Alcohol is something that I used to consume quite a lot of in the past, but I don't any more. Allow me to expand.
So. Imagine it's 2004 again. You're me. Young Hazelnut, an embryonic headbanger, is off to the Hole in the Strand to study law. It's a whole new adventure. Getting out of the concrete commuter belt turdtown you grew up in and going to London, where the streets are paved with gold, to study to enter an august and respected profession at a highly regarded university. To not have your tartar of an old man carping at you all the bloody time. To have your own room and the ability to spread out your things without people sneering at you. To have some cash on the hip to do all this. And most importantly, especially if like me you went to an all boys school, an even shot at finding some fit birds and no longer being a pathetic virginoid. Oh yeah. This is gonna be great, right?
Well... what do you think? I was a fat autist with a face like a bag of elbow, what do you think happened? I didn't have an even shot at the fit birds, seemed to alienate everyone I met without meaning to, and had a habit of getting flung out of pubs for no adequately explicable reason. Apparently by acting perfectly normally I'd either do things that made people feel unsafe without realising (and nobody could specify what) or I'd have the sort of anxiety attack that feels like your skull's a plasma globe. I'd then slink back home in a state of abject misery.
But it didn't have to stop there, though. Thanks to this wondrous place called the off licence I was able to purchase a load of tins of Old Speckled Hen (I hate lager, it's like making love in a canoe, and American piss-tasting "beer" is even worse) or a bottle of Ricard and demolish them in my room, usually while shitposting on various squalid online fora. This, I later learned, is called "self medication." And then in my second year I had the black dog and only managed to salvage my degree by working like a maniac in my last year to paper over the cracks.
Also didn't help that I did a year abroad at the Sorbonne and ended up being continued to be ostracised and alienate people without meaning to, only in French. I suspect the fact that my accent was fucking dreadful and I probably sounded like Officer Crabtree didn't help. But, they had cheap tinnies, and Grimbergen Brune was my favourite.
So, I graduate, do my Legal Practice Course, and finally get a job. But I like my beer an awful lot. I kept sober in the week but at weekends I was crushing many a can or a bottle. I did finally find a place where I fit in, and that was the various heavy metal gigs and bars in London. After a fashion, anyhow. I would still feel very lonely therein and go home and self medicate some more. But it's okay. I'm not an alcoholic. I don't feel clucky if I go without some pisswater every day. I get along just fine. I even manage to score a couple of times. With actual women no less.
Then I meet Heather. That's not her name but it's close enough. This is at a networking event. I wasn't actually planning to go to it but that day a client rang and told me that he was organising it and I was going, wasn't I? Given that I had about five cases on the go for him and another two for his compatriot that was a yes. So along I trot. Heather is there. She's witty and big eyed and has long dark hair and, let's be honest, rather nice jubblies. I end up smooching with her in a doorway after it's over and next thing I know I'm spending every weekend round hers, usually in her bed. God, she loved to do it. It wasn't just in her bed either. There was one weekend that I believe I systematically podged her in each room in the house. That was her idea. I notice that she drinks a bit but it doesn't seem like a vast amount and she doesn't seem like she's drunk or anything. And she has a similar taste in film and TV to me and a similar sense of humour and also went to a single sex grammar school though hers was down in Exeter and thus she didn't have the same growing up in a turdtown experience as me. There's times she seems to be a bit illness prone but she writes it off as various things and besides, I have the constitution of a horse so I normally shrug off most infections and things (apart from the Incident with the Dodgy Shoes which resulted in me being shot up with IV antibiotics). Maybe she's not like that. I move in with her. It's all a huge rush. I meet her parents. Her old man's a lawyer as well. She meets mine. I offer her a ring, which she welcome with open arms (and legs). And atop all this, I have a job which isn't stuck in Legal Aid so I'm actually getting somewhere career wise. Life is pretty good, no?
Well... no. You see, one day I was invited to go on a heritage railway trip with her old man while she and her mother and sister did some wedding planning. The idea was to get me out the way or something like that. I get back and nobody's there. Then the phone goes. It's the hospital. Heather has been taken there after having an alcohol induced seizure, and is being medically dried out. I get there. She's okay though inasmuch as she isn't going to die. However when I do pick her up on the last day of her stay, and I find her discharge notes. Apparently she's been on a bottle and a half of spirits every day, and tried to cut down and it didn't work and she had a fit on the living room floor.
We go out when she's back. She has a shot of something but I limit her to just one. Life seems pretty good. For the next couple weeks she seems okay, but she becomes convinced that she's a "whale" and needs to lose a fuckton of weight or I won't marry her. I tell her this is all a load of fucking bollox. Believed I am not. Every single day becomes a battleground of secret tests of character and attempts by her to convince me that she's too lardsome to marry. She really isn't. At this time she was half my weight. If anyone's a whale it's me. Then after a while this goes away and she's eating semi-normally again. There's a stint where she goes to her parents near Exeter for a week to do some more wedding preparations and planning, during which I have stuff of my own to sort out as well.
The wedding takes place and goes off quite well. Off to Geneva for the honeymoon, a place I've never been before. And I have a new new job when I get back because my previous one I realised was kind of exploiting me for shit pay. Life is pretty good, no?
