka bubbles (champagne) first, never last. Never finish your night on a gin. Have pineapple juice in a long island cocktail instead of coke, so you can’t taste the amount of alcohol. I know which drinks make me feel good and which make me throw up. I know, realistically, that I’m not good at day drinking. But in the evening, I could have 10 doubles and barely feel it.
It’s weird knowing all of that about a poisonous substance in your body.
I look up from scrawling in my notepad. Take a sip.
I’m not even sure I can blame it on the culture anymore. Youth. Backpacker.
Am I just a drunk?
I finish my drink. I don’t like the word drunk to describe a person. Besides, I’m not denying anything. I’m just not too keen to give it up.
Fuck, I’ve got margarita salt on my notebook.
I could though if I wanted to. Give it up, that is.
Cover by monica di loxley. If this piece has brought anything up for you, you can call the National Alcohol and Other Drugs Hotline on 1800 250 015, or Alcoholics Anonymous on1300 222 222. You can also check out their website.