NM came from a drinking family. Family life centered around alcohol until she changed that by choosing to live a Naked life.
A Drinking Family
Like father, like daughter?
I come from a drinking family. What do I mean by that? I mean, pretty much everyone in my family drinks. Some of them daily, some of them weekly, some of them monthly, but all of them regularly drunk. Family celebrations for my entire life have focused around alcohol: my cousin’s signature mojitos, my uncle’s drunken ghost stories, everyone pointy finger dancing and whooping with a beer in hand. And this is from both sides of my family, both my father’s and mother’s.
So for as long as I can remember, alcohol = party.
My sister used to beg for a sip of my dad’s beer when she was a child, but I wasn’t that interested. Despite all these drinking misconceptions being formed in my head for years, I didn’t start properly getting drunk with my family until my 20’s. I was too busy telling my own father to go to bed or helping find my mum’s handbag that she’d lost 8 times in the same place. Or, more than likely, avoiding them totally because their being drunk was never that enjoyable for me.
However, that didn’t mean that I wasn’t drinking at all. The first time I got drunk was watching Eurovision on an orchestra trip to Germany, aged 14. Soon after, I was giggling in a bed, swigging Ouzo with 3 friends after one of their holidays to Greece. There were regular sleepovers at a friend’s huge house, 8 of us chugging alcopops, feeling grown up and free. Drinking was FUN.
By 16, I’d already experienced my first blackout. I woke up the day after going clubbing with 2 friends (it was easier back then, in the early 00’s in the midlands in England, to get in underage – a fact I used to celebrate but now makes me feel sad). I remember my head throbbing, my sickly stomach, and saying ‘Wow, I hardly remember anything from last night, but at least I wasn’t sick!’
‘You WERE sick,’ my friend said, ‘all over some guy’s new jacket!’ I was mortified, and pretended that the memory came back to me, whilst feeling confused. It never came back. They never do.
Just Like Everyone Else
When I went to university, moving out and moving up north, I partied hard. Blackouts became a regularity, and so did vomiting and so did hangovers. But honestly, it felt normal. My housemates were the same (or almost), although in hindsight, I can see that I was always the most drunk and the most ridiculous. I always knew how to laugh at myself though. I had to, or else I wouldn’t have been able to live. Big drinkers are often the kings and queens of self deprecating humor. At university is also when the truly emotional hangovers began. We (my housemates and I) called them REM hangovers. When we woke up with one, feeling depressed, we’d blast REM from our rooms and all have a joke about it later. It seemed funny, kind of – some way of making light of the situation, which was not light at all.
At the time, I was proud of my reputation amongst friends as a ‘crazy, fun’ drunk. But sometimes I was crazy and fun. Sometimes I was just plain crazy.
I won’t list all the shameful things I’ve done whilst drinking. Ok, maybe just a few: I ended up in an ambulance, I’ve hysterically tried to break up with boyfriend(s) for no reason at all, and not remembered it in the morning. I’ve woken up in a carpark in the rain, fallen down stairs, physically attacked my sister, and said horrible, untrue things to hurt my friends. The list goes on. I know with all my heart I never would have done any of them sober.
The first time I googled ‘methods to quit drinking’, I was 20 years old.
10 years followed. It just never seemed possible. With all good intentions, I always broke.
Still A Drinking Family
Meanwhile, back home, my parents continued to drink. My mum has (mostly) been a happy drunk when she does drink, and has reasonably long amounts of time between her binges. She has embarrassing tales to tell and I know she’d like to lessen her intake at the very least. However, it was my dad that caused me the grief. I HATED when he drank. It was immensely hypocritical of me, considering.
My dad drank both regularly and binged. Not every single day and with some periods of sobriety, but he has always struggled with when to stop. Like father, like daughter. Alcohol makes him argumentative, sometimes belligerent, and often melancholic (oh hey, snap!). When he drinks, it seems like he feels the whole world is against him. The most horrible things that my father has ever said to me have all, without exception, been when he was drunk. But simply telling him to try and sort it, or ask him to go to the doctors, or AA… it never seemed to work. I think he may even have attempted meetings, but I can imagine his face when he was told he’d have to say he’s an alcoholic. Besides, talking to a group about himself like that, it’s just not his style.
The bizarre thing, now that I’m reflecting, is I would still drink with him whilst home and even bought him alcohol as gifts. I hate him drunk, but I’d encourage it. Like I said before, I’d learnt from a young age that alcohol = party, and even though ALL evidence was pointing to the contrary, I just couldn’t let my dad’s, or my own, drinking-life end. What would we be if we weren’t a drinking family? I now know from This Naked Mind, that it was a conscious vs. unconscious battle, and my unconscious always used to win.
