26 January. 2020 • Category: Running | Addiction | Mental Health | Recovery | Mindfulness | Anxiety | Authenticity | Sobriety
My husband and I with our littlest boy.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but sobriety is hard. Especially for those of use who have had years and years of ingrained use of alcohol in our lives.
So much of our culture involves drinking. It is as normal to expect a drink of wine or beer as it is to expect a cup of tea. So when someone realises that alcohol has become a problem in their lives it isn’t just the drinking that has to stop, they also have to entirely relearn the way they live. I know because I did it. I didn’t do it on the first attempt either, it wasn’t that easy. It took me about six years, maybe more to really believe and understand that I had a problem. Coming from a family that always ‘enjoyed a drink’ I grew up expecting that that was the normal way to relax, that it was okay in the evening to always have a drink with your dinner and more after. It was so normal that I really didn’t think for a very long time that I had a problem, and even when I questioned it, I wondered how many people would believe me. I honestly thought they would think I was after attention. I wasn’t, trust me, no one in their right mind would put themselves through recovery unless they had to.
So, in the summer of 2015 I stopped drinking. I knew I had a problem, I relied on it too much. Tearfully I spoke to my husband about it. He agreed with me, he knew I liked to drink, he also enjoyed a beer in the evening, but the difference was, he could leave it, I couldn’t. He was supportive and helped me get through the first couple of days. It was a Wednesday and Thursday I remember because I had to take my daughter to a hospital appointment. It was immensely hard, but I did it, and two days in I felt better than I had in ages. My appetite began to come back, and the anxiety I always felt, the hyper-vigilance causing me to be constantly on edge eased off. I felt so good that I convinced myself that I didn’t really have a problem and by the weekend I was confident that I had over-reacted. So I had a few drinks. Moderation doesn’t work for me. Within a very short time I was right back where I had been again, except possibly worse, because now I really knew that it wasn’t possibly a problem, it was definitely one.
I couldn’t imagine life without wine. How would I relax? How would I reward myself after a day? How would I switch off in the evenings? There were so many questions. So many I couldn’t answer and so I did what I always did when I had a problem and drank.
In the spring of 2016 I tried again. Again I failed. And again I got worse because the thing is, one glass of wine is not enough for me, and that one glass that I couldn’t resist always made everything come tumbling back down.
That was my rock bottom. I knew I had to do something serious. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own and I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was. I didn’t like myself anymore. Every day was a battle. I grew to resent the wine I loved so much, I hated the hold it had over me, and yet I just couldn’t say no to it. More than once I smashed a glass, literally throwing it across the room in frustration because I didn’t want it and yet I needed it. I have never been so conflicted in all my life, and yet the times I had tried to stop drinking just resulted in making me like I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t strong enough to do without it. And that made me resent it more, but regardless, every night I still poured a glass or two, or three, or four. I was over the two bottles of wine I used to limit myself to now, and ashamed of the recycling I was putting out each fortnight. I would try to hide it, or take it in the car to the recycling bank, embarrassed that the neighbours would see. My excuse was that the kids enjoyed smashing the glass, and they did, but they wouldn’t have minded not doing it either.
That was where my love of drinking stopped, when I realised it controlled me, and although it was the scariest thing I have ever done, admitting my problem and learning to confront it saved my life. It changed me as a person, or maybe it didn’t, instead maybe it gave me back the person I was before all the drinking. It wasn’t easy, trying and slipping up and trying again, but each day is easier.
I have a lot of memories, a lot of regrets and wishes that I had stopped long before, but of course I couldn’t. I had to get to the point I did to finally make it through that time. I had to get to the bottom to be able to climb back up. However, it still surprises me that these memories spring up from time to time. Of course it knocks me, and I wish I could change things, but then I wouldn’t be here where I am now, surrounded by people that love me.
Life isn’t fluid. Nothing comes with a plan. I know that I wouldn’t have chosen to become addicted to alcohol, but if I didn’t I also wouldn’t be here writing to all of you, and that matters to me. I have rough days, but I actually like who I am now and so does my family. What they get now is an authentic, honest me. Not a wine-addled mess. They might not always agree with me, but they know what to expect most of the time. I am loved and I am cared about. I am lucky.
Recovery is a challenge, it is a journey, but it feels amazing to come out the other side. The wobbles get less wobbly, and everything gets clearer. Stick with it, be patient, be kind to yourself. Find new hobbies. Everything will be all right in the end. If it isn’t all right, it isn’t the end.
Much love to you all.