When one of my closest friends was spiked recently, I wanted to provide this space for her to share her feelings. Spiking is something that needs to be handled with compassion so please give this a read. It’s written with humour and resilience and I love that – Eliza x
I’ve never been ashamed of my attitude to drinking, because let’s all be honest here, alcohol can be fun. However much I joke to my friends about having a love affair with wine, I’ve never been embarrassed or worried about my drinking. After a stressful day at work I like a glass of wine; going to my singing society always means a Kopparberg afterwards at the SU and I’m always game for meeting up in a cocktail bar. Whatever the context though, I have always been in control of my alcohol consumption; until I had a glass of wine in a pub that had more than wine in it.
Yes, two weeks ago I was spiked and honestly, it was a terrifying experience. It’s made me realise though just how little we talk about what it’s like to be spiked. So welcome to my TED talk / lecture / rant / blog… whatever you want to call it. I’m going to talk at you in detail about my feelings post-spiking in the hope that by being open and honest we can start to protect each other a bit more from this kind of situation.
It was going so well…
It was a normal evening, in a normal pub with friends who for the purposes of this we’ll call normal. A spontaneous decision to join a pub quiz near my flat after dinner because I wasn’t in work the following day and wanted to treat myself. I only remember an hour of that night so I lost over 8 hours of memory and am pretty sure I was unconscious for 6 or 7 of them.
I have never passed out in my life so straight away it was a weird experience. Secondly, I’ve never forgotten a night out. There have been hazy moments, incidents I wish I could forget and times when I’ve lied about not remembering (I can’t be the only one?); but I’ve always known what I did when drinking. So, the fact that there are 8 hours of my life that I have literally no memory of is truly unsettling. (I know that for some people, not remembering a few hours during a drinking session is normal; but for me, it’s just scary.)
A stranger in my own flat
Luckily, woke up in my own bed, safe and unharmed. I say luckily but I have to thank my friends for putting me in a cab. I found out I have great muscle memory because I was able to put in the code to my front door, get in the lift to the right floor AND get into my flat – so yay for the small victories!
The problem is, to everyone I was with, I just came across as incredibly drunk which has meant I’ve had to process the shame of what I must have looked like, said or done. I am embarrassed about my actions, even though I had absolutely no control over them. I was not in control of myself, but my emotions haven’t quite grasped that. Whatever was in my system was gone soon enough, but the emotional side-effects are taking longer. (Though the thumping headaches and chest pains for four days weren’t exactly a picnic in June…)
I’m a naturally anxious person, usually the “mum” of the group making sure we’re all getting home safe at 3am but I’ve always felt safe with my alcohol consumption. Friends of mine have borne witness to the fact that I’m not “boring” on a night out as I have definitely drunk too much on some occasions and will happily dance till dawn like a maniac. I’m confident and cheeky in a bar, encouraging friends to let loose and have that second drink because “who really needs to go to a 9am lecture in the morning?”.
Now though, I am second guessing myself. I’m nervous to order a drink in a bar and worried about whether I should have a drink with my meal, because “what if I lose time again?”. I’m paranoid about what might happen and how I might not be able to get away safely next time. My brain jumps to the worst possible outcomes and I feel myself retreating inwards because of the fear.
I’m angry that I should have to be this cautious. I’m in my twenties. These are the years to make mistakes, drink too much and be reckless before the real responsibilities kick in. I shouldn’t have to worry about whether my drink is spiked or not, I should just be able to have a drink with friends and nurse a hangover the next day. There shouldn’t be the fear of what might happen in my mind. But it seems that spikings are becoming a more and more common part of our society. I have so many friends (mostly female but not all) who have their own spiking stories, and some did not end as safely as mine. Why have we all become so casual about being drugged against our will?
Side note – I’m also deeply frustrated that I’m now a cliché because conversations with knowledgeable people mean I think I know that I was slipped a variation of Rohypnol. Yup, the date-rape drug that you hear about in all the films. I was roofied. I strive to be different and quirky, but now, I’m officially a stereotype. Not the point of this story though Elena.
It’s been a stark reminder of how dangerous a night out can actually be and even worse, it’s made me feel less sure of myself. I live alone and pride myself on being a independent and self-sufficient. Living on my own for a year has made me really proud of my ability to take care of myself. But an incident like this made me panic. What if I hadn’t woken up after passing out? There are no flatmates who would check on me. Suddenly, being single put me at a higher risk. (Cue the tiny violin for my tragic love life…)
Thoughts of what might have happened are hard to ignore. My anxiety is usually kept at bay but now I feel myself worrying about everything, because some idiot on a night out decided to slip something in my drink. If you see me in the next few weeks and I’m not quite my usual self, this is why. If I’m extra panicky about not having a plan or feeling comfortable, please understand I’m trying really hard to be me again but it’ll take time.
If you’ve read this far, first of all, thanks for listening to my ramblings! But there’s only one thing I’d like to you take from this: be aware that spikings happen anywhere and everywhere and to everyone. So, watch your drinks and watch your friends. I was out with people I’m close to and who know me, and in their eyes, I was just very drunk, until they realised I’d only had about 2 glasses of wine. As one friend put it “I’ve seen you drink a hell of a lot more and be way less drunk”, (what was that about not being a raging alcoholic?). A spiked person won’t always look paralytic or be throwing up straight away so keep an eye on the people you care about. Even the Mums of the group who you usually count on. Everyone needs help sometimes.
One last thing,(so realistically there’s two things I wanted you to take from this, but we all know I’m never concise) if someone you know is spiked, understand that we’ll all react in different ways but somehow, they will be affected by it. Send them a message, invite them over for coffee to talk or offer to be their sober friend on the next night out. I’ve had a few drinks since and every time I’m incredibly nervous taking a sip of it. I know it’ll be a while before I’m carefree about drinking again and the simple act of talking to a friend about how this made me feel has meant the world.
Hopefully it’ll mean you’re that tiny bit more aware on a night out and who knows, you could stop this happening to someone else. (I’m imagining an army of Elena’s Anti-Spiking Superheroes now. It’ll be a fun club. We’ll make t-shirts.)
To the mystery person who roofied me – I don’t know who you are or what your intention was, but I can make a pretty good guess what you were hoping to achieve. All I have to say is, you’re despicable but you didn’t win. I got away and I will drink again. I will let charming men buy me a drink in a bar if I feel like it. I’ll even get shamefully drunk again I’m sure. But for now, you’ve made me extra careful, so thanks, because I’ll be watching out everyone else’s drinks like a hawk.
To everyone else, I’ll see you in the bar x
Thank you Elena for sharing the way this made you feel! Although I have given up drinking for other reasons, I love that you aren’t letting someone take away your choice. Neither are you labelling any individual or any group. Thank you once again! I’ll see you at the bar! – Eliza x