A moment that changed me: waking up with a bad hangover – and two men Anonymous

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I woke up in a strange bed, naked, between two naked men. My brain felt like it had been soaked in beer and Jägermeister, the furniture seemed to dance in front of me, and for some reason my nose felt very present on my face. I had taken cocaine! I remembered the rolled up £20 note and a bloke slurring “feel any different yet?”. The taste in my mouth was hideous, as though tobacco had been glued to my tongue.

I peeled myself off the mattress and peered at the faces of the men I’d had sex with the night before. To my left, an acquaintance – an unclean, predatory type of guy – whom I had never had a liking for. To my right, my friend’s boyfriend.

I grabbed my clothes, stumbled to the toilet and threw up over and over until the only thing left in my stomach was guilt. It wouldn’t go. That’s when I learned just how strong physical emotions are – it burned in my belly for weeks.

Exactly a year before this awful morning, I left a relationship that had felt increasingly suffocating. For the first time, I found myself free, and I was excited to flirt, kiss and go to bed with other men. So that’s what I did, repeatedly, from October 2014 to May 2015.

I would walk though my front door at 10am, hair looking like dead grass, last night’s high heels dangling limply from my fingers. My housemates would smirk with knowing looks as I gently shook my throbbing head, and laughed.

One-night stands were casual and thrilling, and in the cloudiness of ignorance I thought I was being careful. It wasn’t even particularly regularly – maybe once every two months – but when it did happen it was always with a stranger, I was always drunk, and it was always unprotected. It seemed funny at the time, but then the summer hit, and things started to change.

The problems began when I started working in a pub, to earn a bit of money and occupy my then bountiful amount of spare time. I was surrounded by alcohol, most of which was free to me, and queues of men who loved to flirt with barmaids. I had, unknowingly, placed myself at the heart of my weaknesses.

But if I’m honest, I loved the attention. I loved it when guys would text me telling me I looked pretty as they watched me pour drinks, or would wait until the end of my shift to walk me home. I started going back with a careful selection of these men. It used to make me feel giddy giving in to their attempts, but the moment I left their house in the morning, I would feel like a used and discarded tissue.

It seems the fun for them was only in wanting, not in having. Once they had slept with me, even those I had thought of as friends would simply ignore me. They would look at me and walk away, make a point of being served by a different bartender or even talk to someone else over my shoulder. What interest was I to them after they had conquered me?

These rejections made me need constant reassurance. I probably reeked of desperation. I ended up spending the majority of my time at the pub, even when I wasn’t working. I was addicted to the place, to the way it made me feel more wanted, yet more alone than ever. That’s when I stopped being picky and let any man pull me. Men who would kiss me briefly by the public toilets then push hard on my shoulders so I would go down on them. Men who kicked me out early, claiming they had work, when really they were going to have sex with some other girl. Men who made £100 bets with their friends that they would be the first to get me in bed. I wanted so badly to stop, but it was easier said than done.

The morning I woke up between those two men was the same day I returned back to university for my second year. As I drove away from home, I spent a lot of time thinking and calculating.

In one year, I had slept with 12 people, six of whom in the space of those two summer months. I had had unprotected sex on eight occasions, and taken the emergency contraceptive pill after three of them. Three men had cheated on their girlfriends with me. I had tried drugs for the first time, and smoked and drank more in one night than I ever had before. Totting this all up in my head was exactly the shocking realisation I needed.

What came next was my “rehab phase”. Whereas before I’d been getting drunk every day, I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol for two weeks. I went to the sexual health clinic, where I had tests done for pregnancy, chlamydia and HIV, all of which miraculously came back clear. I made a promise to have sex only when sober, and I have now been abstinent for three months. Finally, I decided to forgive myself. And I haven’t changed my mind.



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