My tolerance in my late teens and twenties was amazing. Whether it is genetics or not, I obviously had inherited hollow legs, and throughout my twenties could drink a country dry with little side effect. It also gave me confidence and a penchant for having fun. Far too much fun. I had had one relationship before a Whale was hauled in by Mother, my first husband, who was 15 years older, wealthy, going places and a control freak, who drank rarely. It was not a match made in heaven.
He did introduce me to two lasting passions though, interior design and wine. I was only 19 when we married, and was to be a builder’s mate whilst he was off making his millions, I was stuck with the renovation projects that were his passive investment with my arrival. I did enjoy the cosmetic bits of it, but back then I really had no idea, words like joists, 2 x 4, and overflows were a mystery, and the upshot was that I usually braced myself for being told off relentlessly for getting everything wrong.
We also spent some time in France, my love affair began with the country and the wine, I had never really drunk wine in quantity, but my 21st year saw the start of a lasting relationship with the grape. Also the acceptability that is was fine in France to drink every day and every lunchtime. So I imported that concept back with me pre Blair, and the more I drank, the less notice I took of the bollockings, and concentrated on my fun friends that I was meeting at auctions and sales, antique dealers have hollow legs too!
After a couple of years of practice with wine, I could easily drink three bottles a day with perhaps the odd cognac thrown in, and function brilliantly. I went around in a sort of fuzzy haze, my alcoholic armour. The marriage floundered and I found at an auction, and antique dealer who was my male counterpart in all things, so off I staggered into the crazy world of casinos and clubs, throughout my twenties I was the ultimate party animal with bells on. It was the excessive Eighties, greed was good. That was my excuse anyway!
Paraphrasing Dickens, I show my clients the shadows of things that have not happened but will happen if in their early drinking careers they behave as I did. Many are young mothers, or professional women, or both, in their twenties, living it large, excuses now being depressing times and financial worries. That really is the biggest thing about booze, there is always a good excuse to need to drink. None of us need it, we wouldn’t give it to animals, plants or our children, but in addled brains find it quite ‘normal’ to souse ourselves in it. Even the brightest amongst us choose to ignore the future risks of alcohol misuse, and the authorities will only treat the problem once there are outcomes from it, rather than tackling the cause. Not just health, but rapes, accidents, attacks, the newspapers are full of them.
If I had been lucky enough to have had a role model to learn from perhaps I would have stood a chance even with my genetic history. Many of my clients say the same, that drinking from an early age is normalized, it’s only illegal drug taking that is frowned upon. You are a good sport when you drink, but not such a hero when you are a problem drinker. I was drinking a substance that many have described as a class A drug, and in sobriety am still shocked by the lifestyle I led, and survived. I have no desire to lecture or judge, but an overwhelming one to guide and suggest. And alcohol misuse is incredibly tiring. It really is only the young that can withstand the battering, the thinking ahead to plan the drinking, avoiding close up conversations just in case the child’s teacher smells alcohol on your breath, hiding bottles, trying to remember the events of the last few days, and oh the drama of it all!
So yes, I enjoyed my twenties and thought I was doing the right thing by not taking illegal drugs, but I set the foundation for my my descent into full blown alcoholism. This progressive disease caught up with me in my next decade, and the flip side was less than pretty.