09 February. 2020 • Category: Running | Addiction | Mental Health | Recovery | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Authenticity | Sobriety
I can even support myself upside down!
I didn’t want help for my addiction for a long time. As I’ve said before, it took me so long to admit to myself and my husband that I had a problem, the last thing I wanted to do was admit it to anyone else. I thought I would be judged. I was also afraid of being outed and people I knew finding out. How things change!
During my second attempt (and failure) at sobriety, I knew I couldn’t do it on my own so I finally faced up to the fact I might need to ask for help. I hid in my workshop at the bottom of the garden (I used to make fused glass in my previous life) and phoned a helpline. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but I was terrified that someone somewhere would assume I was a bad mother and try to take my kids away. While I sometimes might have been shorter of patience than I would have liked, I knew that I had never put them in danger and I never drank in the day, I just didn’t know if the people on the end of the phone would believe that.
I spoke to someone who listened, reassured me and put me on a waiting list to speak to a someone else. It took three months for me to be called back, and when they finally did I was drinking again. I felt like I’d been forgotten, I had asked for help and there was no one there. Finally I had someone on the phone who was offering help, but they had no answers, just a lot of questions for me. They suggested I came in to speak to a counsellor and I was assigned a key worker who I will call Bill. Bill listened when we met, but he didn’t have answers either. Except to tell me not to stop drinking. I was like, “What?” But I had heard right. I was drinking so much that actually stopping could have been really bad for me. It was frustrating. All I wanted was to stop drinking and suddenly I was being told to carry on. He told me to cut down, but only by about half a glass each week. He said it had to be manageable so I could maintain it and not slip back. I already knew what it was like to slip, but man, drinking when I wanted to stop was weird and went against everything I had thought.
Bill suggested I had two ways to go. Either I did all the work myself or I book in for a residential detox. I liked the idea of the ‘easy’ way out so I booked the detox. He insisted I needed to have things in place for afterwards, as otherwise it would be too easy to slip straight back to where I had been before. I needed to change my habits to help me stay sober. The problem was the waiting list was long and I was done with drinking, I loved it, I hated it, it was confusing, but most of all, I hated the control it had over me.
I don’t think Bill and I clicked. I’m assuming he was once an alcoholic, going by his job in an advisory role, but I just don’t think he got me, and most of all I wanted to be understood. He suggested I started going to some local group meetings and I said yes. They were quite close to where I lived, and on the second meeting I saw someone I knew drive past as I was talking to another person leaving after our meeting. I felt like I had a sign above me pointing out I was an alcoholic, I felt so self-conscious!
The first meeting was strange. I was early and met by two women who were cagey about why they were there. I was also cagey about why I was there, so trying to work out if I was in the right place was weird. Finally it was decided that I was and gradually other people came in. Obviously I’m not going to disclose anything to identify my fellow anonymous attendees but it’s fair to say that it was a diverse group. I connected most with another lady who although older than me was in the same position as me, she had finally admitted she had a problem when she had to leave a theme park she was at with her children to buy a bottle of wine which she then sneaked back in with her. I also connected with another person who had been in and out of prison during their drug addiction. They had been clean until they were stabbed by their partner, during an unexpected altercation. Coming out of hospital to find the partner had been arrested and the relationship unreconcilable had been too much, and the familiarity of drugs and alcohol had beckoned.
There were of course other people there in the meetings, and I had nothing and yet everything in common with them. Some people looked at me strangely before I spoke, trying to work out why I was there, like I said, I presented a very together image, as long as I knew there would be wine at the end of the day, and at that point there still was. That made it worse, knowing I was still drinking was just compounding the confusion I felt. After talking with my new acquaintances I found there was a drug I could take to dissuade me from drinking, so I made an appointment and saw the doctor.
I thought I’d have to persuade the doctor. I didn’t, she believed me. For the first time, I felt listened to by a health professional. She told me she had worked in addiction wards in a hospital where patients had tried to drink the hand sanitiser for the alcohol in them. I couldn’t imagine ever doing that, but she understood. She prescribed me Antabuse but told me not to take it straight away. I had to get my drinking right down and then I could start the course. The idea is that it makes you physically ill if you take the tablets and still drink. The idea of it scared me, but it gave me back the control I had lost. If I chose to take the tablets, then I was choosing to try to put a stop to my drinking. It was a strange thing to think I had them, but couldn’t take them yet. I went home and told my husband all about it, putting the pot on top of the fridge, making a plan to get my consumption down. I think from memory I lasted about two or three days before I had enough, certainly not the weeks I had been advised. I smashed my glass and tipped the last of my wine down the drain. It was like I was possessed. Then I took a tablet. My husband watching me in shock just said, “Bloody hell Clu.” (Clu is his nickname for me). It might not have been the end, but right then it was like I took the biggest step forward in my recovery. I sat there for a minute waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. I wasn’t magically fixed, but and this is the huge thing, I was finally on the right path.
So, I never needed my booking at the residential unit. I never made it back to my counsellor, and after a few more meetings I stopped doing those too. There was nothing at the time that fit me properly, but without each of those things, I wouldn’t have been able to make the progress I did. Knowing I had the safety net of the detox was helpful, but I was almost expecting a magic wand to be waved, and of course no one can do that for you.
It seems like recovery should be the end of a journey, the end of a love affair with alcohol that has to end but yet for me it was very much the beginning. In fact, I’d look at it more like chapters, I finished the drinking chapter and began the recovery chapter, and in some ways, although I don’t drink any more, I’m still in it. A chapter that lasts years is long, but so was the chapter that led up to my addiction. Unpicking everything takes time and I wasn’t that well prepared for that, I didn’t realise how much wine was holding me together in a dysfunctional way, but now without it, I am a better person, I know that now.
Underneath it all, we are all the same. We just want to connect, and be understood and that’s one of the things I love about writing to you all. I’m coming to understand myself more and more, so thank you as always for listening to me and if you want, pop me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.