Sunday 19 November 2017

Nightwatch: Stumbling at the first hurdle

Holly White

A nasty bout of sickness (which turned out, I must shamefacedly admit, to be alcohol poisoning), followed by a week of the emotional and mental turmoil often referred to as 'The Fear', left me seriously considering my relationship with alcohol towards the end of last year. I reluctantly greeted the first of January with a throbbing head, a face full of make-up and sheets covered in fake tan. This cannot and will not continue as I enter a new decade. One day's grace was allowed and then that was it for my drinking days.

The beginning of the month was met with vigour. Huge amounts of money was spent on food in speciality grocery shops in the knowledge that I would be staying in to both cook and enjoy the spoils. The dust was blown off my gym membership swipe card. I was up early and reading numerous self-help books before noon. I was even setting goals for myself and making early morning appointments that I was actually keeping. My skin gained a clarity that I hadn't seen in a long time. In short, I was high on some sort of taking care of myself buzz.

But then, in front of my resolution, a seriously challenging gauntlet was laid down.

In every group of friends, there is always one particularly hardcore individual. Mine is no exception. I now re-introduce you to The Hostess, fresh home from her Australian adventure. At times, people wonder how I keep up with her. But, after nine years, we still happily remain friends and just as she encourages me to go out more often than I am comfortable, I try to interest her in the joys of a pot of tea and a film on a Friday night, shock horror. Most of the time we meet somewhere in the middle.

All is going well on my new path of pure living until her infamous birthday celebrations.

"The Canal Bank restaurant is booked for 7pm, then we hit O'Briens, then Leeson Street," she texted. But she is contacting the old Holly. Does she not realise I have turned over a new leaf? My spritely, chirpy, healthy self actually begins to get slightly scared as the red-ringed date in the calendar draws near.

The day of reckoning arrives and me and my healthy self make our way to the restaurant. The troops are out in force and we have taken up a whole area of the restaurant. Hugs and the requisite girly shrieks are elicited upon arrival. After much fussing, giggling and pawing each other's outfits, examining shoes and catching up, we finally sit down.

"Thank you all for coming to my 21st birthday party," the Hostess says, raising a toast. The first glass of wine I've seen all month is sparkling in front of me and I fall at this first hurdle. We all lift up our glasses, letting out roars of laughter knowing that she is in fact 27. Then the nectar hits my lips. It's delicious, truly amazing, gorgeous. A fervent desire to consume it begins to take over me. I feel like describing the joys of wine consumption as Keats or Proust would, and I drink like a woman possessed. My old self is well and truly back in the chair and in that moment she is the coolest person in the world, or at least she thinks she is.

We become one of those tables waitresses must loathe, ordering more wine just as it looks like we might finally leave. Later on, bouncers are greeted on Leeson Street like long lost friends as me and the crew tumble down the steps. It's all a blur from then on, but a happy blur nonetheless -- although I do recall a drink spilling on me and sending my ex a message from a stranger's phone, dramatically asking him to come down to the club at 2am. I had specifically left my phone at home to avoid such a crisis.

The next day I wake with a throbbing head, a face full of make up and sheets covered in fake tan. I stare into the mirror and see that same face that greeted me on New Years day. I thought I had left her behind, sweated her out in a sauna throughout my health regime. Some things never change, but this will not happen again...

Irish Independent

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