real life

MAZ COMPTON: "I managed to redefine my relationship with alcohol just in time."

This is an extract from Maz Compton’s book, The Social Rebellion. Available now.

My stint in media lasted twelve years; and during that time in the spotlight, or slightly to the left of the spotlight, a ‘sometimes’ activity became an almost everyday activity. I think Cookie Monster will be proud of that statement – much like cookies are a ‘sometimes’ food, alcohol should be a sometimes thing. Mine became daily.

I get asked ‘why aren’t you drinking?’ the most when I am surrounded by people whose blood alcohol levels could be mistaken for tonight’s winning lotto numbers – because yes, even though I don’t drink, I still go to my friend’s birthdays and attend events where there is alcohol. I think this is a key if you decide to live alcohol-free for more than 31 days; to know you don’t have to freak out and live in a hole, just tweak one single habit.

It freaks people out when they learn I haven’t had a drink for ages, and more so when they realise I wasn’t lacing my morning coffee with gin, gambling away all my money, laying in a gutter and losing my GD mind. Sure, behind closed doors I was slightly unhinged, but I was far from rock bottom. I was, what I like to call, dancing on the edge of an epic fall from grace. I managed to redefine my relationship with alcohol just in time. It was a life changing (well, life-ending) event that made me sit up and pay close attention to my choices and behaviour [Maz’s beloved manager, Mark Byrne, passed away at the age of 45]. This event led me to my decision to live alcohol free for a month (which, at the time, was a huge stretch from the daily free alcohol I was used to).

Let me tell you a bit about my functioning alcoholism, or almost dependent drinking, or whatever label you can find for my previous innate desire to drink from a bottle with a label on it.

It all started to unravel when I was hosting a national radio show, but up until that point, I had always been the most fun person to drink with. I could keep up with the boys, I could sit and talk for hours with the girls, I was usually happy and at happy hour. Alcohol crept into my life very slowly.

It began with all the work events that I either had to host, or attend - where I could swan around a room of celebrities and feel super important, and drink champagne until the sun came up - and the telling myself that it was my job. When you are a host of MTV and all MTV does is make TV, and throw wild parties, it actually IS your job. So, there was that. But I was smart, I kept up my exercise routine, I drank enough water to stay upright and I would always go home to my house, by myself. Three simple little rules to keep me out of harm’s way.

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On the home front, I would drink a glass of wine when making dinner and then more wine with dinner, and maybe a goblet of red after dinner - but that wasn’t hurting anyone, I was at home, making a nice meal and binge watching 24 (or possibly How I Met Your Mother). I had a handle on it. I would occasionally see the sunrise, I would occasionally have a few too many, I would occasionally wake up with little recollection of the previous night and, I would occasionally wake up with a few bruises, which I put that down to the deadly concoction of high heels and Savvy B’s.

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Looking back now, I can see where it started to evolve into more of a frequent ritual than just the odd concert and celebratory dinner. It slowly got more of a grip and, as I lost touch with my true self, and embraced other people’s opinions of me, something shifted. I can’t put my finger on exactly when the shift occurred, but at some point, I started drinking to cope. The people I surrounded myself with only ever wanted to catch up for drinks, go out for drinks or ‘get a drink after’, and more and more occasions in my calendar involved alcohol; everything from a baby shower to the East Coast Tour we did for Bacardi.

‘I’m gonna sip Bacardi like it’s my birthday.’
Thanks 50 Cent for your cultural observation.

I remember feeling really trapped. I wanted to calm my farm on the booze front but I didn’t have any clue where to start. It requires more re-focus than will-power to live alcohol free, and whether it’s for 31 days, or the rest of your life, it requires the same level of commitment.

By the time, I was hosting the National Drive Show I had been through the ringer emotionally.

  • My first marriage broke down and my emotional coping mechanism had kicked into high gear.
  • I moved to three cities in three years and started three new jobs (promotions which were awesome but came at a cost).
  • My career felt like it was finally in a super awesome place, but I suffered from Impostor Syndrome. I didn’t feel talented enough, I felt like I was fluking this career thing.

I was drinking myself numb because I didn’t know how to process the emotions that came with high pressure. No-one really taught me that. Nobody explained that my inner drive to be a success was going to be riddled with doubt or that I would suffer from Impostor Syndrome. Failing is one thing, but succeeding has its own set of emotional triggers, which I wasn’t aware of at the time. Oh, and I have done both – failed and succeeded – but I can say, sometimes failing felt better because at least the feelings were justifiable… I mean how can you be struggling with your level of success?!

I didn’t have anyone to talk to about this stuff, the tough life stuff can take a toll, if you don’t have adequate professional help to identify the tough stuff and the triggers, you have little choice but to self-medicate. Very quickly alcohol can become your best friend and the ultimate mask. But this is a destructive behaviour.

It is a misconception to assume that you must be falling-down drunk and hit absolute rock bottom to address your relationship with alcohol. This wasn’t me. At all. Sure, I was using alcohol a lot more than the recommended daily dose, but I had my shit in check, too. It’s just difficult to assess our true relationship with alcohol, because it skews things. It warps our sense of reality. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of shame surrounding this issue. If you admit you aren’t comfortable with your relationship with alcohol, you should be commended not made to feel bad.

At the end of the day, it’s a personal question one must ask themselves; am I OK with my relationship with alcohol?
My answer was Hell No!

If you are struggling with alcohol, confidential support is available via Alcoholics Anonymous. Call 1300 222 222.

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