Such an elegant, genteel kind of drink isn’t it? So many different wines to go with aperitifs, starters and main courses. The gentleperson’s drink, if you like.
However, when this delicious drink leads to finding yourself in a small waiting room that stinks of despair, stale cigarette smoke and bad body odour, where the receptionist has to slide back a security panel to speak to you through armoured glass, you know you have problems.
You see, I’m not like my peers or any of the social group that my husband and I mingle with. I don’t drink with a meal – I drink to avoid meals.
I also drink (and this is very difficult for me to admit) for the sake of drinking. Because that is what I’ve done since my teenage years in my hometown, where the only thing for the younger generation to do was to go to pubs and clubs and get bladdered. It was Recession time in the late eighties/early nineties and nobody could afford the cinema, or eating out (unless you classed McDonalds as “eating out”). If you wanted fun on the dole while you were looking for work your best bet was free entry to The Night Owl and £1 all night for a pint of Copperhead. That was how I grew up; it was what was normal.
My GP has become so concerned about the amount I drink on a daily basis that I was referred on to a charity by the name of “Changes”, and I’ve just returned from my session there.
Everything about the visit was depressing. We had to drive through a run-down, grotty council estate (one of those that you look at and just know that this is where hope comes to die) and locate the Changes office on a trading estate (really cheerful!) before wandering into the aforementioned reception area.
I immediately knew that I don’t belong anywhere near a place like that; I don’t run with a crowd whose main topic of conversation centres around how somebody else is coping with sorting out their drug/drink habit. It isn’t me; that’s not who I am.
I felt no more reassured when a lady finally led us into a confined, foul-smelling office for a chat. I’m a well-mannered, quiet, intelligent lady of middle-class background who doesn’t have to go to these horrible places.
And that’s exactly when it hit me. People with drinking problems are in every street, from all walks of life. I was in that disgusting waiting room with the sort of stereotypical types of people who treat these places like social clubs because I have their same issues.
All of this because of years of bullying and being told that anything above nine stone was fat. The eating disorder, the low self-esteem, the alcohol issues… all of it.
The lady I spoke to was nice, though, and she helped me to remember that there is so much more to me than epilepsy and alcohol. I am intelligent; there is my main blog which reaches out to people with epilepsy and other disabilities, encouraging them to fight on and learn to see the funny side of life; there’s my work with Epilepsy Action. I cross-stitch, I’m learning tailoring, I dabble with the ukulele, I have fandoms that I enjoy, I garden, I read and I turn any vegetable that isn’t nailed down into a relish or a pickle. I have a past as a semi-pro swimmer and keen athelete that I should be proud of, and I have nurtured the sick and even saved lives.
Above all, she said that even she could feel the love and devotion between D and myself. I am secure for the first time in so many years and I am loved. I am loved and I am in love. How many people are ever lucky enough to find that perfect person for them?
“There is so much more to Gemma than epilepsy and alcohol”
I need to remember that – it was one of the final things she said to me. I don’t drink because I don’t have any hobbies and interests, and I don’t drink because I’m stupid enough to think it’s “cool”. I drink to mask far deeper issues.
Well, I don’t want to do it any more. I want to cut down to just a glass with a nice meal. I want to start eating again instead of killing my hunger pangs with wine.
Being in that horrible, soulless place was enough, I think, to shame me in to cutting down. I’ve settled on beginning this fight on Monday – and I will win.