Parties are fun.
Although I've never been the most outgoing person, over the years I've pushed myself to be more of a social butterfly - making friends, reaching out to people on social media and overall just trying to combat that awful shyness I felt inside for a majority of my teenager years. Although I recently turned 18, it's quite normal for teenagers in the UK to start drinking earlier than that. My parents used let me have one Bucks Fizz at Christmas (a mix of orange juice and champagne) with my Christmas Dinnner from when I was about 14 and when I turned 15, people in my year at school were already having drinking games at these amazing parties that I wanted to join in on. A need to fit in. So when I first started talking to my parents about alcohol, they decided to let me have a glass of Smirnoff Ice with my dinner.
Now, Smirnoff Ice isn't a strong drink at all - only 4% alcohol content to be precise - and while you may be shocked to hear that my parents had let me do this, I was glad they let me. I felt that they were teaching me tolerance of alcohol because I could do it in front of them. It meant that I didn't feel like I had to do it behind their back, and get drunk at these parties because I couldn't drink at home so had to make do of what was put on my friend's "bar." Alcohol was suddenly not a big deal, because it wasn't a form of rebellion anymore.
And so, I got older, drank a little more, but in 2020 I turned 18 - the age I could legally purchase alcohol on my own. I remember going down to the local shop and being asked for my ID, and I remember feeling very nervous, as if what I was doing was illegal. I just ended up paying for them and leaving quite casually, pretty proud of myself for going and doing something that only adults could do.
I had really looked forward to my 18th birthday. I was one of the younger girls in my year at school, and had watched them on their snapchat stories going to clubs and dancing and having fun in cute dresses. I wanted to do that.
Unfortunately it wasn't going to happen. On the Wednesday 18th of March 2020 - the exact date of my birthday - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that we were going into lockdown on the Saturday - and because I went to school Monday - Friday, I had been hoping that the weekend was when I was able to properly go out and celebrate like a real adult. Instead, I spent 3 months in lockdown with my family, not seeing friends, not going outside unless it was to walk my dog.
The first UK lockdown destroyed me. I began to spiral. I was worried about my exam results, whether or not I would get into university and when the hell this stupid virus was going to go away so I could start living again. I started to drink in the evenings.
Luckily, I was able to go to uni after all, and I moved in during September, after lockdown had been lifted but restrictions were still in place. Luckily for me, I was able to go on to campus and have access to my art studio. Others weren't so lucky.
In the UK, university initiation comes in the form of Fresher's Week - a week made up of parties and heavy drinking, but due to the pandemic and many social distancing requirements in place, Fresher's Week was cancelled. But that didn't stop us in the university accomodation blocks. We decided to buy as much alcohol from the local off-licence as our student loans would allow, and we had a party. (I would like to note, we are all living together and created a social bubble within our accomodation.)
I was still in the habit of not drinking too much, but drank more than I usually would. I played beer pong, and waterfall and managed to get through some very awkward and embarrassing (on my part in particular) first impressions and introductions, but soon enough, I had made quite a few friends in my accomodation and we all had a lot of fun.
Fun, until, I wasn't having so much fun anymore.
Due to complications from one of my flat mates, I had more stress piled on top of me as well as the stress of not really sure if what I was doing was okay. I had major imposter syndrome when I started my course, wondering if I was even good enough to be there. It lead to a breakdown and me coming home for a few days, but after that I don't think I was completely the same.
I came back and went of for drinks with my other flat mates, doing my first tequila shot and trying zambucca - both of which did not hit me until I tried to stand up to pop to the toilet. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I suddenly felt like my eyes were not connected to my brain, and that I was watching everything from behind a glass pane of some sort. It was weird as hell. I wasn't too convinced that this feeling I was feeling was a good thing, so I had some waters to sober myself up and it worked (very slightly.) After that evening, I started to get really low if I started to drink, would start to stare into space and completely disconnect. I felt that I didn't want to drink anymore, but if I didn't I wouldn't get out of this weird spacey and sad feeling I had. I would often start leaving the party early, not wanting to drink anymore and not wanting to be a weird vibe kill. I started to wonder to myself if I should actually be drinking if it's making me feel like this.
Fast forward to Christmas, I had my Bucks Fizz again and enjoyed spending time with my family. It was a small and quiet Christmas, just the 4 of us, due to Covid not being completely gone and us going back into a lockdown just after. I remember seeing the countdown on the TV and wondering what my new year's resolution would be. I knew straight away, that I didn't want to drink anymore.
Why would I want to drink anymore? Alcohol has to be mixed with something for it to taste remotely nice anyway?? Alcohol also can make anxiety worse, which is what I think it was doing to me. It started to just get very overwhelming to try and keep up, and although I had fun playing games of Beer Pong, I started to realise that my overall mental health and wellbeing were far more important to me than a simple beverage.
So, its nearly the end of January. Ive not has a single drop of alcohol since New Years. I'm pretty proud of myself. I've started looking at mocktail recipes online to make fancy and fun drinks without the need for alcohol in them. I've been feeling healthier, drinking more water and overall feeling a lot better about myself.
My advice is, if you're wondering whether or not you should be drinking, the chances are you shouldn't. Alcohol has its fun, but it also has its dangers. I think that if you're thinking about getting sober, then you should definitely give it a go.