When it's ok to make mistakes, and when it's time to learn that enough is enough.
We all make mistakes in life, whether it's a typo in a message to a group chat (✋🏻) or royally screwing up a relationship because of a stupid decision (✋🏻). I think I make more than most but then I am pretty hard on myself. I've spent most of this weekend contemplating though, because of a mistake I made that may or my not have totally messed up my relationship.
To set the scene...A few days ago I went out for a friend's birthday and, for the first time, took J as my plus one. He met my friends, we had a lovely meal, and then cocktails. I know how much of a dick I can be when I've been drinking a lot but I carry on regardless. Mature adult right here. I couldn't tell you how many glasses of wine I had, and I'm pretty sure there were 3 or 4 espresso martinis. I also couldn't tell you what time I left or where the uber picked us up, but I do have some flickers of memories that left me feeling totally mortified when I woke up. I'm not going to give you the details, you're probably about to/have just eaten, but let's say that all I was left with the next morning was a memory of showering fully clothed, and my coat in a binbag by the door at J's place (which then resulted in a fairly humiliating trip to the dry cleaners on the way home).
I'm 31 and had many a night of getting wasted and staggering home while making pit stops for, well, you know. Most of my boyfriends have had to hold back my hair on more than one occasion, have put me to bed and then recounted my entire night to me when I was ready to hear it (sometimes this took weeks!). Is this something we all do from time to time no matter how old we are? At 31, do I need to take an honest look at myself and if my actions are damaging not only myself but those around me too?
Alcohol and I have had a mixed relationship. I grew up in a pub so I was surrounded by it. I snuck out bottles of hooch when I was 12 years old to drink with my friends, and at 14 would drink 20/20 in our dorms at boarding school that someone had brought back from duty free after the holidays. I grew up with an unhealthy view of drinking because my dad was an alcoholic. I have wonderful memories of my dad but I also vividly remember him turning up at my aunt's house totally smashed and us having to call the police on him. I remember laying in my aunt's bed, shaking with fear and pretending I was just cold. This was a man who made it possible for me to go to private school, who bought me everything I could ever want, who ran a business, and who drank heavily on a regular basis. I knew about alcoholism long before I could drink the stuff myself and I watched a man I loved and admired destroy himself, yet somehow appeared to have his shit together. He had a family, friends, a house, a business.
I wish now that I could talk to him about why he did it, why he turned to alcohol to numb himself, because sometimes I feel like I do it too. After the show aired I drank most nights until the end of the year. I woke up most mornings feeling hungover and by the time I left my desk, I went straight back to a bar somewhere to carry on, because I felt like it was the only way I could cope. Suddenly I was recognising behaviours in myself that I'd seen before, and I didn't like it. With Christmas and my birthday at the end of the month I made a decision to do Dry January and show myself that I was capable of having a social life without drowning my emotions in red wine and gin.
Did I make it through January without drinking? No. But I'd cut down drastically and was enjoying the mornings of waking up, not feeling exhausted and drained, and being able to function properly. I felt like the fear I had of my dependency on alcohol to enjoy myself was unfounded. Until my friend's birthday. It's the not knowing when to stop that I find so hard, and the more I drink, the less control I have over those (actually pretty bloody important) decisions. I not only felt totally humiliated and embarrassed the next morning but I knew I'd upset J with my behaviour and that was the last thing in the world I wanted. I tried to sneak out (unsuccessfully), went home and sat on the bed in tears, knowing I'd fucked up.
Was it just a mistake, one that we all make, or is this a huge lesson I need to finally learn? Honestly, I still don't know if I'm just being harsh on myself or not. I am trying to be a better person day by day, not just for myself but for everyone else around me.