‘Squiffy’ No More: Jessica’s Story (Part One)
Trigger warning: Please consider the following trigger warning before reading this post. Mentions of addiction, alcoholism, alcohol, time in detention, and suicidal thoughts.
‘Squiffy’ is one of those funny words with two meanings. On one hand it means: drunk. On the other it means: askew. And that’s exactly how I feel when I drink: askew. As though something is off-kilter.
I’ve always been a drinker. Partial to a glass of wine. Or a beer. I’m not fussy. I wouldn’t call myself an alcoholic, but I would call myself a problem drinker and I’ve struggled with my alcohol consumption for over a decade.
Bad habits die hard
I’ve had a difficult relationship with alcohol since the first time I drank in my teens, drinking tequila until I was unwell. By the time I got to university my drinking had escalated to three or four times a week on nights out, drinking five or six glasses of wine each time. I never really kept count of my drinking, I would often get very drunk and the next day look at my bank statement with astonishment. The government advises that you don’t drink more than 14 units a week, and on some days I was nearly drinking that much in one evening. It seems totally excessive to me now but that’s just how it was.
This pattern of drinking continued when I got a job as a graduate, and although work was going well, in my twenties I would often turn up to work late or having not slept because I’d been out the night before.
A destructive path
Alcohol has been a hugely destructive force in my life. I’m deeply ashamed of this now, but I’ve been thrown out of more clubs and bars than I can remember. Like many people, alcohol makes me say things I would never normally say and I’ve lost a lot of friendships and relationships to booze. Despite all this I still managed to hold down a job throughout my twenties. It’s difficult to get my head around now but I’ve been to clubs and bars alone too – just because someone wasn’t free to go with me didn’t mean I was willing to miss out. I’m infinitely sorry to all the people who were collateral damage on my path to self-destruction. Some people say that drinking brings out your ‘true colours’, but I don’t think that’s true at all. I’m not myself when I drink and I don’t like the person I become.
Is the world ending?
Hangovers were one of the worst parts of my drinking and I’d often talk about suicide during hangovers which would last for two or three days. I would be very paranoid too, thinking that people were against me and wondering if I embarrassed myself or upset someone the night before. On the days I didn’t have work I would lie in bed binge-watching Netflix and eating takeaway pizza. I lost so many weekends to hangovers that I stopped thinking it was strange that my colleagues seemed to actually do things with their weekends while I spent mine in the pub and then recovering in bed.
I’d dread work nights out because I couldn’t handle my booze and was in a constant state of anxiety about drinking at work functions and losing my job as a result. For me there was no such thing as one drink, and I’d find where other people could stop, I could not. I used to have problems with rosacea too. On nights out my cheeks would flare up and during hangovers they would burn red. I would smother my face in makeup but it didn’t cover how red-faced I was when it came to my drinking.
Reaching rock bottom
My rock bottom with booze came in the summer of 2018. My memory of that night starts in a police cell with no idea of how I got there. I was going through a hugely difficult period with my mental health at the time, and although I didn’t know it, I was experiencing the symptoms of the prodromal stage of the severe mental health issue psychosis. I was fined for drunk and disorderly behaviour and I spent the night in the cells. In the morning my boyfriend, who was absolutely livid with me, picked me up from the police station.
I felt lost, alone and after fifteen years of denial, like I finally had to admit to myself that I had a drinking problem.
To be continued… this blog is part of a two-part series.
A huge thank you to Jessica for her thoughtful, emotive and incredibly personable piece on psychosis and giving up alcohol.
Posted on: 20th December 2021