While my colleagues went to drink warm, weak mojitos at the Friday bar in our work, I laced up my running shoes and took a gorgeous evening run round London.
I went along one of my favourite routes along the Thames, but made sure to take a detour past my old work which is very close to the river.
I left that job 14 months ago as it was incredibly toxic for me. I had a bullying boss, a ridiculously high pressured job and was miserable there by the end. When it got unbearable, I took things into my own hands and handed in my notice, which was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. In many ways, that bold decision has paved the way for other bold decisions in the past year- leaving my home and relationship and ultimately, quitting drinking.
I’d intended to run past the old office because it would remind me how far I’ve come, but what I had COMPLETELY forgotten about was how my serious drinking career actually started in those very 4 walls.
When I moved to London at the age of 23, I’d had probably 2-3 years of not drinking very much at all, without really thinking about it. I’d had a really tough degree to get through that needed full focus and then had taken my first job in my home town, living with my parents and not really having any opportunities or the desire to drink.
So when I took this big, exciting job in London I threw myself into it, especially the social scene. I work in the media, and it seemed at every moment there was an opportunity to drink. I weighed around 7 stone at the time, was barely eating, marathon training and had no tolerance for alcohol. The first night I went out with the team I drank 3 large glasses of red wine which literally floored me. I was absolutely mortified. I can still so vividly remember the sensation of knowing I should eat something to sober up and trying to force down a burger, but my mouth being so incredibly dry I could barely chew.
I resolved to drink less with colleagues after fearing I’d made a bad impression, but with the endless merry go round of free bars, award ceremonies and after-work pow wows about the latest team drama, that didn’t last long. My tolerance for wine grew and my taste for red became voracious. I started to crave it, swerving the gym to go and drink, which wasn’t like me at all.
Running past that building tonight I can pinpoint the night my drinking took an irreversible downward spiral. I know alcoholism is a progressive disease, and my drinking got slowly worse as it went on, but I can honestly say for me, there was one weekend which changed everything.
The month before That fateful Weekend, I’d been tasked with injecting some team spirit into our organisation, which was going through lots of uncomfortable changes. I went to visit another creative business for inspiration, and came back with a notebook bursting with suggestions.
The one single idea that was picked up was to install a “drinks trolley” on a Friday to encourage people who weren’t up for the pub to have a drink and socialise with colleagues, to build a bit of camaraderie.
I was pretty pleased one of my suggestions had been taken on but was disappointed to find that the trolley’s debut (!) fell on the night before my (now-ex) boyfriend was moving to another city for 6 months.
I was supposed to be going to a farewell meal for him and his brother, but had time for a quick glass of wine at the drinks trolley before I went. I started chatting away and the wine was flowing, so I stayed for another, and another, and another. I ran off to the toilets to text my boyfriend and tell him I was caught up in a horrific deadline and would be late. I remember barely being able to type the words, and coming out with nonsensical predictive text which I put down to not being able to operate a touch screen phone. Bollocks. I was wasted. But I carried on drinking.
I got home at 11pm that night, and I’d like to say that having missed the meal, I was full of remorse, but I don’t think I cared, actually. Which isn’t like me at all, and horrifies me to type it, but it’s true.
The next day I had to endure a hungover 3 hour car ride to drop off boyf’s things at his new place. I remember the sweet relief of having a glass of wine over dinner, the magic glass that eased the hangover.
And the next night, when he was gone, and I faced the prospect of living in my flat alone for the next 6 months, drinking half a bottle of wine to dull the fear. I’ve mentioned that moment on this blog before, but I was sitting in front of the TV watching Homeland and drinking the wine thinking, “this is dangerous: I love it.” Drinking alone had begun. Lying to someone else and myself had begun. Drinking to numb shame and loneliness had well and truly begun.
From thereon, Friday nights getting drunk in the office were a highlight of my week. Often after everyone had gone home and left the drinks trolley still amply stocked, I snuck off with a glass (bottle) to my computer to “finish up some work” and drank alone in the office. I believed I was genuinely working. What lies I told myself.
Soon, I started buying a bottle of wine to have a glass of on my lovely balcony a couple of times a week, ending up finishing the bottle falling asleep on the sofa and awaking feeling like shit thinking “WHAT am I doing this for?!”
But at that time, it didn’t feel like a problem at all. It just felt like a habit I’d got into that I could kick at any time.
Writing this post, I’ve realised it’s almost 2 years TO THE DAY that that first incident in the office happened. Which makes me incredibly grateful to have started to get on top it now. Two years of heavy drinking (one of which was actively trying to stop) is small in the scheme of things, but the fact it declined so quickly to a point I feel I have no other option than AA speaks volumes. I read something, somewhere, that says women alcoholics can fall victim to drinks effects incredibly quickly, and I suppose I’m a walking testimony of that.
So today, on that run, I gazed up at the big building I used to spend my Friday nights in drunk, and thought how far I’ve come, how much stronger I feel now and how I know that the only path for me is the sober path.