My name is Emma Jane Jones and I was once a lush.
By ‘lush’, I am do not mean somebody who is morally loose, what I mean is a female who likes her drink. To be clear.
Of course, my enjoyment came only at the point when I was legally allowed to do so, and it was from then on that I frequently indulged in an alcoholic beverage or five (11). It was not something that was an uncontrollable problem, but drinking was something that featured prominently in my life and my friendships. A drink after work, a drink at home, a drink with dinner, a drink in the park, just a drink here and there. The only time a drink did not really feature was at the cinema before a screening and even then, I would occasionally bend on that rule. It would be fair to say that I drank too much. Such was my concern when I was diagnosed about alcohol and my love for it, that it was one of the first things I asked my doctors. Was I allowed to drink? They answered in moderation. I decided that abstinence was best and there it was, no alcohol for me, indefinitely. Indefinitely is a long time.
Pre-myeloma, when things were normal, my last drink was on the 12 August, 17 weeks ago. I was in considerable pain, but I drank through it. If memory serves, I had four cans of Kronenberg followed by five pints of an unknown cider and lager. It may have been more, it may have been less. I was with Middlesborough in Hyde Park watching Blur and New Order and the end result, before the tears of pain, looked something like this:
Five days later I had cancer.
There is something so pleasurable about the first drink of the week, the weight of the glass in your hand, the temperature, the light fizz of the lager and the sweet taste of the magical nectar. I have missed the sweet nectar.
I sit firmly in the camp of drinking being fun. Sure, you do silly things, it is fattening and hangovers are horrible, but in moderation, it is the most enjoyable pastime. It is with part pride and part shame that I say my personal best is 17 pints in a day, and last December I probably consumed 240 units of alcohol in the month. I can taste the difference between a Fosters and a Kronenberg, but I cannot handle any drink over 15%.
Drinking has been my social life for ten (14) years. Not drinking, correction, not being able to go to the pub three or four times a week, because of My Myeloma, has been a test. A test to my sanity and a test for my friendships. Fortunately people have passed. It’s bizarre to think that most of my relationships have formed around drinking and when the cancer took that ability to socialise away from me, I was worried about how I could maintain them. It turns out that I can chat the shit when sober, almost as much as when I am drunk, the venue just looks a little different, I cannot stay out for as long and I cannot gesture quite so violently as I did before. The venue is now predominantly my flat, but can also be other people’s homes and places that are quiet with seats that have back support. It really isn’t the same. A pub is a pub and they are the best.
My drinking hall of shame, no longer feels that shameful. The anxiety is no more. When you have to talk to somebody about your bodily functions three times a week, you’ve been stuck on a commode, you pass your pee around an open plan space and you’ve had a tattoo on your floo floo; your embarrassment threshold rises. I can detach myself from my old life and old stories because I do not know if I can ever get back to them. Plus, as our popular press proves, when one has cancer, all previous sins are forgiven. All of a sudden you become The Brave Cancer patient and not a person who once had to be picked up by their mother from a front garden of a house in a neighbouring cul-de-sac because you were eating the grass, when you were probably old enough to know better. Whilst I am on the topic, hypothetically, the list below are other things one might do when they are under the influence.
* Have to be taken to hospital three times for injuries to ankles sustained when falling down some stairs, kicking a door or falling down the stairs again by your embarrassed parents.
* In your first week of university, accidentally rugby tackle a girl after shouting “Brace Yourself”‘, and then watch her overreact and go into neck spasms.
* Drink approximately seven pints with your male work colleagues, to then have one of them pick you up, squeeze you and spin you around, for you to uncontrollable and audibly pass wind outside The Buckingham Arms.
* Ring your mother on holiday in the Bahamas and tell her you want to die because a boy you like does not like you and who has a girlfriend… at the age of 27.
* Fall out of bed, bashing forehead against the bedside table, then hitting the floor with nose and subsequently passing out. If such a thing were to happen, it would probably look like this afterwards:
* Feed a friend a whiskey and cola, pretending it is milk whilst she is pretending to be a cow.
* Get up at your friend’s wedding and do your ‘Wuthering Heights’ dance in front of the congregation, requesting somebody remove their tie so you can use it as a sash, then subsequently use it as a sash whilst gyrating on your knees.
* Snog people you shouldn’t do, maybe tugging on a beard and say things you should really save for when you are sober.
* Tell your mother that you enjoy performing a certain act.
* In a desperate attempt to eat Smash, accidentally spill it on the clean carpet, scoop it up, pour over hot water and eat to find you have also scooped up and eaten a bit of Artex, and then recognise the taste…
* Spend four hours lying in your friend’s bed in the dark the day after the night before, groaning about your hangover, your morals and your missing red hat.
* Tell you colleagues that you write porn, give them a few examples, vomit, and then refuse to tell them where you live whilst vomiting out a taxi window as you are standing upright in the back of the cab whilst WM keeps you stable by holding onto your belt.
* Ring one of the twins every time you are really drunk and tell her that you love her and she is the ‘bestest’ friend anybody could hope for, maybe accompanied by a song.
* Try to smoke a cotton bud.
* Projectile vomit on the windscreen of a taxi after drinking some red wine and beer and eating red meat, for it to ricochet onto your coat, have the taxi driver pull over for you to vomit on the car door, shout “undo me, undo me” at the taxi driver and then vomit some more on the pavement. Finish the whole affair off by handing the taxi driver a toilet roll to clean his taxicab. Oh, and more vomit, but this time in your toilet. Happy Valentine’s Day!
A friend told me these stories, to confirm, I am far too sensible for that sort of thing. But, if you have ever wondered what I looked like when I was drunk, then wonder no more… This is ten years of me being off the wagon.
Alcohol. Don’t you just love it.
The point of this whole thing, is to say that after 118 days, 118 days of learning about my new body and what My Myeloma is doing to it and my limits,I fell off the wagon. It was my decision, it was in moderation and I can confirm that the nectar tasted sweet.
One day, I hope I will once again be able to come up with more hypothetical stories and spend quality time with my friends in a pub. For now, I will settle for a little tipple of sherry at Christmas, and maybe some mulled wine, oh and a pint of Kronenberg.