It’s July 2019, the day after my boyfriend’s birthday.
Somehow I’m on the floor of the emergency exit corridor, locked out of the hotel room we’d booked for the occasion.
I check my pockets.
No key. No wallet. No phone.
I do, however, have a watch. It’s 6am.
I ring the bell. The metal door is cold to the touch.
Not even a rustle.
A receipt in my pocket cheerfully states we had 2 flaming Lamborghinis at 4am, just as the bar was closing for the night.
I don’t remember making the order, but my credit card certainly will.
Sighing, I make my way downstairs to the receptionist to ask for an extra room key.
The “Hi, sorry, I lost my key” script works every time.
We both don’t recall what happened.
There is evidence of a fight, and a pain I still feel in my heart.
It’s a strange feeling; holding a lingering emotion, not knowing what to attribute it to.
I try to think back to a reason, swimming through a thick swamp of blurry.. memories? I’m grasping at any flash of voice, at any image, to piece things together.
I stop trying to remember.
As a Psychology student, we had a class on the creation of false memories.
He asks again, “what did we fight about?”
I don’t want to pretend to know.
Before the party, I had promised:
“It’s your birthday, get as crazy as you want. I promise I’ll take care of both of us”.
One thing had led to another in the evening and before I knew it, there was too much champagne, too much tequila, too much everything.
Another night forgotten.
There was a time at a family dinner, 2 years ago, a memory that sticks with me.
Grandma asks, referring to my untouched glass, “you don’t enjoy wine? Pour quoi?”
Grandma is classic French.
For her, a glass of wine is the drinkable manifestation of all the pleasure that life has to offer.
I explain, “I don’t like the taste of alcohol. I only drink when there’s an end in mind.”
My sister looks at me.
“Isn’t that the textbook definition of ‘binge drinking’?”
She says it in English so Grandma won’t understand.
It had never occurred to me that there was a label for my way of drinking.
Habits are never intrinsically good or bad.
It’s whether or not they serve you.
I had a clear measure for recognising when a habit was no longer serving me.
The measure was, “is this negatively impacting my life and relationships?”
Just saying that aloud made me feel bulletproof.
But it’s easy to say, and much harder to notice when the line is actually crossed…
Although, it isn’t so much a line as it is a range.
A range wider than a football field. Maybe several football fields.
I was so good at continuously extending the range that even I couldn’t say how far it went into the horizon.
Meanwhile I’m on my way to a meeting, hungover and late.
I never thought being out 5 times a week till 10 am was a problem.
In fact, I was proud of it.
I was proud of being known as “the girl you want on your drinking team”.
I was proud of the messy, stupid, ridiculous things that happened.
They made fantastic stories, even if I never told them to anyone.
But that day in July 2019, sitting in a pool of shame and broken promises,
I began to wonder.
This is who I am today.
Is this who I want to be tomorrow?
I stopped drinking for one reason only:
It wasn’t who I wanted to be anymore.
Why completely go off alcohol, you might ask. Why so extreme?
Like Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen says,
It’s much easier to stick to your principles 100% of the time rather than 98% of the time.
This is especially true when I don’t trust myself to stop at 2%.
I didn’t swear off alcohol because I stopped liking what it gave me.
In fact, I miss it. A lot.
I miss who I am with a buzz in my head.
(Till today I still think I’m a lot wittier with some drink)
I don’t regret my past.
In many ways, these experiences have shaped who I am today.
Liquid courage taught me who I could be without my self-limiting awkwardness and painful self-consciousness.
But I’ll also say that all of my worst decisions, biggest regrets and times when I’ve felt the least dignified have all started the same:
With just one drink.
I told a friend once,
“I prefer who I am when I’m drunk”.
These days I’m learning how to be my favourite self, without needing the alcohol I used to think I did.