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.

Non-Fiction

A Magical Rollercoaster of a Night

Photo of a fountain at night, lit up by several lights within it. To the left, there is a green statue of a human figure and several fish with water coming out of their mouths. To the right, there is a raised part of the fountain with water coming out of it. City buildings with lights in the background. All of the lights have a hazy, glowing effect.
Photo by roastedamoeba.

Content note: the following piece contains descriptions of drinking and intoxication.


We arrive at the hostel, unpack our things, and head to the bar. We’ve been travelling all day and have steam to blow off. My companion and I open the menus and are met with a variety of overpriced cocktails. We each order something pink and settle into our booth. Time passes in a haze of sickly sweet drinks and strong beer because for some unholy reason, we’re going between the two each round. I keep pace with my friend. Not a great decision.

We lose our seats, and the bar becomes standing room only. We end up in a corner with a man whose breath I can smell from three feet away. He’s interested in my friend and mostly ignores me. I’m pretty into tea at this point in my life, working for a tea shop back home. The topic of conversation turns to tea and my boredom lifts for a moment. I begin talking about the magical powers of certain brews. The man cuts me off by saying, “I don’t get tea. It’s just barely-flavoured warm water”. I excuse myself to go to the bathroom.

I return to the bar, but I don’t go back to my friend and the man. The man is irritating, and I don’t want to spend the rest of the night standing to the side while I watch them flirt. At this point, I’ve had way too much to drink. Two of our roommates, who we’d met earlier that day, arrive at the bar and say hello. One asks why I’m crying.

“Oh,” I touch my face and find the tears, “…I don’t know”.

“It’s okay,” my roommate says, “sometimes I drink too much wine and start crying for no reason”.

I excuse myself. I’m feeling the tears now. I leave the bar and climb the stairs that lead back to our shared room. I get to the door and can hear voices inside. Wanting to be alone, I walk back down the hallway and find an open door. I enter an unused laundry room and sit down on one of the benches. I’m at the far end of the rectangular room and can see all of the unused washers and dryers sitting in shadow. I do what any drunk eighteen-year-old far from home for the first time who has just had their passion rejected by some tea-hating man would do: I begin sobbing. Heaving, gut-wrenching sobs. In my mind, I’m all alone in this laundry room without a door and am able to privately express how I feel. I’m also not cognizant of the volume of my feelings.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a man fills the doorway, his arms raised and hanging onto the top of the frame. I go silent. He looks terrified.

“Are you okay?” He asks.

I nod my head, in shock. I had left the hostel behind and ridden the waves of intoxicated emotional despair, and this man’s arrival has unceremoniously snapped me back to reality.

He disappears, clearly unequipped to deal with the mess that is me. I descend back into tears, expecting to be left alone for good, but before I can get in too deep, my saviour appears.

She floats in on a cloud of glitter and light. Long arms wrap around me, and I am struck by a vision of blonde hair and perfect makeup. She looks like the kind of girl who would have bullied me in high school, but here and now, she is my guardian angel. She murmurs words of comfort such as sweet and baby and it’ll be okay. Transfixed, I go quiet and compliant. She asks for my name, and I give it. She asks what’s wrong. I tell her I don’t know.

“You know what you need? A little mascara. Whenever I’m feeling down, I just put on some mascara, and it makes me feel so much better.”

She takes me by the hand and leads me back downstairs to the bathroom by the bar.

At this point, the bathroom is full of women in various states of intoxication, and all of them are friends. The angel unleashes compliments on them and her mascara brush on me. I silently take in my surroundings. She applies the mascara and rubs something on my face. I trust her completely.

“What do you think?” She asks.

She turns me towards a mirror. My face has been transformed. I’d expected to see blotchy redness from the crying, but the concealer has taken care of that. My eyes look big and beautiful, not bloodshot. She is a magician, doing with makeup in five minutes something I’d never managed with far more time. I look fucking pretty.

I thank her and we reenter the bar. She buys me a drink because I clearly need another. She introduces me to her boyfriend, and it turns out she’s friends with my two roommates from earlier as well as the man I’d seen in the laundry room doorway.

“We’re gonna go dancing. Do you want to go dancing?”

“Yes!” I say, “But I have to find my friend first”.

I go back to the corner of the bar where my travel companion is still talking to the man who just doesn’t get tea.

“Oh, there you are!” She exclaims.

I reach for her hand. “I made friends, and we’re going dancing”.

She bids the man a quick goodbye and follows me.

Our group bursts onto the street. The angel, her boyfriend, our two roommates, the man from the doorway, my friend, and a short man I haven’t been introduced to. It’s a chilly night in Munich, and the air is enlivening. The angel leads us to a club. On the way there, we come across a fountain shooting water out of the ground in several places. Despite the temperature, I run through its icy jet sprays. The short man joins me, and we leap about and laugh together.

We arrive at the club and wait in line for a long time, only to be turned away for having too many men and not being attractive enough. The angel and her boyfriend are the only ones allowed in. The rest of us make our return to the hostel, but not before a quick diversion into the subway to look for a bathroom. We roam through the twisting tunnels with our riotous voices echoing off the walls. There are no bathrooms in sight. Eventually, one of my roommates finds a seemingly abandoned, narrow hallway and pops a squat while I stand guard. I have to pee too but don’t want to risk arrest in a foreign country.

We arrive back at the bar and luckily for us, the party is still going strong. Our group, multiplying upon arrival with friends of friends, fills up a large table. Pitchers of beer are ordered. The short man sits next to me, and I ask him where he’s from. He says Toronto, which isn’t particularly exciting as it’s only a few hours from where I grew up. My friend disappears with a tall Australian man who is exactly her type. I notice I’ve put my hand on the short man’s leg and before I know it, we’re making out. My friend comes back after her brief interlude. The tea-hating man from earlier sits down at our table and starts hitting on her aggressively, but this time she tells him he has bad breath. I consider saying that tea could help with that but decide to leave him alone. We continue to drink too much beer until the bar closes and then we’re off to bed. We don’t bring any men with us, being too tired and too drunk. We collapse onto our bunks, foregoing the necessary water drinking after such a bender. I’m not thinking about it yet (I’m not thinking about anything), but the next morning is going to be rough when the cleaner arrives, throws the curtain open, and yells at us for lying in.

This took place almost ten years ago when I was just eighteen. I still think about that rollercoaster of a night and the magic imbued within it. There’s something beautiful about making friends with a bunch of strangers for a single night of adventure. As someone who’s pretty introverted, these nights are rare occasions for me, which makes them feel even more special. I’m not currently living in a world where doing something like this is even possible, but when it is again, I hope to ride the magic of another night like this, with angels, mascara, fountains, friends, and all.