In this week’s blog and ahead of the launch of our #BeRebelAF campaign, Club Soda member Millie (of @sobergirlsociety) shares the things that she wishes she could tell her younger self about booze.
On the 20th August 2009, I turned 18. The very same day I got my A-level results and celebrated securing my place to study English Literature and Language at the University of Sussex by buying my first legal drink at 11am – a pitcher of Blue Lagoon from Wetherspoons.
Before this, my encounters with alcohol were pretty limited. I’d spent my teenage years competitive dancing so apart from the odd underage Bacardi Breezer, my experiences with drinking were quite few and far between.
When I moved to Brighton 3 weeks later, I was both poor and desperate to make friends so I got myself three jobs. One in a shot bar; one promoting student nights for Vodka Revolutions and one dancing on the tables in a nightclub (with most of my clothes on). I went from barely having touched alcohol to binge-drinking 3-4 nights a week and working in bars and clubs meant that I rarely had to pay for the privilege myself. Blackout drinking became my norm and the dangerous situations I put myself in became, what I thought were, hilarious stories. Of course, I thought a lot of things back then, most of which weren’t true.
This week I am celebrating my 28th birthday, and now 10 years later with 19 months of sobriety under my belt, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I wish I could have told my younger self before she headed off into the big wide world. It might be too late for her but hopefully, someone else who needs to hear this will.
In early adulting, I got through pretty much every scary and awkward situation by drinking, which means I never really learned how to cope with such events. When I got to the real world, everything seemed scarier and I found it really difficult to deal with my emotions. I was constantly overwhelmed by the littlest things.
I always knew that alcohol was bad for my physical health but I wished I’d known just how much it could affect me mentally. According to psychotherapist Peter Klein based at The Priory, by using alcohol to relax or temporarily brighten a mood we are “essentially replacing an uncomfortable state with a more pleasant one. The problem here is that people then subconsciously start learning to fear their own emotions which only makes their inner tension stronger.”
Alcohol consumption has also been shown to damage gut bacteria and healthy gut bacteria is shown to be crucial for good mental health. When I started to struggle with poor mental health and anxiety, I wish I had known just how much alcohol was exacerbating it.
I used to think people who didn’t drink were weird, boring and had something wrong with them, and it’s simply not true. Even if you aren’t giving up alcohol, please respect the decisions of others. Don’t apply peer-pressure and don’t ostracise them. They’re simply people who are just living their best life.
In a world where everyone is trying to be the same, look the same and act the same, not drinking sets you apart and shows real courage and autonomy. I worried people would see my decision not to drink as weak but I wish I’d known that most people would go on to respect me for being ballsy enough to take on a night out without drink, and some of them would even go on to join me.
The internet is littered with pictures of me falling out of clubs, with my head down the toilet or just looking a bit of a state. I loved these pictures at the time because I felt very Kate Moss but now when they pop up, I cringe and have to spend hours working out how to remove them when they’ve been posted by someone else. I wished I’d known that Kate Moss would eventually be a non-drinker too.
I’m not an idiot. I know most soon-to-be students will read this and roll their eyes because that’s exactly what I would’ve done. I’m realistic about the fact no matter what I say, you may still want to drink at university so I have one piece of advice that I would have told my younger self. Don’t drink to avoid. Don’t drink because you’re sad, stressed, uncomfortable, nervous, angry, jealous, fearful, insecure, heartbroken or frustrated. It’s so important to work through those emotions and deal with them in a healthy way to set you up for dealing with them for the rest of your life.