Drunk Texting And Me

The worst drunk text message I ever sent was to the editor of a newspaper. It was a newspaper that I'd have liked to write for, and an editor who might have commissioned me. Her number was saved in my phonebook because we had worked on some events together. I’d say we had probably hung out about three or four times.

The message said:

Okay, firstly, this is not a thing I would really say in normal life. “Normal life” being life before five gin and tonics. Secondly, the message was intended for someone else, obviously – someone with a name positioned close by in the alphabet and with whom I was in a relationship. They weren't around – which might at least explain why I ended what is ostensibly a "sext" with a sad face... the iMessage equivalent of crying after you come.

The worst thing about this incident wasn’t that the recipient was someone I only know in a work capacity, or that she knows I'm into women, meaning the declaration of affection could be coming from a legitimate place. Or... you know, that she's a straight woman in her forties (with children) who definitely doesn’t want to have sex with me.

Nope. It was how I chose to deal with the situation: I woke up the next day, saw my outbox and deleted the message. Basically, I opted for denial; I pretended the whole thing had never happened and left the message out there in the ether – never followed up, never responded to.

Artwork by Anna Jay

In the following months, I regretted not apologising for that text while I had the chance. And yet, although I secretly agonised over my own stupidity, I did tell my friends the story in a bid to extract some humour from the situation. They all pretty much said the same thing: “What the hell is wrong with you?” The answer is, I honestly don’t know. By day, I would consider myself quite scrutinous. I’m an editor, so it’s basically my job to make sure nothing idiotic gets published – nothing that can get us sued, nothing that will offend anyone, nothing that’s factually incorrect. Perhaps I find this so exhausting to maintain that, at night, all hell breaks loose. And let me tell you, in 2015, hell is the next-day-shame of nineteen consecutive blue bubbles. Hell is the resounding disgrace of an affectionate 4 am “I love you” text to my boss.

Hell is how I felt after I messaged someone I’ve been on two dates with an in-depth analysis of how well we’re getting on, plus my thoughts and feelings on when it might be the right time to sleep together. Hell is the humiliation of having no knowledge of the night before, except for a mangled commentary of events on my Twitter feed, with @s to every pop star whose music I’d rolled around to that night. Hell is drunk-adding people you’ve never met on Facebook. Hell is the “prangover” that follows me texting someone I slept with twice but no longer speak to at 10:37 pm on a Friday, out of the blue, saying “I think you’re wonderful I hope we can be friends” as if anyone has ever said “wonderful” this side of a black and white film from the 1930s, or as if this person would ever want to be friends with someone so clearly unhinged.


I consider stopping. Not just as every "Sober October" and "Dry July" roll by, but as my own personal loop of regret hits me each weekend.

People say they drink a lot because they don’t like themselves and they want to escape who they really are. Later, the same people tell me they stopped drinking because they hated who they were when they were drunk. Does that mean an average level of self-loathing will only ever leave you suspended between the two... somewhere between functional human and utter train wreck?

This is, I think, where I fall.

I consider stopping.

Not just as every "Sober October" and "Dry July" roll by, but as my own personal loop of regret hits me each weekend. Sometimes during the week. But the problem is: I like being drunk. The same person who fires off self-destructive messages also does me favours; they have the courage to flirt with people who are a lot better looking than I am and the imagination to take a night somewhere unexpected. With alcohol, I have fun.

What then, to do about my drunk texting problem?

“Download an app”, someone recently suggested. There’s one called “Lock Out”, apparently, which denies you access to your social media accounts when you’re wasted, and another called “TUI Stopper”, which removes people from your phonebook until you’re ready to say something cogent. Then there’s “Drunk Lock”. which makes you solve a series of maths questions before you can access your phone – maths problems I doubt I’d be able to solve drunk or sober.

No, I don't think the cure for my inane use of technology is more inane technology. I think to get to the bottom of why we feel the need to drunk message, drunk post and drunk dial, we should consider our compulsion to share. Our culture encourages us to broadcast our lowest moments –"Omfg why did I just spend $13.50 on gum" – and our highest – "LOOOOL mum singing Hotline Bling" – as well as all the trivial shit in between. (It's all trivial). You have a "following", you chalk up "likes", and you're led to believe that, if you’re not on Tinder, Happn or Raya, something is wrong with you emotionally.


We’re supposed to have moved past the culture of oversharing now. We’re supposed to have had the realisation that nothing is sacred any more.

So oversaturated is the compulsion to broadcast our every movement, that we've already met the backlash. We’re supposed to have moved past the culture of oversharing now. We're supposed to conduct our business in inboxes, not on people's "walls". We’re supposed to have had the realisation that nothing is sacred anymore and done something about it. And I've had that realisation; when I’m sober, I'm the first person to find PDAs on social media embarrassing, “what I’m up to” status updates shallow, and selfies self-involved.

Which is why it's the sincerity at the heart of my drunk messaging that makes it so humiliating; the PDAs, the overshares, the selfies. It’s the honesty and the transparency that I regret the next day. (More so, even, when that honesty or transparency is directed towards the wrong fucking person.) And that's sad, in a way, isn’t it? Because – as my boss said when I told her I was writing this – “Your 4 am ‘I love yous’ are the only time you're ever actually nice to me".

Last week, that newspaper editor I accidentally text sent me an email. It said: “Shall we go for a beer??” Puzzled as I was, I took this as my opportunity to meet up with her, have a drink, and try to act really, really normal. After a few beers, though, my drunken tendency to overshare reared its ugly head.

I told her the story about the drunk text. I told her that it wasn’t meant for her, that I regretted not apologising, that I felt incredibly embarrassed. To my relief, she laughed. A lot. In a knowing sort of way. And when she stopped laughing, she told me the story was particularly funny because she’d never actually received my message. Then, she told me about a time when she had done a similar thing, and, suddenly, I felt months of hangover shame dissipate. For a brief moment, it felt like the moral of the story was that sometimes it's okay to share. But then my drunk text shame, I knew, would probably be back tomorrow.

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