I woke up unexpectedly at the Shudehill Interchange in Manchester, a repeating voice in my ear, my brain shaking violently in my skull, I lay torpid and unaware of my surroundings, wrapped in a fleeced pyjama top, I was dreaming, hopefully, although my face felt as though it was attached to a sheet of glass, a window, my back creaked with the pain of a five hour journey. I felt the sting of vomit rise in my oesophagus and I reached for something, anything to hold my gag as it expelled triumphantly from the unwilling exit.
I was on the Megabus. I checked my belongings- my purse, my phone, a half empty bottle of vodka and a sequinned suit jacket. I checked myself, a pyjama fleece, jeans and sky scrapper heels. I checked my surroundings, my boyfriend Darren and my friend Josh, along with another twenty or so passengers, all making the same gruelling seven hour journey from Scotland to London.
This was not an exciting, planned or prepared holiday with a group of willing friends, we were elevated, yes, but for all the wrong reasons. The evening previous was spent guzzling glasses upon glasses of red wine in various establishments of Dundee’s busy west end, heading back to my flat to continue senseless but fun behaviour, where we dressed up in vintage clothes and performed scenes from Carmen Miranda movies. Joined by Darren, India, Josh and photographer Ross McLean, night turned into morning and we all decided to accompany Darren to the bus station, to send him sweet farewells and to wave him off for his work trip to London.
I nudged Josh, ‘where the fuck are we?’ As the scenes thereafter rewound in my memory. The driver had been packing the luggage at the bottom of the bus as we both lunged, ninja like, towards the top deck, rewardingly necking straight spirits as we left Dundee unscathed and unseen.
Four days we spent there, replenishing our five a day with fermented fruit, I took hobo de rigueur to another level and eventually the episode ended with a tormented panic attack in a park by Victoria Station, where I lost my front veneer and my marbles. The horrid journey home and the repercussions I faced should have made me learn a valuable lesson but I continued to loathe and wallow in self inflicted circumstance for some time after.
Eventually the exhaustion of my hectic work schedule, demanding family life and my frenzied partying took it’s toll, the penny had finally dropped.
I was going sober.
For me it was less choice and more necessity, I had forgotten myself and glazed over things with a rosy hue of induced merriment. I was battering through life, good and bad, without giving myself a chance to stop, relax and reflect. Do not mistake me, things were going well, I am an enthusiast and a hard worker, I was reaching my goals, my life was on track but I lacked essential fulfilment, I felt a fraction lost and the strain on my mental health was unforgivable. I am guilty and my sentence is served for all my lost time, days of suffering a variety of dark symptoms. I was missing the fundamental value of living and I had selfishly forgotten this wasn’t just effecting my existence but the people I was disengaging from were the people I loved the most.
The first few weeks were easy, I was pissed off at my previous behaviour and that alone kept me focused. The undisturbed sleep left me fresh and revitalised, working advantageously on my completion and mood. My informed choice of nutrition has saw me shed weight and my body appears svelte and toned. Time is my own and I’ve learned to unwind, exploring positive avenues of relaxation and discovering what I enjoy.
My relationships feel indestructible, my eyes are wide and I view Ruby with greater admiration than before, I’m curious of her growth stage and I am relishing in what she has become. I’ve turned extraordinarily patient, watching each of her little quirks with feelings of overpowering pride. I feel more open and honest with my parents and I’m less embarrassed by my weaknesses, I can share with them more as my guard has become lower and more transparent. I find different assets in my boyfriend, qualities I had yet to notice and this cements our partnership and plans for our future. I’m thankful and grateful, my happiness has multiplied and I look forward when waking up each day. My job excites me again and I’m ready to develop my career further, seeking greater challenges and proving my capability, I’m ready to turn up the heat.
The greatest revelation of all, is that I like myself, whereas before I struggled with who I was and the way I was behaving. I have found myself shouting out and feeling not embarrassed or self conscious but proud at being heard. I am confident and I am happy and I want to share that with the world, I have butterflies in my belly at the prospects and adventures of my future.
Furthermore I’ve developed stronger self control and I am slowly managing to curb my acute mood swings, partaking in Forest Bathing or Shinrin Yoku at least once a week, combining mindfulness and exposure to nature which positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects, allowing me to feel light and free of stress, anger and anxiety.
I’m 60 days sober and I am a different person. My mind and body are strong and burst with clarity. My challenge is over and I reach the other side with great knowledge and more understanding of who I truly am. My relationship with alcohol has changed and I’m excited that my new outlook will allow recreational enjoyment with the poison, instead of the binge and abuse I dealt prior.
I would recommend this for anyone who chooses to reconnect.
‘One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters…But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.’-Charles Baudelaire
Long live the VEF and I challenge each and everyone of you to go 60 days Sober Queens.
Ruby’s Yule Time Tale
Photography by Dylan Drummond, Son of the Sea Films
Props and costumes Tammy-Lynn Shaw
Featuring Darren Tait, Holly Scanlan and Ruby Scanlan