Well... no. She has another alcohol induced seizure in front of me. I call an ambulance and then she has a second one while waiting for it to arrive. Another drying out session. Turns out she'd been going to the offie when I left for work, buying a bottle of vodka, demolishing it, then hiding the evidence in a public bin. This time her parents come along and unveil a plan to stick her in rehab over Christmas. It turns out that she's been an alcoholic since she was a student herself, and this would not be the first time she's been in rehab. Isn't life great. She can't seem to lay off the grog. I visit her in rehab. The visits are contentious affairs because she's back to being convinced she's a "whale" again despite being half my mass.
Like a fucking chump, I continue to dumbly act as her carer. Getting in from work and wondering, is she going to be compos mentis or am I going to have to physically haul her upstairs into bed. If the former, is she going to be civil and nice or act all illogically and claim she's afraid of me and screech and gasp and twitch when I say something regardless of what it is. If the latter, is she going to remain unconscious throughout the whole operation or is she going to wake up partway through and start moaning that I'm "hurting" her even though I am not in contact physically with her at that moment. Like a Reddit jannie, I do this for free. Because I'm too cuntstruck, and too guilty feeling to tell her that she needs to get help like she's been promising to do for ages, and too convinced that I'm in the last chance saloon and this is the price I pay for not being forever alone. And it's even worse when she's sober. When she's sober, she's constantly ratty with me for any reason or no reason. Why can't you be less clumsy and not kick a hole in the balustrade when falling down the stairs, Hazelnut? Why do you not want to watch yet another rake of Come Dine With Me, Hazelnut? Why are you trying to bully me into eating and subsequently being fat, are you a feeder or something, Hazelnut, you perverted fuckhole? Why can't you not spill things or drop things, Hazelnut? Endless. Fucking. Grief. But when she was drunk there was an even chance she'd actually be vaguely civil.
By February 2016, I have had enough and I escape with literally the clothes on my back and two bags and a laptop rucksack. My job is non existent because I couldn't concentrate on it and I was always tired and always ratty with other people, to the point at in the meeting in which the managing partner of that firm fired me I noticed it was the day of the firm's Christmas dinner and told her "I hope it turns to ashes in your mouth." Thus sinking any chance I had at a grievance, but I honestly didn't care. I had an empty bank account and all my stuff was mewed up in the house I shared with Heather. I have to beg her railway-enthusiast manlet father to let me in to retrieve all the things that are mine, and then I get a grudging two hour slot to do so. The day after I escape I get a text from her claiming she's attempted suicide, followed by another from her mother saying that I should have gone right round to the hospital immediately she attempted it, even though nobody mentioned it and I suspect this is all a ploy to further their plan of offloading their soak of a daughter into the first poor ninny who came along and who seemed suitable enough and responded correctly to their love bombing.
I delete them.
I move around a number of contract legal jobs in the South West before finally, in 2018, getting a proper job again. It's in Essex. About as far away from her, her railway enthusiast manlet father, her fat snobbish social climbing mother, and her Sloane Ranger wannabe sister as I can get. The divorce is not contested in any way though it doesn't stop her ringing my workplace and trying to make allegations of brutality and depravity to the powers that be there. Thankfully they ignore her because I forewarned her when she threatened to do this over text that she might. On one occasion she rings me in the office in front of the two people I shared my room with at the time and screams invective at me. I put it on speaker. They all stifle their laughter at some of the things she comes out with. One of them suggests she still fancies me. I tell him he's welcome to have a go at her if he fancies ruining the next few years of his life.
I get another shrieky email from her. I open the headers in MS Outlook and notice that the IP address resolves to a rehab clinic in Cullompton. Imagine my shock.
Then, as the calendar flicks over to 2019, I realise something for the first time. It's been over two years since I had a drink. I just... stopped wanting it. See, I don't hate Heather for all this. I pity her. She was smart and capable and humorous and witty. She got into Oxford for fuck's sake, which I didn't. But, she could not seem to put down the bottle, and it wrecked her life. By the end of 2021, when thanks to lockdown and the fact I was comfort eating I have my own intemperate habits, I realise that her position could well have been mine. After all, I was, as a student, self medicating with cans and bottles of beer. I also occasionally got a bottle of spirits (Ricard was my go to) and demolished it - I sort of pretended that it wasn't problem drinking because I was giving it three fingers and shaking it around with ice cubes to make it louche, so it's actually sophisticated and erudite. I wonder. If things went differently, would I have been joining her in the rehab clinic for our first Christmas together? It's quite possible. But I don't know really.
I still don't drink. I go to heavy metal gigs but I have Coke Zero. I even had a totally alcohol free night when I went to see The Macc Lads in late 2019. They are the band whose songs include "Beer and Sex and Chips and Gravy," "Barrel's Round," "Boddies," "My Pub," "All Day Drinking," and just plain "Alcohol." Incongruous? Yes. Care? No.
Honestly, alcohol wrecks peoples' lives. It wrecked Heather's. It wrecked her family's, who had to deal with the fallout from this. It wrecked mine for the same reasons. It wrecked my family's by proxy as they had to help me bounce back from all that. Then multiply this by many such cases and you start to sympathise with the Temperance League. But then again, that doesn't work either. Prohibition failed in the States. Minimum alcohol pricing is a thing in Scotland but it doesn't stop them. And had it been brought in here, Heather would have responded to the minimum price of a bottle of Russian Standard going up by 25% with a resounding "don't care."
I've not found anyone since divorcing Heather. For some reason being a divorced sperglord in your thirties who is also a recovering lardbucket has more red flags than a Chinese military parade. But I'm going to be up front about it. I'm not going to be with anyone who is a problem drinker ever again. And if you have to hide or lie to yourself about how much you are drinking, that's a problem.