In fact, I’ve only been left with vodka.
I had a better social life at 15 than I do now. Back then, I somehow managed to go clubbing four times a week on the measly £10 I earnt from my Saturday job at the local dry cleaners. My £1.35 per hour job enabled me to drink on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Christ, that’s five times a week. My poor, poor liver.
It did well to cope with the amount I drank back then. The term ‘binge drinking’ hadn’t been coined and we just saw ourselves as teenagers having fun. We never got into trouble, it was just a part of our social life. I’d get ready at my friend’s house and take the obligatory 3 litre bottle of Lambrusco to drink before we’d even gone out. My parents were often my chauffeurs, preferring to collect me at 2am and know I was safe, than leave me to my own devices. In hindsight, a wise move.
I was so dedicated to clubbing that even a snowstorm didn’t put me off. There I was, tottering about in 4” high heels in 2ft of snow – and all on a Wednesday.
I now find myself in the position of being a mother to a 15 year old and thankfully, so far (touch wood), he seems to have his head screwed on. For the most part. And so right now, I don’t have sleepless nights worrying where he is, who he’s with or what he’s doing, like my Mum did with me. But I remember all too well how big a part of my life alcohol was for my friends and I when we were younger and I worry I have it all to come. Karma is a bitch.
So it’s a little ironic that when I watched a programme last night about female binge drinking, I got on my high horse and interjected with copious derogatory remarks about the state some of the drunk women were in. Very hypocritical, I know.
The presenter, in the name of research of course, went out drinking with women of different age groups – from teenagers to pensioners – to find out why they drank. The one thing all the women had in common? They drank to escape.
This is not ground breaking news. The teenagers were bored; the young, single mothers had no self-esteem and the fifty pluses were just trying to fill a void in their now child-free lives.
The programme was a snapshot of the UK’s drinking culture and far from representative of every woman, but it did make me think about my own experiences with alcohol throughout the years.
When I was younger, like most girls, I drank to give me confidence. I was never pressured into drinking but it was just part of life, and as I got older, it was used as a coping mechanism when times got tough. It helped me cope, but the more I drank, the more immune I became to it. So the more I drank. A very vicious circle.
Don’t get me wrong. I drank no more than any other young woman I knew at the time and I never got to the point where I ‘needed’ a drink – but I can see how easily it could happen.
Now, I rarely drink. If I’ve had a stressful day, I may have one (OK, two) vodkas after the kids have gone to bed but as my partner doesn’t drink, I’m always conscious of drinking on my own, so I rarely bother. If I have lunch with a friend, we’ll have a beer or two.
If I choose to drink it’s because I want to relax. Because I enjoy it. It’s not to fill a void, or to give me confidence. At 40, I know now more than ever who I am and getting drunk just doesn’t appeal. I can’t cope with the hangovers!
I know I sound like the type of person I used to scoff at as a teenager, but I worry for young women today who drink like I used to. Statistics show women are now much more likely to get into dangerous situations when drunk than ever before. My poor Mum must have been so stressed every time I went out.
Alcohol is a temporary measure. It is often just a band aid. It doesn’t solve your problems, it just creates more and it’s difficult explaining that to a teenager.
Binge drinking is on the rise among young women. The “continental café bar culture” the Government were once keen to promote via the relaxation of licensing laws, has proven to be a spectacular failure. Supermarkets continue to sell cheap alcohol. Corner shops continue to sell to underage drinkers.
This is not a new problem, but as a mother it is one that I now look at with fresh eyes.