By Samuel Smith
At the beginning of the year I drove to the bottle-o to pick up some wine. Aware of the mature aged cashier’s prominent “I’m judging you buddy, I know you know nothing about wine and just want to get smashed” glare, I bought a $25 dollar bottle of white which was apparently made in France, or Italy…or some classy European place.
“2011, good year,” snarled the judgemental cashier.
“Haha yeah I’ve heard good things!” I replied over enthusiastically, a bead of sweat forming on my brow then trickling down my face.
“Big night tonight?” he continued.
“Haha yeah no, oh not really just a couple of…friends…coming over for… um…drinking,” I replied.
This was a mistake. I had blown it. The rest of the transaction was completed in silence. I casually walked back to my car, drove out of the car park, stopped at a traffic light, opened the bottle and began drinking from it. Then I froze. Had I really just done that? To make matters worse, I lied to the cashier. I wasn’t even having friends over, I just felt like a bottle of wine. I pulled over and had a long, hard think. How had I reached this stage? What was my future? Was I an alcoholic?
I didn’t start drinking till I was 18. Yes, I was one of those people. Before the big one-eight, I somehow survived without the social crutch that is alcohol. For most of my high school life, I – Sensible Samuel Smith – remained sober while my friends lolled around in alcoholic stupors at house parties, special occasions and random gatherings. “I don’t need alcohol to have fun,” I told myself. But as I got older, the pressure to drink increased. I realised I had made a name for myself as ”that weird sober guy”, so halfway through year 12, teen Sam decided that the time had come. In order to fit in, he needed to drink.
My first alcoholic endeavor ended badly. I vomited in a friend of a friend’s sink. Their parents were home, and heard. Pre-vomit, I (apparently) pretended to be a cat for around an hour and crawled around the house, purring and meowing. But after regaining my dignity, it wasn’t long before I was drinking with the rest of ‘em. This carried on till school finished and my group of high school chums disbanded. People got jobs, found ‘love’, moved away and got pregnant. Drinking was no longer a priority, and for almost half a year, I went without.
But as soon as I made friends at uni, sensible Samuel was no more. Driven by my “I need to drink to be invited to things and have fun, cause that’s what everyone does, right?” complex, I knocked ‘em back like never before. Embarrassing alcohol-fuelled memories include: going on a (very tame) hike with a group of 60-year-old women and vomiting in the bushes because I was so incredibly hungover and out of shape, deciding to walk home from the city at 4am (I live at Glenelg. It took three hours. I ended up crying), going to the gym drunk and dropping a weight on my head, and finally, witnessing the looks on my classmates’ faces when a flask fell out of my bag mid way through an oral presentation at uni.
I kept going this way for another half a year, until I received some worrying news. Without going into too many details, a medical crisis occurred and for a few months I gave up drinking (again). I focused on uni and hardly went out. I figured if I wasn’t consuming alcohol, there wasn’t much point going to parties and pubs. I wasn’t unhappy by any means, but I did miss the social life I had before. Eventually my medical issue was sorted. The doctor called me into his office and gave me the good news. “You’ll be happy to know you can drink again! Why not celebrate with your mates tonight?” he eagerly suggested. So with a wink and a nudge, our trusty family GP sent me off into the world of alcohol once again. “If the doctor condones it, it must be okay!” I thought to myself, and immediately resumed my old habits.
This time though, something wasn’t the same. Absinthe didn’t have the same kick, Vodka made me tired, wine made me sick and beer made me feel like I’d eaten an entire meal. I also started noticing how much people rely on alcohol for…well…everything. Hell, my doctor spoke about it as if it was the greatest thing on earth.
I decided then that I’d go a month without drinking, but this time I’d actually make an effort to go to parties, go to pubs and do everything I would have done before, minus the grog. Ignoring suggestions to “just take drugs instead”, I stayed sober (and drug free…). At first it was hard, but then something clicked. I was the one with the power. I could say whatever I wanted, I could act however I wanted and no one would care. Being the ‘sober’ guy was really not such a bad thing at all. I’d love to say that since my revelation I haven’t touched liquor, but that would be a lie. I still drink; I still get drunk, but after realising how heavily people depend on alcohol, I can no longer view it in the same light.