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Drink, Smoke, Pass Out

11 December 2012

In the very early 1990s, Judith Lucy (now a very well known comedian, TV presenter and author) was just getting a name for herself. I met her because she was one of the revolving dinner guests at the dinner parties held regularly in the place I lived with my cousin.

This was an apartment in Kirribilli, and my cousin was a freelance food stylist whose job required her to test all her recipes before preparing and styling them for the food magazine shoots upon which she worked.

The apartment was known as ‘Heaven’ – not just because of the heavenly dinner parties, which never really got going til 9.30 or 10 at night – but because it sat 7 floors up above Sydney Harbour facing southeast with the view framed by four enormous glass picture windows, all of which bowed and shook if ever we had strong south easterly winds or bad summer storms.

Because it was the early 1990s we all drank too much, smoked often and while we ate… but we never passed out. I put this down to the fact that we also ate – a lot of very good food. Judith was very, very funny and shy. She was also smart and sometimes wise. She was, at the time, only about 23.

The following is an extract from Judith’s new book Drink, Smoke, Pass Out (Penguin Aus. rrp $29.99). Older and wiser – the book speaks for itself.

Some of you may be a little familiar with the book Eat, Pray, Love. It's a woman's search 'for everything' after a horrible divorce. The author's search takes her to Italy, India and Bali. Coincidentally, the last three countries I've been to are the same ones, and in the same order, although there were returns home in between. In Italy, Elizabeth Gilbert ate what she liked and lost weight, and had to swear to be celibate for a year because she'd always had men in her life; in India, she did yoga, stayed in an ashram and had some sort of spiritual breakthrough; and in Bali, she looked for balance in her life, met an incredible healer and wound up banging a hot Brazilian whom she went on to marry. I have nothing against this writer and I know that many women have loved this book. However, I couldn't have less in common with Elizabeth Gilbert if I was just a gas.

I've had several years where I've been celibate; the difference is that I was often desperately trying to have sex. If I had eaten everything I wanted to in Italy, I would have come back the size of a small zeppelin, and as it was I was constipated and sleeping in a room with my seventy-year-old birth mother, and the only man who came onto me was so short and so wide, he was virtually a circle.

I went to India on a spiritual journey too – in fact, for the TV show I made for the ABC, Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey. While my ten days there was a great experience, the only yoga I did was on the roof of a boat, which nearly landed me in a neck brace…

And after finishing the show, I went to Bali. I didn't meet my future husband…
My 'journey' didn't take place over a year, but for the past forty-four. I grew up a staunch Catholic, but when I turned my back on that religion I believed in nothing and threw myself into my career, good times and finding Mr Right, believing that one or all of the above would make me happy. Not that I had any idea what being happy really was, but gradually I started to realise that none of these things seemed to be working, and when my parents died within ten months of each other, it made me start to question everything, even though I don't think I was aware of that for some time.

While I was slowly recognising that booze, boys and comedy might not hold the answer to the meaning of life, I was also developing a real love of yoga (try not to feel nauseous), which led me to an interest in spirituality (a word I still struggle with). At some point, I realised that I was less anxious, less desperate for a drink and not quite so dependent on circumstances dictating my state of mind…
I'm not living in a cave in the Himalayas, I'm single and I still drink (sometimes I still drink a lot)… and I thought, why not share a story that's sort of about spirituality, but doesn't take itself too seriously, and has no eating, less praying and loving, and a lot more drinking, smoking and passing out, because if my tale didn't have those elements, it would just be a pamphlet.