Throughout my twenties, I saw a few guys on and off and I’d always be pretty upset when things didn’t work out. But in the last four years I have gone through two particularly painful breakups. You know the kind, where it physically hurts? Both times my mental health took a serious dive. My self-esteem plummeted to an all time low and it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed each morning and face a new day.
Many people turn to alcohol as a form of escapism when going through the rollercoaster of emotions that follows a breakup; a way to appear like you’re enjoying your new found singledom whilst numbing the pain of heartache. I’ve never been a big drinker; even throughout university and my early to mid twenties I would rarely drink and even then it would only be a few drinks on a night out at the weekend. To be fair, I’m a massive lightweight and it only takes me a few cocktails. I find the nearest coffee table to dance on and wake up the next morning with a raging hangover. But when these two particular relationships ended, I found myself turning to alcohol more than I had done so in previous years. One or two G&Ts or glasses of red wine by myself on a weeknight were slowly becoming the norm. Night outs following these break ups became black out booze fests where I was quite literally drowning my sorrows.
The first of these two momentous breakups was back in 2016 when I was 27. I had just moved back to London from Brisbane after I had moved out there to be with my Australian boyfriend, Seb. After two years together in London, Seb’s UK visa expired. So, I quit my job, moved out of my house share in Bermondsey, sold half of my possessions and moved to the other side of the world to be with him. After four months living together in Australia, Seb ended it, saying he “wasn’t ready for the commitment.” I was devastated. I flew back to London the next week.
I will go more into depth on my relationship with Seb in future posts but for now let’s focus on how I handled this breakup once back on British soil. A few short weeks after returning to London my friends Raquel and Greta organised a girls night out. We headed out to a bar in Clapham and after a few drinks I was starting to almost enjoy myself. A few of Raquel’s mates turned up and one in particular took a liking to me and kept pulling me to the bar for shots. Now there’s one thing you should know about me, and that is that I hate shots. Tequila, Sambuca, Sourz, (don’t even get me started on Jägerbombs) you name it; they are ALL my nemeses. I am a self-confessed lightweight and shots have always been my downfall. Quite literally.
So after being dragged back to the bar for my fourth tequila I was starting to feel pretty woozy and the last thing I remember was stumbling to the girls toilets… the rest I only know from what Raquel and Greta have told me. Story has it that after 45 minutes had passed; Raquel was starting to worry and texted asking where I’d gone. She managed to decipher from my broken messages that I was still in the bathroom. Raquel and Greta eventually found me slumped in a cubicle, still sat on the toilet with my knickers and trousers around my ankles, passed out on my own shoulder. After half an hour of coaxing me to stand up, they finally hoisted me off the toilet and pulled my trousers back up. One arm around each of them, they attempted to carry me out of the bathroom.
Just as we were about to cross the threshold back into the main bar I shouted in outrage, “I’m not going out there! My flaps are hanging out!”
The bouncer outside the toilet door shifted uncomfortably.
“What?!” asked Raquel, straining from holding up my weight.
“My flaps! They’re hanging out…it doesn’t look good” I slurred.
What I was actually referring to was the body I was wearing. The poppers that secure the bodysuit at the crotch were undone and the two ‘flaps’ of material were hanging out over the top of my trousers. Not a great look.
“For fuck sake Jess, you have vomit all in your hair and you can’t walk and yet you think your bodysuit is the problem here?!” yelled Raquel.
“Well duh yeah…its embarrassing” I hiccupped. Utter disbelief flashed across Raquel’s face and with that she pushed me up against the bathroom wall and furiously stuffed my ‘flaps’ back down inside my trousers.
Once we were out of the bathroom, the bouncer escorted me off the premises and we got an Uber back to my house share in Elephant & Castle. Raquel and Greta, the fantastic friends that they are, then stripped me off and ran me a bath. It still scares me to this day that I have zero recollection of them taking my clothes off. Once naked, they hoisted me in the bath and began washing me, whilst I garbled to myself in a dream like state, “Smells like spaghetti Bolognese… with Parmesan.” I know this, because as Greta kindly washed the vomit out of my hair, Raquel was taking great pleasure in filming me. Yep, there is video evidence of me; a grown woman being bathed by her friends, nipples out, mascara smeared across my face, singing Natasha Bedingfield’s, ‘I Bruise Easily.’ You can’t make this shit up.
