Trouble is, there are usually a lot of those days before The Day comes. The day after I got fitted with braces and drank all my (now ex) boyfriend's whisky. The day after I got arrested for spitting. The day after I playfully tried to bite my (now ex) boss at the Christmas party. The day after I missed my own 30th birthday party. The day after I broke my leg. The day after I took an overdose. And all the days when the physical and psychological effects of the hangover just seem too crushingly awful to ever endure again. When is it alcoholism.
I long for that final, defining Day. The one I can proudly count back to in years to come and use as an excuse for lots of commemorative tattoos. I fantasise about 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 (if I've not done too much damage to myself so far) year anniversary celebrations involving lots of pizza, Greek coffee and punk rock. It all sounds so lovely, self-validating and – dare I say it – almost ironically defiant in a world full of afterwork drinks and dinner party wine. "Just have one" they'll say, time after time after bloody time. "You know where you can stick that, pal" I'll say, with a flash of unsulfite-stained teeth.
I wailed pathetically to a friend (11 years sober) a couple of weeks ago that with all those embarrassments behind me, I'd already messed up enough, so why not just give in and keep drinking? "You have a lot further down to go," he responded bluntly. "Prison? Homeless? Lost leg? I've seen it all, believe me. But it's your choice." The problem is, an alcoholic can take that kind of statement two ways. I just told myself, "Ah, well, I'm still functioning pretty well, aren't I? That's true." Alcoholics make twisting words into an art form: anything to persuade us that it's OK to keep on as we are. Jokes about other people's drunken anecdotes, Facebook memes about loving gin more than men… all this is what we thrive on. We can pretend everyone is the same as us when we start on that second bottle alone in our bedrooms.
"There's a voice that tells alcoholics we can drink," said the late great Robin Williams. "It's the same voice you hear if you go up to the top of a really tall building and there's a little voice and it says 'Jump! You can fly!'" And he's so right. It doesn't matter if our livers are deteriorating or we've woken up with our best mate's granddad again: we'll still persuade ourselves that everything's cool, because that was last time, right? This time, this time we can bring that gorgeous neat spirit to our lips and have just enough for a little buzz. This time we've got control.
When was alcoholism declared a disease
Most articles out there are from alcoholics who've stopped drinking. I must admit, I thought long and hard about writing one from the position of someone still in the middle of it. I've written for Cosmo on other tricky, personal topics – suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, attempting suicide – but this is the one which I know will really lure the trolls in. Because alcoholics are dirty, pitiful, indulgent, aren't we? We should just STOP. If Mr Troll is able to have a pint at the weekend and leave it at that, so should I be.
Like many who turn to the bottle, I've suffered from depression ever since I can remember. I fell in love with booze when I was about 15. It was then that I strayed beyond the small, carefully measured glasses of good quality red wine at my parents' house and into fields with my friends to quaff White Lightning cider. All my stresses melted away when those chemical bubbles hit my stomach. So what if my dad was going to go ballistic when I came home drunk? If you feel the depth of anxiety and self-hatred which comes with serious depression, alcohol is the ultimate numbing agent.
Problem is, of course, it doesn't help in the long term – it just makes things worse. But we're creatures of habit and that temporary crutch can become irresistible to even the most otherwise rational and intelligent addict. Because we're addicts. I sat in that field with my friends, forgot the bullies at school, and felt as if we were the most gorgeous teenage girls alive. Tomorrow, and going back to school to face the bullies with the added issue of a hangover, didn't matter. And there was the start of it.
Female alcoholics get particularly bad press. First of all, alcoholism is traditionally seen as a male condition, despite the fact that NHS statistics now suggest 9% of men and 4% of women in the UK are alcohol-dependent. Not such a huge gulf, really. If I go into a pub and match the blokes drink for drink, I'm still seen as a tomboy or a "lesbian". And if I go out and drink myself into cocktail oblivion with the girls, I'm a slag. There are extra assumptions attached to being a woman who drinks. A man can just be an alcoholic, most of the time. I remember, years ago, being astonished when I walked into my first AA meeting and saw that almost 40% of the people in there were women "Let's go and drink strong coffee in an all-night caff!" one of them hissed to me after the meeting. I decided I couldn't imagine anything worse, so I declined and sloped my miserable way home to nurse a warm bottle of Pinot Grigio I'd been keeping under my bed.
I've since become the kind of person who discusses alcohol and who's drinking what a lot more openly. In becoming that person, I've discovered that some of the most individuals of my acquaintance haven't touched ye olde ethanol for years, even decades. And yet I never would have realised if they hadn't told me, They're flirting, dancing on tables, being the life and the soul of the party. Only difference is, they don't do anything they wouldn't do while sober – because, well, doh – and they're always there to scoop me into a taxi. I still don't understand how they do it, but I'm so glad I know them: especially the ones who are happy to admit that they don't drink because they went through what I'm going through. You CAN still be rad and not drink. It's true.
I do genuinely believe I'll stop drinking one day. I really do. This article is a huge part of that, fronting up so publicly to my condition. I just also recognise that it's going to be a difficult ride – a ride I'd quite like to talk about, actually, instead of hiding until I'm "cured". I'm lucky: I have a supportive family, supportive friends and dreams and ambitions I want to live for. Most importantly of all, I have an incredibly elderly and doddery cat and I want to remember as much of the last bit of her time on earth as I can (sob!). It was a hard decision to write this, but I hope it stands out and strikes a chord in the endless sea of "I've been sober five years, let's talk about what a mess I was" articles we normally see. I'm no longer in denial: I'm Charlotte Dingle, and I'm an alcoholic who just hasn't stopped yet.
When was alcoholism defined