I remember the night of March 15 vividly. I remember watching the premiere episode of ‘The Good Karma Hospital’ on my barely functioning laptop at my apartment in Accra, where I school. I also remember how hot it was that night. I remember all these little details not because I have a good memory, but because that was the night I got an email from my school telling us that learning activities had been suspended and ‘stay-safe’ messages following the discovery of the first few cases of the virus in Ghana. At the time, there were six cases in the country, but with the geometric progression of the spread, Ghana has now recorded over five hundred and sixty cases.
I do not have an austere stand on alcohol. Like many Nigerians, I had my first taste of alcohol before I reached the legal age to do so, and I did not like it, but I kept trying. Sometimes, I can remain sober for months. Every now and then, I take a drink or a few more when I’m with friends, and occasionally; though these instances are reducing as years pass by, I still get extremely drunk.
I do not get drunk because it is enticing but rather for the feeling that comes with each gulp I take. The feeling that has this indescribable sense of unlawfulness to it, a wanted danger and the feeling of experiencing a wild ride either alone or with a group of friends. This trip causes my barriers to fall, and with them falling, I feel freer that I usually would.
The thing about all the times I’ve experienced this in the past is that every time I wake up, I do so with a splitting headache, extremely dry mouth, and a sudden need to eat everything edible. And every one of those times, I think to myself; “I can’t imagine experiencing this daily. That is not who I want to be.” before proceeding to say “I am never drinking again.”
As the number of coronavirus cases in Ghana increased, I had to make the conscious decision of social distancing. This only meant I had to stock up my kitchen with the essentials; food stuff, cereals and snacks which, by the way, I finished in a day. I headed to the nearest supermarket around where I live and filled my cart with the essentials. On my way to checkout my goods, I came across the alcohol aisle and selected a few bottles of gin and rum because “why remain sober when stuck indoors?” I was in for multiple wild rides, a one-man party.
For me alcohol is not liquid courage as people call it. It’s just something I can play around with when I feel like it. So, what did I do? I played around and experimented, mixed and matched. I did this for a few nights and then got bored, but boredom led to wanting to try new things which then led to me taking them straight till I ran out of alcohol.
I didn’t take that as a cue to stop, neither was I wasn’t bothered that I was getting a little attached to the bottom of the bottle. I also didn’t think about the fact that I was about to use the little money I had left from when I withdrew for the lockdown to buy alcohol. What I cared about was just getting another bottle to keep me busy during the lockdown. I just wanted to get the alcohol, and I did. That night was a great night, just like the others. It was the most fun I had had in a while because I stayed up till 3 in the morning conversing with my best friends on Houseparty while getting drunk.
The hangover? That was not fun. My tongue felt like a sponge soaked in gin, next-level dehydration, migraines and ulcer pains. The hangovers went from physical pains to both physical and psychological pain. I felt vulnerable in my own home and was desperate for the day to end. I said “Never again” I’ve said those words a lot of times but something about this time felt different. It was the first time I said it after dealing with the side effects of alcohol dependency.
I’m not writing this to judge any drinking behaviour, or create a whole discussion based on judgment, but rather to talk about my relationship with alcohol. Everyone who drinks alcohol has had good and bad experiences with it. Before starting this story, I asked my friend about his relationship with alcohol this period, and if he takes it for leisure or any other reason in particular for perspective. He said this; “There’s a reason in part because the world is ending and alcohol is one of the few pleasures that I can stock up on. Also, it’s a great way to distract myself.”
Just like comfort eating, comfort drinking is a thing. People turn to drinks when they are bored or emotional. There’s a lot of anxiety and emotions these days. It makes sense that the bulk of us that can are turning to alcohol.”
His sentiment made me view my experience from another perspective and made me truly question my relationship with alcohol. Is it a mutually respectful relationship, a dependent one or a habit? Why do I continue to do it?
SOBRIETY (HAHA! I THINK NOT)
After that episode, I realized that if I kept up with the habit of drinking and not respecting my limit, I would stay in it. Even if what I enjoyed was the sound of gin pouring into a glass and the way it hits my throat, it was a moving train bound to crash and I need to get off it.
So, I stopped drinking… for a while. I was not thinking if it was going to be forever, or if whether I was eventually going to start again. I was just enjoying not getting flat out drunk and the feeling of having the energy to attend my online classes and being productive.
The best thing about my choice not to drink was the feeling of making daily goals and actually sticking to them. Each time I accomplish a goal, it was me showing myself that I care for myself, and my goals are priority. The best thing was me realizing could do whatever I set my mind on. Accomplishing this made me feel more confident in my abilities.
Getting locked down alone creates too many reasons to engage in drinking. It quickly becomes a habit and loses its spark as something one only indulges in when the occasion calls for it. In my case, I did it because getting drunk was part of my daily routine.
I am back to drinking again, but more consciously now. Took a break from alcohol and after a few days, I no longer felt the need to drink regularly anymore. I love that I broke the habit of drinking and rediscovered the spark of something cheerful. I’m back to being a conscious drinker, carefully deciding when to drink and know not to pass my limit. I’ll always remember this period in my life; the period when I recalibrated my relationship with alcohol.