Non-Fiction

A Strained Relationship

Photo of the top half of a blue glass bottle. In the background and out of focus is a yard with green grass, trees, part of a shed, and two wooden Adirondack chairs.

Content note: this piece discusses alcohol consumption, binge drinking, intoxication, and trauma. It also briefly describes sexual assault.


I have a strained relationship with alcohol. I don’t really drink except when I do. Throughout my twenties, drinking gradually evolved from an enjoyable activity to one I’m rather afraid of. There have been too many nights where I lost control, too many days lost to hangovers, and so many apologies that I’ve lost track. When a night went well, people told me I was fun and funny and crazy, the life of the party. I miss being able to be that person. When a night didn’t go well, people told me I was crying and yelling and crazy, that I’d killed the party. I don’t miss that and am afraid of becoming that person again.

I was drunk when I yelled at my friend about her girlfriend who sat listening in the other room.

I was drunk when I threw myself out of a cab and into a snowbank.

I was drunk when I hurled nonsensical accusations at my boyfriend. I was drunk when he carried me home.

I was drunk after sneaking shots of Irish whiskey away from my friends in-between the shots of vodka we were doing together. I was drunk when they carried me crying through the streets with my strapless dress hanging around my waist. I was still drunk hours later when I woke up in my bed after blacking out and asked if they still wanted to party. I was drunk when they told me I had killed the party.

I was drunk when I tried to leave and he pulled me onto the floor, ran his hands over my body, and whispered his repulsive desires into my ear. I was drunk when I went still and silent, when I needed to spring into action, to fight and to run. I was drunk when I shoved my elbow into his gut, releasing his hold on me, and fucking ran, ran, ran.

I was drunk when I broke my best friend’s laundry basket and puked on his dorm’s bathroom floor. I was drunk when I tried to clean it up with my socks, and he told me the biohazard people would have to come. I was drunk as I imagined that scene from E.T. with horror: people in head-to-toe gear storming in, taking over.

I was drunk when an angel found me crying alone in a laundry room. I was drunk when she introduced me to her friends and took me out for the night.

I was drunk on prosecco on my champagne birthday when I stood up on a chair and made announcements to the surprising number of people who liked me enough to attend.

I was drunk on red wine in your bathtub when we poured it into the water and watched it turn a cloudy grey.

I was drunk on hard liquor on New Year’s Eve when I calmly and carefully made myself throw up in the toilet and then came back downstairs for snacks…and more liquor.

I was drunk and standing by myself in a bar while tears crept silently down my face. I was drunk when you asked me what was wrong and told me it’s okay, wine makes you cry for no reason too.

I was drunk when a little voice inside my head whispered that it wanted more, more, more. It never wanted this to stop. It wanted to feel powerful and brave and invincible forever.

I was drunk when I told you I loved you and made you cry.

I was drunk when I ran out of your house in socks and a t-shirt in the middle of February, and you had to chase me down the street.

I was drunk when you found me hiding in a stairwell, when I was a scared and needy puddle. I was drunk, and I wanted you to look for me.

I was drunk when I splattered glow stick goo all over your basement, ripped down your curtain rod, and then smoked a cigarette while sitting on your floor. I was drunk when I held my friend’s hand and took her to the bathroom to clean the blood off of her feet. I was drunk when I ran the three of us a bath, and you threw up in the toilet. We were drunk when we put you to bed soaking wet in the freezing cold glowstick room after laying an unopened sleeping bag on top of you.

I was drunk on the half-empty bottle of vodka and orange juice I held in my hand as we sat on the swings and flew. I was drunk and full of the future.

I was drunk when I stripped naked next to the fire, when you laughed and said my name before we all dove into the lake. I was still drunk when I joined the others hotboxing in a tent even though weed fucks me up, and I don’t like it. I was drunk, and then I was crossfaded, sick, disoriented.

I was drunk and full of possibility when I ran out of the house, called your name, and then held your hand and said goodbye.

I have a strained relationship with alcohol. It’s not all good nor bad. It’s not cut and dry (heh). I go through periods of sobriety. I go through periods where I drink cautiously. Occasionally, I lose control, the alcohol imp in me waking after a few drinks and driving me to have more, more, more…

When I drink, I awaken my fun side. I awaken my wild side. I awaken my no fucks given side. I awaken my destructive side.

Over the years, I’ve learned that vodka and trauma make a terrible mixed drink.

I guess you could say I practice harm reduction when it comes to alcohol. I mostly avoid it, and when I drink, I tend to do so cautiously. So cautiously that I rarely let myself get drunk, as that’s usually when I lose control of my behaviour and how much I consume. I also get wicked hangovers after just a couple of drinks these days, which makes it feel not particularly worth it anymore. I don’t miss the hangovers. I don’t miss drinking most of the time. I do miss the person it allowed me to become sometimes: fun, bold, adventurous, wild, and free. I don’t miss the person it brought out at others: angry, sad, destructive, tactless, and self-loathing.

I have a complicated relationship with alcohol. I don’t really drink except when I do. That glass of wine you put in my hand? It makes me nervous. It can also make me fearless, spontaneous, reckless…

Drinking enhances and exaggerates whoever I am, whatever I’m carrying inside. There are days when I have a beer and all it does is make me feel sad and hopeless and vaguely nauseous. There are days when I have a beer and it makes me feel lighter, looser, and more carefree. I can’t predict what the next drink will bring out. I can’t predict who I will be.

It’s not all bad, so I don’t cut off all contact. It’s not all good either, so I’m wary of our interactions. I’m not sober, but I don’t really drink either. I have a strained relationship with alcohol. I wish I didn’t. I wish it was simpler. I wish I could go back to when drinking was fun and exciting instead of fraught and disconcerting. I wish I hadn’t inherited this perilous relationship with alcohol that goes back generations in my family. I wish it was simpler, but it’s not.

I have a strained relationship with alcohol. I don’t really drink anymore. Oh, except when I do.