I’m not writing this because I’m hungover or because I spent too much money on alcohol or because I did something I regret last night. I’m writing this because I have done all of those things way too often when drinking. At 27 years old I’m not as healthy and fit as I should be, or could be and that is my fault.
I weigh just a hair under fourteen stone and I’m five foot, seven inches. I have an unhealthy BMI and according to my doctor my blood pressure is through the roof. My diet recently has spiralled from ‘a cheeky Chinese takeaway’ on a Friday night to snacking on biscuits, crips, soft drinks and eating processed food way too often. I used to smoke quite heavily and would have enjoyed a cigarette on a night out – usually I felt the need to nick a cigarette from a friend or a randomer in the smoking garden of whichever dive bar I ended up in and bent the ear off the poor sod standing beside me. If I was hungover the next day my daily routine would consist of something deep fried followed by something else deep fried followed by something fizzy and accompanied by something sweet until I felt ‘cured’ enough to sleep it off.
I’m tired of Sundays being a write off. My career as a writer depends on me being able to both focus on my work and let my hair down when both are appropriate – I can’t allow one to interfere with the other and I have often cited working too hard as a reason for drinking when in fact the opposite has been the case. That is a dangerous road that I don’t want to even attempt to have a nosey at. A week or so ago I woke up with incredibly painful sensations in my chest at around 3am. Thinking it was nothing major I tried to go back to sleep only to be woken up by the same pains a few hours later.
I made my way to A&E on the advice of the out of hours GP and spent the next five hours being looked at, prodded and tested by doctors in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. It scared the living crap out of me when they brought me through to to the Clinical Assessment Unit and a friendly nurse asked me if I needed anything to make me more comfortable. I looked around me and I was in a room with people that were properly sick and ill and it scared me to death.
In the end I was told that my diet and cigarette intake are slowly going to kill me and I need to do as much as I can to lower my blood pressure because it was through the roof. I’m 27 – I have a sedintary job and since around April this year a pretty sedintary lifestyle. I lost a ton of weight between 2013 and 2014 by exercising, eating right and going to the gym but a bad breakup and a depressive episode completely undid all that hard work and I am in a worse situation than I was 12 months ago. Clothes that fit me then do not fit me now and I can barely run a 5k on the treadmill at the gym on those rare occasions when I dare to darken their door. I’ve been told that I’m not allowed another cigarette – I know this is basic common sense but I’ve never had a doctor actually tell me that as a result of a medical assessment. It’s pretty scary, guys.
As far as alcohol goes apart from a glass of white wine with a meal or a cocktail on a night out I am not venturing much further into the liquor cabinet ever again. I have had too many incidents recently of not remembering large parts of my night, losing things, getting into arguments, spending all my money and wasting my Sundays consuming large amounts of garbage or hugging the toilet bowl. How is that enjoyable? Is that the measure of a good night out these days? How badly your phone is broken or how many keys you’ve managed to misplace? There is a serious drinking culture in this country and it is only since venturing out relatively sober that I’ve realised just how bad it is.
You lose all control of yourself and do and say things to other people that in any other circumstance would be completely unacceptable. There is more to life than consuming as much alcohol as humanly possible before a nigh out and then continuing to force what is essentially poison down your throat until you either pass out, vomit or both. I’m not having a go at anyone in particular here apart from myself but if this sounds familiar to you then you know that this isn’t healthy. What’s it worth? A decimated bank account, a fuzzy memory of what may or may not have been a good night and a crippling fear of what you may or may not have said to someone you care about? Add that to the multiple health implications of binge drinking and you are starting to erase yearsfrom your life.
Going out and not drinking is also an incredibly difficult thing to do in a society that puts more value on the impending hangover than on getting home safe. I can’t go out and not drink without being accosted by at least four or five people who insist – actually insist – that I drink or else I’m not enjoying myself. If I don’t want to drink or if someone else doesn’t want to drink then neither they nor I should have to make up an excuse as to why we don’t want to. That should be the end of your line of enquiry. I don’t want a fucking drink and that doesn’t mean you can’t drink, it just means I don’t want to. It is entirely possible to enjoy a night out with either one glass of wine, a non-alcoholic beer or a diet Coke. It doesn’t make me weak, it doesn’t make me any less interesting and if you depend on alcohol to feel both confident and interesting then you need to have a word with yourself. That is why I have stopped – I used to depend on alcohol to give me the buzz that I needed to feel like a champion and that is called addiction, folks (or at least the beginnings of it).
We are a nation of borderline alcoholics and it only takes a casual glance into any nightclub in Belfast on a Friday or Saturday night to see that. Having a table piled high with bottles of wine, vodka and whiskey that need to be consumed with inhuman abandon is not how I intend to have a good time any more. I’m not at all suggesting that everyone should stop drinking for the reasons that I have outlined but this is why *I* have decided to stop. I need to learn to appreciate the weekend without using alcohol. I need to learn how to have conversations after
5pm on a Friday without the use of a bottle of wine or a cigarette as an excuse to socialise.
I’m 27 and I don’t want to die from alcohol poisoning, liver failure or heart disease. And neither should you.