I love binge drinking… But I also hate binge drinking.
Something I’ve told almost no one is that I used to have a drinking problem.
I first began to get an inkling of this on Australia Day, 2012, when I was in my second year of university. I remember very little, but know I made a right arse of myself and ruined the event for a bunch of people. When I woke up the next day, I was naked, on a couch in my friend’s loungeroom, with the worst hangover of my life, whilst my friend woke up and had gotten heat stroke the day before but hadn’t noticed because he was so drunk. I was expecting all this shit in the aftermath… But my drinking buddies actively congratulated me, telling me it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen… Whilst the people I’d ruined the event for sent me abusive messages. I felt uneasy about both reactions and decided that this was the beginning of the end of this bullshit.
It was not an easy, smooth or fast transition.
When i was walking through university and saw a bunch of stalls for an organisation that encouraged people to rethink their drinking habits. Literally as a joke, my friend and I had approached this stall to talk bluntly about just how much we would drink and we laughed when we received our classifications as heavy/problematic drinkers. After Australia Day, when I saw this stall back again, I took it a tad more seriously. “How does your drinking affect your studies?” Very negatively. “How does your drinking affect your health?” Probably doesn’t help. “How does your drinking affect your budget?” It’s one of my biggest expenses.
The questions went on until something occurred to me. Although I didn’t drink alone on the toilet at home or wouldn’t get violent on alcohol or wouldn’t drink and drive or wasn’t living on the streets from drinking and didn’t fit the image of an alcoholic I had in my head… I still had drinking problems for sure. I couldn’t recall ever just having one drink when I could have had fifteen. I couldn’t even imagine drinking in moderation, it was like a made up notion. I had regularly quit drinking in the past… For like three days, and it was like I just had no control over the matter. I WAS going to be one of the drunkest people at the party on the weekend, I WAS going to spew up, I WAS going to say something stupid, I WAS going to wake up hungover and embarassed. I thought to myself, whilst standing dumbfounded near this stall, that when I feel like I have no control over my drinking and that it is fucking with my relationships and health and money and studies… That of course it’s a fucking problem. The question wasn’t “do I have a drinking problem?” Because of course I did… The question was “what now?”. Fuck, I thought, and walked home.
I tried not to think about it, I had way too much fun getting drunk and my social life was way too invested in binge drinking to cut it out. But I did think about it.
I thought about how, when walking around campus with a friend, they would remark about how I just seemed to know everyone due to how many people waved at me as we went past, and how I’d had to explain that I only knew who about a third of them were, since I’d met the others likely whilst I was very drunk at a party. Hundreds of people knew me who I didn’t know. Fuck.
I thought about how, at my very poorest during university, I’d bought a cask of wine before going grocery shopping for potatoes and two minute noodles, literally going hungry so that I could still get fucked up. Fuck.
I thought about how often people would have to apologise for me in advance, or brief the host of a party about me before I arrived because of how drunk and bawdy I’d be when I arrived. I was an inconvenience to a group outing at times. Fuck.
And every time I told my drinking buddies that I wasn’t drinking, they would very easily get me to have “just one” when we met up, which would lead to me quickly chugging an entire jug of wine in a drinking game. I was totally defenseless against peer pressure. Fuck.
And every time, the next morning I would wake up and, recently, experience a hangover that lasted two days. I would be completely incapable of doing anything, and think to myself… What if I never got out of this state? What if I felt hungover my whole life? There’s no way I could achieve any of my goals for sure. And in combination with the sickness, which I had tried every hangover cure in the book to solve, I’d feel embarassed about whatever dumb shit I’d done, and how much I lacked a spine for caving to peer-pressure once again. Fuck.
I thought about how easy I succumbed to peer pressure for alcohol and wondered that if there were drugs available, if I’d be as easily pressured into taking those too. I’d never taken hard drugs before… But maybe that’s just because I’d never had the chance to. I didn’t trust myself to even be capable of saying no. Was alcohol only the beginning? Fuck.
I felt weak and I felt stupid.
But… It was just so fun. And so easy. And I had no amazing alternative to getting fucked up anyway.
Yeah I’d like to avoid these fucking hangovers and all this embarrassment and bullshit… But some of my fondest memories I’ve had were whilst drunk at a party. Getting drunk was one of my favourite things to do in life. Did I really have to give that up? There’s just a level you can get to with a person you’re drinking heavily with, that I just didn’t get in any other environment. I could immediately turn a boring event into a fun event with it. I could totally avoid awkward tensions and overcome my nervousness. Surely I didn’t have to give that up.
For probably about two years I had an on-off and rather complicated relationship with alcohol.
That scene in the movies where the main character has this revelation and then the next thing he’s wearing a suit, has all this money and is a brand new person overnight? Yeah, it didn’t fucking happen like that.
I had never gone to a party sober. Trying it out, for the first few times, just resulted in me eventually getting drunk at the party anyway after I was tired of my “friends” calling me a faggot and speculating that I must have a vagina. But eventually, I had a totally sober night out at a party… And it was actually alright. Then I tried having a sober night out going clubbing… And it was fucking horrible.
Women go clubbing, presumably, to dance and get attention. Men go clubbing, presumably, to get laid. Except only the top percentiles of men actually pull it off, for the rest it’s really just the idea. If you’re drunk you don’t realise just how boring it is if you’re not good enough to pull. And if you’re sober… You see this… And can’t unsee this.
I went to more parties sober to see if I could salvage my social life and didn’t have to abandon it to construct a new one, which was a terrifying prospect. This usually failed as my attempts to weakly and defensively say that I “couldn’t” drink were very easily overpowered. Often when I did remain sober, the abuse I copped negated the fun of the party. And often, the party was just boring, and the people were just boring. This is all fine if you’re hammered, but if you’re not, you need to extract a useful conversation out of the other dull, lifeless, useless party-goers. I was quickly discovering that I didn’t like a lot of people and that I was bored by most. Every single time I just caved and drank more, I enjoyed it more. Every time. It was terrifyingly effective and I knew it, which is why it was such a struggle, but every time the next morning I enjoyed my life less.
It wasn’t until I’d already graduated and was needing a new social circle anyway that I really started to make traction. And each time I went out sober I’d get a little bit better at it. Each month I got a little bit better socially and became a little bit less dependent upon booze. But my life was still dull without it.
About a year after graduating, I’d finally begun to fill my life with hobbies and social outings that didn’t centre around alcohol, and finally, fucking finally, it looked like I was on the home stretch.
Then I left Australia to go travelling and eventually live in Saigon. Here I didn’t have people who knew me as that guy who was always keen for a drink, I could reinvent myself and avoid the pressures… And I did.
I still miss getting fucked up… But I don’t miss it that often and I have other things to do and other people to hang out with that I enjoy too.
Now I just tell people I’m not a big drinker, I don’t make a big deal out of it and I don’t say it defensively and people generally shut the fuck up about it pretty quickly. I’m good enough sober to add value to a party so it’s fine.
Now I really love just having one drink, it’s relaxing and amazing.
Now even when I fall off the wagon and drink a lot, I get about a fifth as drunk as I used to and don’t feel so embarassed.
Now drinking isn’t a problem, it doesn’t make my life worse and I finally have control over it.