Once upon a time (a very, very brief period of time) I had a lifestyle that could possibly be interpreted as “cool”… that is of course by people who are pretty open-minded. Not cool cool – that day won’t come until I can walk into Urban Outfitters without feeling so out of place I might as well be pondering fringed trousers dressed as a tampon.
But “cool” by own comparative life standards – cooler than when I thought I could pull off fake white fur, started regularly performing McFly songs at karaoke, and once offered a mildly threatening man in Brixton my popcorn chicken.
This hip little way of life came around just after I finished university, was settled in a pretty flexible and sociable line of work (freelance theatre – not pole dancing) and ready to rebel against all things adult, by drinking on school nights, being generally fearless, and always saying yes – except to drugs, because this girl’s got enough paranoia and hyperactivity to go around already.
These days I often wonder how staying up all night and forgetting to eat breakfast before work were ever part of my agenda. Now I get my kicks from clean tea towels and candles any trace of my former self seems impossibly far away (literally just finished yelling at some pigeons for eating our grass seed).
What happened to the girl who stayed out until morning chasing her dreams on the other side of Jagermeister and 3am cheeseburgers, hoping a stranger’s tongue would lead to marriage and trying not to get her hair caught in anyone’s nose stud on the dance floor?
You see, recently times have changed. Since I’ve turned 25 I’m staying in a lot more. These days if I don’t I get my eight hours sleep I start to forget my own name. The thought of a cheeseburger makes me want to be a bit sick in my mouth. And I’m just gonna come out and say it… I am well and truly over alcohol.
I know, I know, calm a girl down.
All this premature ageing might be because in the last six months I moved in with my boyfriend (gross) and I’m a walking cliche. What they tell you is true, though. You don’t have to shave your legs anymore and you can use their torso as a hot water bottle so it’s a win win situ.
So despite being all EWW relationships and EWW sharing laundry it’s actually been quite nice and I shouldn’t care. Except I’ve discovered that when you’re twenty-something and living in the big smoke and you tell your friends you’ve gone off the idea of getting drunk at the weekend you might as well be telling people you’ve gone off the idea of brushing your teeth.
“Lime and soda please” invites a look of appalled concern, followed by disbelief and questions such as “When did YOU start riding the boring train?” or “Are you pregnant?” or “You were more fun on minimum wage.”
It’s much easier to tell people you’re on antibiotics than anti-alcohol, despite the fact that the reasons behind my sudden distaste are pretty universal.
I’m talking about the fact that once you turn 25 you discover you’re living in a sick and twisted world where you feel like a corpse after three small beers. My hangovers, or as I like to call them, living death, have become so bad I start to get anxiety mid-swig just thinking about how terrible I’m going to feel the next day. I also make very rash decisions to try and make the nights out worth it, like getting my face painted, or trying to DJ.
While playing Celine Dion full blast, intravenous orange juice, and overdosing on paracetamol before bed time used to mean I could make it through a full day of being a real life human being after a night out on the town, now I simply don’t know if I will live to 26.
But the worst thing about all this, and the number one reason I’ve decided simply not to put myself through it anymore, is that not only does each individual cell in my body feel like it has undergone some kind of apocalypse, but now my mind has a total breakdown too. Approximately twelve hours after I wanna dance with somebody comes on (no YOU know where to party) I am positively overflowing with the worst possible cocktail of all the guilt, despair and anxiety that exists in the galaxy, shaken not stirred, and it has officially put me off happy hour.
I definitely did something awful last night…if only I could remember what it is… You have NO money, Emma, why did you think it was a good idea to buy a round of chicken nuggets for your “new friends”?… At least you weren’t sick on your new shoes…HANG ON. Everyone definitely hates me now. Who did I text? Did I tell someone my biggest fear involving baggy vaginas? Where am I really going in life though? Why did I tell my mum I hated her perm when I was 13? None of this would have happened if I’d not misbehaved at Parents Evening. You know that road trip you’re going on in two months eight days. Yep. Highly likely you’re gonna die. Have we talked about cancer yet? Because whilst your sore throat COULD signal you thought you could sing last night it could also be something pretty fatal. Is this how you want to spend your last day on earth?
You get the picture.
Where once alcohol provided me with a lot of laughter and (that time in 2011) the self-belief to do a crab in the middle of the dance floor unfortunately now the mere thought of feeling that blue the next day has finally become enough for me to call it a day.
Where next then?
It’s a problematic one socially I do love a cold beer and I’m not interested in a summer without Pimms. So I’m not going all the way tee-total. I’m in a complicated relationship with my own willpower and a pint at a pub quiz always eases me down the road to anagram success.
I’ve decided just to avoid sugary drinks and getting drunk because they hate me. Simple as. The last time I had four too many ciders – the catalyst for my new found sobriety – I cried the next day because my shower was too hot and then went to TK Maxx for some fresh air and spent approximately 45 minutes looking for the perfect dog basket to curl up and die in.
Enough is enough.
What I’ve discovered is that when you decide to ditch alcohol you actually learn a lot about yourself. These days, without all the morning-after anxiety I have some pretty fun times. For example the other weekend I turned myself into a Powerpuff girl online and discovered I have self-esteem problems. Personal growth, much?
I also discovered that when I have more money left over at the end of the month I am most likely to spend it in the reduced section of Waitrose or what I like to call “a bender”.
“Cool” comes in many forms aged 25. Including the freezer aisle.
Let’s see how far this takes me. I’m excited. No more metallic taste and wine headaches and questionable Uber drivers and week-long laryngitis because someone thinks they can sing Avici up the octave. I’m SO ready for a new chilled out me – whose Sundays can still revolve around Celine Dion and comfort food but without fear as a side dish.
My wild side has to be indestructible. It’s just simply transcended to different scenarios, like finding the perfect spin cycle for fluffy towels. And if my IBS symptoms are anything to go by one of those cheeseburgers is definitely still somewhere in my digestive system. That’s cool enough for me.
See you on the other side. X