Apparently, having seriously questionable song choices when heartbroken and drunk is a common reoccurrence of mine. When Dennis (my second significant relationship in recent years) broke up with me, I went out on a boozy brunch with Raquel to take my mind off things. It was a fun day. If you consider fun to be watching me smash back cheap prosecco, burst into random fits of tears, face plant my friend Jonny’s lap in the middle of the bar and pass out. Topped off with me stumbling down Clapham Common in the rain, wrestling with an umbrella, whilst tunelessly singing Frankee’s, ‘Fuck You Right Back’ at the top of my lungs. Again, thanks to Raquel, there is also video footage of this precious moment. “Fuck all those nights you thought you broke my back, well guess what yo, your (hiccup) sex was whack…” You can thank me later for having that stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Not too long after my breakup with Dennis I went to a bottomless brunch in Shoreditch for Greta’s birthday. The original plan was to make the most of the two-hour slot and then head home for an early night. LOL. I ended up getting completely wasted with my friend, Karlos. It was 5pm and whilst everyone else headed out of the brunch and turned left to go to Blues Kitchen, Karlos and I paused, shrugged our shoulders and turned right…
The next thing I remember was waking up at Raquel’s flat the next morning, stamps on one hand, a wristband on the other and a bruise the size of a satsuma on my upper arm.
“What happened?!” I asked Raquel, rubbing my throbbing head.
“I’m not too sure, Jess. After the brunch you went AWOL for three hours then turned up outside Blues Kitchen at 8pm with Karlos, both absolutely wasted. They refused you entry so we all came out and went to a different bar.”
I groaned. “Did I do anything stupid?” I asked, scrambling to find my phone to check I hadn’t messaged any ex-boyfriends.
“Well you seemed fine at the next place we went to. Until you saw some girl that knew Dennis, then you were literally hanging off of her crying.” Oh, Christ.
When Karlos turned up at the flat a couple hours later I begged him to recount what had happened in the three hours in between the brunch and Blues Kitchen. He said his memory was hazy but from evidence on his phone, we had gone to three different bars (that would explain the multitude of stamps on my hands). There was a video from the first bar where I’d managed to get down into the basement and harass the DJ setting up for the night ahead. There were photos from the second bar of me draped over Karlos surrounded by empty shot glasses. Of course. And then there was Karlos’s memory of the third place where we were sold a bottle of wine and three shots for £10. This is where I attempted the jump from Dirty Dancing, obviously missing Karlos completely and landing onto a table surrounded by an unsuspecting hen party. That would explain the bruise.
One night after going out with Raquel, I woke up at 5am the next morning, climbed out of bed and stood in front of my bedroom mirror in the semi-darkness. I had just had my hair and nails done the day before to make myself feel good again. I didn’t. I stared at my reflection and burst into tears. My self-esteem had reached an all time low. I had never felt so unattractive and unwanted in all my life. I actually stood blaming the girl who looked back at me for somehow being the reason that every man I’d ever loved had left me. Raquel woke up and looked across the room at me slumped on the floor by the mirror, not knowing what to say. This wasn’t an ordinary hangover. My heart was broken. The alcohol was only fuelling my anxieties, its numbing effect was only temporary and the crushing realism of everything would hit me with full effect the next day. I decided from that day on to go teetotal until I started to feel like me again and could actually go out without breaking down in tears.
After a couple months of going alcohol free, I started to feel a little better about things and decided that I’d have a few drinks for Jonny’s birthday at a bar in Shoreditch. I was actually enjoying myself, surrounded by friends, laughing, dancing, with no thoughts of Dennis invading my mind. I’m not sure if it was the drink or just the good mood I was in, but as the night was drawing to an end and the bar staff started cleaning up, a bit of the old Jess sparked up inside me…
Feeling an adrenaline rush, I climbed up on to a beer pong table (standard), and locked eyes with the attractive bar manager, who smiled nervously, his eyes flicking towards the security guard. I grabbed a Flash bleach bottle from the side and began serenading my unsuspecting victim to Frank Sinatra’s, New York, New York, using the bleach bottle as a microphone prop. My friends cheered me on as I contorted my body into what I hoped were dramatic cabaret style dance moves (definitely not). As I reached the grand finale, I theatrically knelt up on the table, flung my head back and fist pumped the ceiling; spritzing bleach into the bar manager’s face. Shit.
The bar erupted into applause. I clambered off the beer pong table and bowed. And even though my attempts at seduction had definitely failed and I was escorted off the premises, I’d had a great night and for the first time in months, I didn’t feel sad.
And that’s when it hit me. Drinking could be fun but it wasn’t the answer to healing my broken heart and neither was finding a replacement boyfriend. Over the years I had placed so much into needing a man to feel loved that I had been blind to how much love actually surrounded me from the good, constant people in my life. The people who turned up on my doorstep with a McDonalds and heart shaped balloons when I wouldn’t eat. The people who would text me every morning for four months just to ask how I was feeling. The people who were there at arrivals when I broke down at Heathrow airport after a 28-hour flight back from Australia. These were the people who healed my broken heart. So, let’s raise a Hendricks to them. My Mum and Dad, my gorgeous siblings, Ella, Raquel, Jonny and all my other amazing, supportive friends, you guys are the true loves of my life.
So now over a year on from my break up with my last boyfriend, Dennis, I see a different reflection in the mirror. I see an independent, better-rounded woman, who’s content and grateful for the people in her life. A woman I’m now proud of.