I got caught underage drinking when I was sixteen. I was in a pub in Sumner near Christchurch (called the Marine Tavern from memory) swigging beer and dancing to a covers band when the cops stormed in and picked out all us young’uns. I remember being shit scared standing outside having my name and address taken down by a police officer. Convinced I was in big, big trouble.
At first I thought I’d gotten away with it because nothing happened. For a few weeks all was quiet and there was no follow up. Unfortunately my relief was short-lived and the police eventually came to visit me at home. I never could quite figure out why they did this. Other friends of mine who were pinged that night never got a home visit but I did.
We sat around the living room – me, mum, dad and a police officer in uniform. I remember him talking to me about acting responsibly and obeying the law (the drinking age was 20 at the time so I was a good few years off). I remember him warning me of the dangers of alcohol and getting me to promise that I wouldn’t frequent licenced premises again while underaged. And then I remember him informing me with a very serious air that they had decided to let me off with a caution.
Of course I was horrified that this awful turn of events had occurred and felt immense shame that I had run foul of the law at such a young age. I vowed then and there to never touch that evil alcohol ever again and from that day forth lived as a paragon of virtue.
Being nicked and ‘officially warned’ didn’t making the slightest dent in my attitude towards drinking. At the tender age of sixteen I was already falling into a deep love affair with alcohol. And so it was that after my brief brush with the law I continued drinking for many, many years. I drank through the rest of my teens and into my twenties. I drank as I travelled the world and progressed in my career. I drank when I fell in love and when I fell out of love. I drank as I entered my thirties and became a wife and mother (miraculously never drinking during pregnancies). I drank as I embarked on a Masters degree and neared forty.
I stopped drinking just shy of my fourtieth birthday when the fun, enthusiastic habit had gone and in it’s place was a dark, dysfunctional, furtive and downright destructive addiction. Me and booze were no longer friends. I reached such a low, miserable place that I ended the relationship and embarked on this crazy ride we call recovery.
Now I look back at that sixteen year old girl (and the photo below is taken around that time) and wonder how things would be different if I had actually been shocked by the police into setting a different course. Would my life have been more stable? Would I have achieved greater things? Would my emotional coping mechanisms be well honed by now (rather than still in their infancy)? I certainly could have saved myself a lot of angst and a huge number of hangovers.
I don’t know how different things might be now if I’d been shocked sober at an early age and didn’t spend twenty-plus years drinking heavily. But here’s the thing – I don’t wish I had. I don’t look back and regret that I didn’t take a different course. I don’t regret the years of boozing. I don’t regret all the shameful drunken episodes or wasted time. I don’t regret any of it. Why?
Well, firstly because the past is the past and there’s not much point looking back over it for too long because I’m not going that way. Secondly, I feel some sympathy with that 16-year-old girl because she lived in a booze soaked world that made it extremely easy for her to dive right in. Thirdly, I forgive her making that life choice for so long because being a human is hard and she latched on to what she thought was the perfect solution to life’s woes.
But finally and most importantly I don’t regret my years of boozing, nor the dark place alcohol took me to, because reaching rock bottom and clawing my way out has not only taught me what I am capable of (remarkable things!), but it’s also given me – in my middle age – an almost child-like wonder for what life has to offer. I am adoring all the work I’m doing on myself and the awakening I’m having. I love being in my forties and finally waking up to what it means to be a fully realised human being.
Addiction was dark but recovery is awesome and I think everything has happened just as it should have. I have no regrets about the past and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me.
Love, Mrs D xxx