Alcohol Is A Constant
Fast forward through an emotionally abusive relationship after I returned home after uni, where occasional drinking offered me short respite but left me infinitely more depressed after. Fast forward again through the relief of escaping that and re-embracing my party lifestyle after moving to London. Aside from the occasional hangover sickness, my drinking never negatively impacted my career, except for a short, snappy temper, an inability to lift my mood, and far less productivity. Ok, so, on the SURFACE, it didn’t impact it. But in reality, of course it did. Drinking impacted every area of my life, in a conniving, secretive way. I’d fantasize regularly about stopping, but then Friday would roll around. Or a midweek Tinder date. Or a gossip in my flat with my housemate. Something would always warrant alcohol, sooner or later.
Then, I moved abroad. What an adventure! And seriously, it has been. There have been so many positives in my life, but none of them have really been because of alcohol. I traveled endlessly, I met my boyfriend (on a one-night stand that I couldn’t remember, gone wrong or right!), I learnt about another culture.
It’s Always Alcohol
Intermittently, but regularly, alcohol would mess me up. It ruined two of my birthdays, including feeling almost suicidal on my 30th. I fantasized, hungover, about throwing myself off of my balcony. Before my boyfriend, I had so many one night stands where I was too drunk to remember it, them, and certainly too drunk to insist on a condom. My friends would go home from nights out and I’d stay out, alone, wasted, and make ‘friends’. How strange that I’d never hear from any of them ever again following that night. Come to think of it, I never contacted them either.
I tried to go alcohol free in 2018, following an awful hangover that had me off work for 3 days, and lasted 5 weeks.
Then I got absolutely trashed, and the cycle continued. Some of my friends could see that I had a problem. Others were so similar, they needed to deny that fact or else they had a problem, too. I started to believe this was my life, forever.
Strangely, the day I decided enough was enough, and I needed to start trying sobriety again, nothing that ‘bad’ had happened to trigger it, at least not on the night. No regrettable men, no lost bag, no cuts or bruises. There was a huge memory blank. All my self-respect was gone. There was none left. I had to get it back. I got online and begged on forums for help, suggestions – anything to get me through that dark day where I couldn’t breathe properly, my skin itched, and the only solution my brain could come up with independently, was dying. It was through this request, that I discovered This Naked Mind.
Tired of letting your drinking family define who you are today? Start reading This Naked Mind for free today and break free from alcohol once and for all!
Finally, Someone Gets It
I read it over the course of a week or so, exactly as expected. Or rather, I devoured it, re-reading chapters and feeling… truly understood. This person writing was someone who understood alcohol, and because of that, understood me. I felt immense relief. Maybe, I can be free!
I was quick to tell my mother about the book. She seemed interested in knowing more and I told her maybe she should give it a read, too. I didn’t mention it to my dad, because, despite his issues, I sometimes go a long time without being in contact with him when I’m away, as he’s not a big caller or texter.
The day after telling my mum about This Naked Mind, I receive an unexpected text from my dad. It simply said, ‘I have downloaded This Naked Mind‘.
This was interesting in the first place, since he doesn’t generally contact me about much other than whether to open letters for me (I have my mail sent to my parents’), or sometimes about upcoming birthdays, to organize what we’re getting for the person. We had some short back and forth messages about our first thoughts and feelings on it and I was thrilled when he said, ‘I think this is an approach I can work with’.
Given any other recommendations to stop drinking had been met with denial, or defensiveness, having him tell me that he thought this book might work for him to adjust his thinking, honestly, I was so, SO happy.
Since then, we’ve exchanged more texts than probably the whole rest of the 3 years I’ve been abroad. We communicate regularly about our observations on alcohol, social things we’ve done without it, and little comments on the book.
It’s been brilliant to have someone else starting this sober journey at a similar time, and even better that it’s my dad, the one person I’ve been hoping would stop drinking since I was a child.
Perhaps we aren’t destined to be a drinking family after all.
Recently, one morning, I got the best message of all. We were discussing how this weekend is a weekend away with my uncles to watch the Heineken Cup Final rugby match (they’re all big drinkers, and this yearly event is a total binge fest). He told me that he was practically looking forward to not drinking more than the game itself, because he feels ready to test himself and he feels confident he won’t drink. He stopped smoking in a similar way in 2003, just decided it wasn’t for him anymore, and he said this feels very much like that.
The final part of his message was this:
‘A long time ago ____ [one of his best friends] and myself were mountain walking and the weather was really shitty. We carried on and eventually got to the top and we could look down onto the top of the clouds and the sun was shining in a very blue sky. That’s how I feel about the future at present and hope to keep it that way!’
Share Your Story
Cheers to that, dad! Cheers to you, cheers to me, cheers to choosing sobriety! I know this journey may not be free of hurdles, and slip-ups, and fall-downs. But it’s started, and I couldn’t be happier to start down that road together. Will you share your journey with others?