Megan Nicol Reed: Alcohol is a cruel foe

Charles Dickens has always been brilliant. Even now his words have the ability to surprise.

At 45, he took an 18-year-old girl as his lover, which was somewhat less surprising. But then brilliant men can be so predictable.

More surprising than his mid-life crisis, however, was his ability to foresee.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...

He was writing about London. About Paris. He was writing about the late 18th century, when the French were chopping posh people's heads off and posh people were banging on stupidly about cake.

He could have been writing about my recent big night out. About Auckland. About the early 21st century when I was off my chops and banging on stupidly about yoga.

The best time to be had was in the leadup. I excel at the anticipation. The planning of an outfit. The imagined reaction of others to said outfit. The riveting and endless deliberation over whether to wear hair up or down. The pre-drinks. Load up, load up.

But the comedown was the worst of times. And oh, how far I fell.

It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ...

Of all the neuroses that inform the human condition, post-party anxiety has to be the cruddiest.

Where most anxieties are based on a fear of the unknown, of what might yet happen, post-party anxiety is all about regret.

It is not a case of imagining the worst. The worst has happened and there is no redemption to be had. I was overexcited and thought myself scintillating company.

I made bold pronouncements here, there and everywhere. Fancied myself wise, offering sufferance to no fools.

It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity ...

Alcohol is the kindest of friends. It bolsters a sense of belief in self. (Mmm, baby, you be rockin' tonight!) Imbues you with a sense of wonder about the wider world. (Tim, you dark horse, you!)

Until it turns, and then there is no foe crueller. If you are a naturally anxious person, when the good times start to wear thin, alcohol will compound your every doubt - beating, feeding, until something monstrous takes shape.

It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness ...

And therein lays the conundrum of a big night out.

When the sun has gone down and the pretty things have come out to play, all seems light and bright. You dance in the stippled glow of the disco ball and tell people you really don't know very well you love them. Honestly, you do.

Or, convinced that you're doing them the biggest favour, you dole out unsolicited advice, that they could shed a kilo or two or deal to their halitosis.

Then, when the sun returns, the darkness descends. And you can only pray that in your bid to be as honest as you possibly could with all those inner truths, you didn't reveal anyone else's.

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair ...

3.22am: Sitting in a discount cab at the 24-hour drive-thru McDonald's, waiting for your Filet-O-Fish combo, you may well ask yourself, how did I get here?

I envy those whose memory are not the finely-tuned beast mine is. The flashbacks flood in. The biggest deluge occurs not, I have found, the day after, but two days later.

When the physical misery has diminished, and all hope that you didn't actually dance inappropriately with that random stranger is lost, and there is only despair.

We had everything before us, we had nothing before us ...

When everything is done and dusted, and you have debriefed with as many people as you possibly can, dissected every minor incident, gossiped mercilessly, there is nothing but the anti-climax.

Except, that is, for the apologies. To the ones you said too much to. To the ones you omitted to talk to at all. For it was your big night, and surely you were the protagonist in everyone else's too.

We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ... 

Sunday Magazine