1982. Western Sydney. A living-room window is half open to the night. The crickets chirp outside. On the other side of the window, a little girl stares out into the darkness. She wonders if Santa’s reindeer will be coming soon. It’s Christmas Eve.
Growing up, ‘Sarah’ feels socially awkward and shy, and that she has little worth.
That is, until she discovers alcohol.
I don’t know, I think it made me feel like… I think it made me feel confident, ‘cause I was quite a shy and quiet, introverted sort of person, so I think alcohol just made me feel confident. I felt like I could talk to people, and I just had this… there was this shyness about me. I just felt that I struggled to socialise and just do things that seemed too easy for other people to do. I don’t know if that was anxiety, or just that social anxiety, or what that was. All I know is when I had alcohol, I actually felt normal. I felt like… it just made me feel good.
I remember going for a job interview. I was actually a real functioning alcoholic for a long time, too, before things got really bad. You know, ‘cause I worked in the city for about eight years. I worked… I was, at one point, my very first job was… Actually, it’s funny, ‘cause I remember, I left school and I applied to do childcare and I got in, but I also got offered this other job, and it was at the Walt Disney Studios in Surry Hills, and I took the job thinking that, you know, ‘Wow, I’ve got a job, I’ll make some money.’
All I wanted to do at that point was just go out and drink. So the job after that, it’s interesting, because I went for a job interview, and it’s interesting, because I had to have a couple of drinks before I went into that interview.
And I got this other job, just working in the city as well, for another five years. With that job, I did drink on the job as well. This gave me confidence.
Then Sarah met a boy, ‘Robert’. They fell in love and got married.
She had no idea what a catch he would turn out to be.
I was drinking a lot before we got married, and it was a problem, but I remember I used to go on and off. I’d go through a stage where I’d stop drinking, but then the pattern, the cycle would happen again, like if we were out at a birthday or something, you know, there was some event on and I’d have a drink, then I’d go on that roller-coaster ride again.
I just thought of when we used to go to the movies. We used to go to George St in the centre of Sydney, and I’d say to him, ‘I’ve just got to go to the bathroom, so I’d sneak out to go… There was a pub. You’d walk down the stairs, it was just outside of Hoyt’s… and I used to go down there, order a double Bacardi and Coke, and then go back into the movies like it was just…
There were days, I remember, I’d go to the bottle shop before I got to work. If I started work at nine-thirty, I know the bottle shop opens at nine, so I’d grab something.
That’s what I used to do, and I’d just hide them. I remember leaving that job, and it’s funny, ‘cause over time I stopped drinking on the job, but I would wait till the end of my work hours and I’d have a few drinks before I left to go home. That was - by then I was married, and my husband would… I remember he used to wait outside for me and go, ‘What the hell are you doing? Everybody’s gone and you’re still there.’ And I’d just make up an excuse like, ‘Oh yeah, had to count the money’, or whatever, but I was just in the locker room having a few drinks. It just takes up your whole bloody life. It’s crazy.
Sarah and Robert had children. Sarah loved her little family more than anything. But the drink was always there. She needed it more and more.
Robert started to notice her drinking too. There were more bottles around than they were actually drinking. Maybe he thought she’d grow out of it.
But the drinking became everything.
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