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You Don't Drink? 10 Years Since I Stopped Drinking

10 years ago today, without knowing it, I went to the last party I would go to where I drank.

Alcohol had always been there. Not in a bad way at all. I just grew up with parents who had lunch and dinner parties with wine etc. for guests and when I was about 12/13 I would be given a little bit of wine with supper every so often.

And then I went to boarding school and started drinking on the weekends. It probably sounds shocking to many but, obviously, at 13 we were all so grown up and the thrill of buying booze and drinking it in the park at the weekend was so much fun! Looking back, I probably started drinking quite a lot at too young an age. But, it meant that I was fairly good with booze and, when I went away traveling and then to Uni, I knew my limits and didn’t go crazy like others who were able to drink almost for the first time.

Drinking with my cancer diagnosis

When I was diagnosed during my 3rd year at Uni when I was 22, I asked if I could still drink. I never clarified how much I drank and they never asked. I was just told that I could.

And I did.

I had to go back home for a few weeks after my diagnosis in January because I was so ill and didn’t drink at all. When I began to feel better around March, the idea of wine became more appealing and, by the summer, I was going out and drinking again.

I headed back to Uni in September but didn’t go back into lectures until that January, as I took a year off academically. And as a person who floats around social groups, I had friends to go out with every night. And I did.

I ended up drinking way too much. I would get immediate memory blanks during the evening, which was actually so dangerous. I had no idea what was going on.

When I graduated and went back home, my mother asked me if I thought having a break from booze would be a good idea, bearing in mind I take an oral chemotherapy every day. I thought it sounded like a plan. So I stopped for the summer to have a 3-month break.

And I’ve never started again.

An unhealthy coping mechanism

Looking back, I was drinking far too much and using it as a coping mechanism and to try to show I was fine.  That my diagnosis hadn’t impacted me at all.  I was fine. It was all ok. This wasn’t actually the case. But I was doing what felt right. The shock hadn’t worn off yet for me to be able to start processing. But I didn’t know that at the time. That’s the benefit of hindsight.

Also, I was 22/23. Of course, I was going to go out and drink. That’s what students do! Maybe I’m being too hard on myself and I wasn’t drinking more than my peers.  I don’t think…

But what bothered me when drinking was the person I could become when I drank. Angry. Verbally abusive. Argumentative. Not good. And I would never know which way I would go.

I am so much better without booze and I love the fact I am confident enough with me to go to parties, the pub etc. and talk to people I don’t know, without the comfort of alcohol.  I think cancer has taught me that.

I think I needed booze as a blanket to begin with. To block out what was happening. I wasn’t ready to start processing what a life with cancer meant.

I know that I am proud of myself for 10 years of no alcohol and I can still go out and have a good time. And yes, cancer is still there. But I think I have a better handle on it now.

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