‘We’re doing it together; we’re doing it for each other,’ is typically what a team would say to each other in the changing rooms before a match. I started off as a tennis player but fell in love with football. Playing football isn’t as lonely as playing tennis. Knowing that there are 10 other people on the pitch to support you is reassuring. It feels good to be a part of something and to work together for the same goal. ‘Do it for each other,’ and ‘we’re a team’, is what I heard in my first year playing football but I did not feel like it was true.
I was keen on joining the team when I arrived in Aberystwyth. The previous season had ended in May and I was eager to play. I found out there are weekly socials (nights out with alcohol) and felt like it’d be good to attend. I was new after all, and it’s a nice idea to get closer to the team outside of the sport. The only issue was that I didn’t particularly like alcohol a lot. At first, it was okay that I didn’t drink; some people understood, but the pressure to drink was there nonetheless. I wasn’t strong enough to say no even though every night out (which admittedly were only a few) ended up on the bathroom floor. I’d be leaning against the wall in one of the cubicles of Penbryn’s toilets with an open door, and say all these things about wanting to die to my flatmates.
I remember walking back to my flat one night and feeling this incredible urge to walk up constitution hill and jump off. Still, I kept trying because surely if everyone else had so much fun while drinking, I should be able too? Christmas break came, ended too soon, and talk of initiations after returning to university started.
I remember feeling anxious for the team initiations. I talked to my friend about it and considered skipping, but I knew I’d have to do them eventually if I was to play for this team. We painted ourselves yellow (as we were to dress up as minions) and once we arrived, it didn’t seem all that bad anymore. I felt like I possessed Dutch courage without that I had consumed anything yet; ‘how bad can a little bit of alcohol be?’ I told myself. So we were split into two teams and based on how well your team performed, alcohol had to be consumed. The quiz and all was quite fun and my team performed pretty good, but then by the end of the initiations, I went home while the rest went out.
I’m sure they must have asked me if I was okay, but who says ‘no’ when asked? I never break down when I’m around people; I always manage to make it home before I do. But when I reach home everything falls apart and I’m left wishing I would die. I took a bath that night even though I hate water, showers and baths. I thought it might help wash the yellow off, but then I tried to mix it with red.
After this happened, I tried to live up to the drinking rules one more time. The last time was on the bus after an away game when it’s tradition to down a bottle of Lambrini in 15 minutes. I felt happy that day; in costume and all, ready to be a ‘hippie’, and then the same old happened. I so vividly remember the singing on the bus that night, the joy of drunken people around me as I sloughed down further and further into my seat. I couldn’t answer my friend when she tried to talk to me. I didn’t feel like I would ever be able to get off that bus again. My nails were digging into my skin.
I said ‘no’ to alcohol from that point forward. Of course, in an ideal world I would have said ‘no’ from the start, but at least I managed eventually. Yet, I don’t understand why I had to reach that stage. How is it that people end up feeling this way when all they want is to be a part of a team and play the sport they like? Why is there so much pressure to drink, when drinking alcohol can have serious implications? I know people don’t want to make others feel like they want to die, but that’s essentially what can happen when someone responds badly to alcohol. I wish people were more aware and understanding so no one else has to experience what I did. I wish there wasn’t a set amount to drink, and everyone was free to decide how much they want to consume. I wasn’t entirely against drinking alcohol before I came to university; I had some fun nights with friends and some alcohol before I came here. Now, the mere smell of alcohol makes me feel sick. It’s a good thing I can live without.