‘Which came first, booze or boys?’: untangling a love affair with alcohol

‘Which came first, booze or boys?’: untangling a love affair with alcohol

The Guardian

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For better and for worse, drinking has been a constant thread running through writer Megan Nolan’s relationships. She reflects on the dual thrills of alcohol and romance

From the very beginning, whenever there was a crush, there was also a drink in my hand. In his novel High Fidelity, Nick Hornby’s narrator Rob, an unhappy vinyl obsessive, asks himself: “Which came first, the music or the misery?” Did he learn to be unhappy from the sad songs he loved, or did the songs comfort him after the unhappiness was already a fact? In my case, the question is something like this: which came first, the booze or the boys? Did I just happen to begin my romantic life at the same time as my drinking life? Or were my infatuations and love stories authored – or at least fuelled – by the alcohol that accompanied them?

This is not the story of a tragic, ruined woman who destroys all her relationships through drinking. In some, I drank very moderately; in most others, only to good-spirited excess, which caused no harm. There is no redemption arc here, no coming to the light. I still drink now. It is one of my personal bugbears that we seem as a culture flatly incapable of discussing many of life’s most complex issues without urgently needing to name and solve them, preferably with formal medical interventions. And so I can’t speak about a plodding, hopeless soul sickness that afflicts me at times without being cornered into describing it as depression or an anxiety disorder. This is not to say that these things don’t exist; of course they do, and over the years I’ve taken medication for both. But the terms and the drugs are too blunt as tools to address the infinite realm of human suffering and struggle that they sit within.

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