Marian Keyes gave a powerful interview on Saturday night's Tommy Tiernan Show on RTÉ One, discussing her alcoholism and how she "hadn't a clue how to be in the world" while drinking.
The author, who marked 27 years of sobriety last month, told the host that she felt she had been born "missing the shell".
In January 18th, 1994, my life was a small, sad mess. I thought alcohol was my only real friend and a life without it would be unliveable.— Marian Keyes (@MarianKeyes) January 18, 2021
I was wrong... pic.twitter.com/1xVcJhITNU
"A little bit wonky, you know?" she explained. "I mean, I've always kind of felt mildly, you know, lopsided.
"I just found life and people... I was afraid an awful lot of the time. Again, it was partly me and it was partly the times. I was born in 1963 and it was just... It was a time of... It was a really odd country, Ireland, back then. You know, we've changed profoundly, thank God. I'm kind of porous and I picked up the fear."
Keyes began drinking at 14.
"The wheels were coming off in my final year in school," she recounted. "I was very angry. And then in college, I drank so much. And, like, from much earlier - it was all about alcohol.
"There's compassion for myself, because I hadn't a clue. I hadn't a clue how to be in the world. I hadn't a clue how to manage my own feelings. I hadn't a clue how to manage relationships. I was just lost."
"So, when I started drinking, I thought, 'This is it'," she recalled. "'This is the thing I need. This is what's going to help me get through the world like the rest of them. Suddenly, I can be normal. I have found my crutch, my insulin. Whatever the bit that was missing in me, I've found it now'. So, it was huge relief, and it stayed the most important relationship of my life until I had no choice but to stop."
She said she had been a "maudlin" drinker.
"I cried rather than started fights in Dunnes," she continued. "I drank alone. I'd be there, like, roaring crying watching telly. Seeing double with my hand over one eye, like, crying over the baby seals. I was a pain of a drunk... I wasn't an entertaining drunk at all. The thing that I wanted was oblivion. The awful thing is the more you drink - the more I drank - the worse I felt, so the more I drank. Everything looked horrible; the world looked ugly the whole time.
"I stopped, and suddenly the world is full of colour and loveliness. I had been living in London and I'd come to rehab in Ireland, but I went back to London and I ended up getting a flat on my own through sheer luck. And I had no money, but I used to go to the secondhand shops and I used to buy curtains and candles and beautiful things, because I would never have spent money on that before. And, eh, just life got lovely really fast."
Keyes acknowledged that writing had changed her life when she began at the age of 30.
"I had no idea I wanted to write, and it wasn't until I was in the final throes of alcoholic drinking and it was just a short time after my 30th birthday - started writing short stories out of the blue, completely unexpected, came as a surprise to me. It was the first time I had done something that I thought, 'I'm proud of this'. Like, I really enjoyed it."
"I am aware of how ridiculously lucky I've been," she added. "I do actually work very hard; it's the best job that somebody like me could do. I love what I do. I absolutely love it."
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Watch the show in full on the RTÉ Player.