AMANDA PROWSE hasn’t had a drink since her early 20s. Drawing on HER OWN EXPERIENCE, her latest novel explores a middle-aged woman’s RELATIONSHIP WITH ALCOHOL
I’m Amanda and I am teetotal.
This phrase is sometimes enough to make would-be friends scurry back into darkened corners and for people to cross me off invite lists before I have the chance to say, ‘But I’m still fun, honest!’ I’ve lost count of the number of times mates have justified a non-invite to a dinner party, as ‘You wouldn’t have enjoyed it’. This means that booze was the glue for the evening, which makes me persona non-grata.
I’ve thought about it a lot and I suppose that having a sober friend sitting at the table while everyone is getting sozzled is a bit like eating a cream cake at slimming club. No matter how discreet, you know the room would be full of disapproving tuts.
Before you sigh, picturing my Lycra-clad body imbibing nothing but organic quinoa and the odd spinach smoothie, I am not a health-obsessive and I am not anti-booze. I keep a well-stocked drinks fridge that groans under the weight of beer, cider, wine and gin. I happily uncork a bottle when friends arrive, and vacuum around my sons when they have over indulged. Heck, I’ve even cleared out my freezer so the boys could conduct jelly and vodka experiments on a semi-industrial scale.
I only have two settings, Full Tilt, and Off. But what about when that obsession, that addictive nature, encounters alcohol? That’s a whole other story.
So why don’t I just pop a cork and join in? The answer is simple: I always, always cross the line. Some people can take one square of chocolate, one biscuit and put the rest back in the cupboard. Not me. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal. The same goes for any hobby: I only have two settings, Full Tilt, and Off. Now, when this means scoffing a whole packet of Hob Nobs; reading every single word that Thomas Hardy has ever written; or watching a hundred hours of House, that’s one thing. But what about when that obsession, that addictive nature, encounters alcohol? That’s a whole other story.
When researching my latest book, Another Love, I spoke to a variety of women who were all alcoholics, some in recovery, some not and to hear them describe the need for their drug of choice, was heart-wrenching. One woman in particular will stick in my mind. Sandra, not her real name, woke every day with the resolution not to touch a drop and, within an hour, her hand would be gripping the bottle. Her “medicine” simultaneously made her feel better and worse, helping her mind and body drift into the state of numbness she craved, while fuelling her sense of failure that she had once again succumbed to the calling.
I recognised the language used by the women I spoke to, I understood how it felt to make the jump between want and need. The feeling that a celebratory sip becomes “just one glass,” and moves swiftly on to a whole bottle with a straw stuck in the top. When they talked about the obsession, and how nothing else could be achieved until they had sated the desire, it was heartbreaking. I heard tales of how these women had chosen alcohol over their careers, homes and even their families. When alcohol is your commander, you quickly find out that it is a wicked, indiscriminate and harsh master.
I think about my next drink as I am taking my last. Nothing fills me with panic as much not knowing where my next drink is coming from. I wasn’t always this way. It was when I started hiding my drinking that I knew I had a problem.
Sandra summed it up for me: “I think about my next drink as I am taking my last. Nothing fills me with panic as much not knowing where my next drink is coming from. I wasn’t always this way. I used to enjoy the odd glass. It was when I started hiding my drinking that I knew I had a problem.”
This horrible, horrible disease is on the rise among career women like Sandra. The traditional image of the drunk, sipping out of a brown paper bag on a bench, is no longer valid. You are just as likely to be sitting next to an alcoholic at work, on the train, or at a dinner party, where a woman in the corner sits quietly, choosing not to drink because she knows how easy it is to cross that line.
Another Love by Amanda Prowse (Head of Zeus, €17.99) is out now.
Amanda Prowse @MrsAmandaProwse
This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our September issue, out Saturday September 3.
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