Paris social scene is a mixture of stale urine and white napkins, tramps breathing their gum-stinking breath over high-class dinner cruises, students with yellow fingers philosophizing over home rolled cigarettes, Arabs running cheap knock off carts full of plastic Eiffel towers and ex-patriot business men lusting over models on the chic hangouts near Place de la Concorde.
I like to dabble in all of it – even dare I admit it, the occasional pool of urine which splashes on my boots when I leave the crumpled, decrepit bars in the Latin Quarter at 5.30 am. It reminds me of my vile humanity and that I belong in the gutter which is incidentally where I passed out last night.
I pass my days as an executive assistant, the vague subservient shadow which masks my true self. She waits inside to surface from the depths. Alcohol lets her out. And so the tinkle of cutlery and glasses from the restaurant downstairs sends my adrenalin a little higher and even without my first drink I feel the tingle of excitement in my belly. Oblivion is so close now.
My nights out are divided into three parts. I spend the early evening forming friendships with visiting tourists. They’re astonished and envious of my whirlwind life peppered with madness, pubs and clubs. I know everyone and everyone knows me. Around midnight I’ll be outrageously flirting and raucously singing with friends. Until around 4am when the fun stops and the blackouts start. Nobody quite knows where the night is taking them. Especially not me. Will it be an acid trip next to the Seine? Or naked dancing in an after hours lock down sniffing coke off the snooker table? Or will I come to consciousness alone this night, walking down an unknown road without my handbag?
To lead this kind of lifestyle takes dedicated extroversion. Drinking to the extent I do, is very expensive and you have to be an insider in the pub scene. Knowing the barmen, owners and bouncers is essential to receiving free drinks and getting into the happening places when just three days before someone has carried me unconscious out of the ladies toilets. But they keep giving me drinks because I encourage everyone to party. I’m the leader in my very own alcoholic life drama. Being with others who drink is my own way of disguising to myself the depth of my problem. But it comes with a price. Guilt.
The habitual weight of guilt makes me nauseous. I can’t remember what I did last night, but I know I arrived home shoeless for the third time this year. My throat is crushed with anxiety and it’s restricting my breathing. It’s not what I know I’ve done. But what I don’t know I’ve done. Yawning black holes of nothingness taunt me with their awful possibilities.
My boyfriend says I’m an alcoholic and a drug abuser even whilst he supplies me coke. He started me on the stuff. Said it was healthier that drinking the shit out of it every night. But it didn’t stop me and now I do both. He does nothing about it because me and my friends are a fine source of income. He’s right of course. I know deep down that I am. But admitting it means stopping drinking forever. And if I stop drinking I would have to kill myself because living with all of who I am is impossible.
I’ve considered therapy, of course I have. I’ve considered trying to work through my guilt and shame. But those who advocate it make it sound so easy. I can’t afford it on my salary because there’s a choice I will have to make. Stop going out. Stop spending money on alcohol and go to therapy once a week. There’s 168 hours in the week and that’s a lot of pain to live in.
Because the extent of pain I would have to work through just to accept who I am will take years. And years of pain is not something I’m strong enough to face right now. Especially not without alcohol. I’m hoping, deep down, that time will help ease the pain of what I have done so that when it becomes manageable, I can face it. I’m also hoping that I get to that point before I kill myself with alcohol.
Panic slaps me round the face and I throw up. I don’t fight it because it’s a welcome relief. Waves of sickness and the sudden bitter taste of bile in my mouth finally reconcile the gap between how I feel about myself and my physicality. But when I look in the mirror there’s another person. A surprisingly attractive 24 year old girl who doesn’t understand what the fuck has gone wrong and understands even less how to escape it.
When I’m done, I pick up the half finished joint in the ashtray. It abates my headache and makes me feel calm. It stops me shaking and gives me some semblance of control. And though I often lose control, it seems to be the one thing I am fighting for. Mastery of my pain.
Tonight I will go out and do it again. Drinking always seems like the right thing to do. More drinking after 3 glasses of wine is definitely the right thing to do. And well, after more drinking, shots are always the right thing to do. It creates friendships with people like me. It’s the only thing that makes us laugh. It makes us forget our pain. We are the people at the bottom of the food chain. We comfort each other in the only way we know how. With more alcohol.
I love them because I see that they, like me, are addicts. We are bound by our wounds. I see that they, like me, want to be someone else. I want to be that person without pain. And the only way to be that someone else right now is to drink.