12 July 2020
I never thought of drinking as a way tonumb my feelings or emotions, although of course that is exactly what it was. I didn’t drink to cope with specific situations and I didn’t drink in the day unless we were eating out or having Sunday lunch.
It’s clear though, now exactly how much of myself I was dampening down with my drinking. It’s easier for a lot of people including me to drink, than it is to deal with emotions or events that are difficult.
As you probably have read before, I am a worrier. I feel other people’s emotions and I’m always concerned about whether I’m doing the right thing or not. I over-think and I over-analyse. I also struggle to let things go. It’s exhausting to feel everything so strongly, it’s hard to deal with it constantly and continually. There’s no off switch in a mind like mine, and without realising, I turned more and more to drinking wine to help me cope. I didn’t see at the beginning what a stress reliever it was for me, I just knew that I enjoyed it. I didn’t see that I relied on it until one day I wanted to drink and couldn’t. Needing something you can’t have is a wake up call but it isn’t always enough to to stop people like me because without the alcohol in our systems our minds race and worry.
It isn’t until you want a drink that isn’t available, that you realise how reliant you’ve become.
We live in a busy world. We juggle many things, work, kids, appointments, our homes, exercise, the list could go on. When we stop it’s hard for our brains to stop, for us to let go of that constant state of busyness and so many of us resort to that evening glass of something to help us unwind. Of course, as time goes on, one glass is seldom enough. Our bodies get so used to it, to expecting it that we often need to increase our intake and that can be where the slippery slope begins.
Cutting out drink unleashed my mind. It made me realise how much I’d been numbing myself and my thoughts. It was so hard in the early days, not only to cope without wine but more, to cope with a buzzing mind that I couldn’t control. It would have been much easier to pour myself a glass (or several glasses) of wine and wash my worries away. I was past it though. I hated relying on something, of needing something that sometimes I just couldn’t get. So I took back control.
It was hard to confront my mind, to come to terms with the fact that I do over think and I do over worry. There’s aspects of myself that I would have changed back then, it certainly would have made it easier, but then I wouldn’t have been me.
It’s taken time to calm down, to contain, to slow myself down, but it’s been a journey I’m glad I’ve been on. I’ve had to come to terms with elements of myself that are hard, but I know I’m an authentic version of myself. I’ve also come to realise that while I might worry a bit, it’s only because I care.
I got out of the car at Barn's training this week. It looked like it might rain, so I didn’t think I’d walk down to the beach but I also thought I’d try to be a little bit more social.
We were early so we said hi to the team coach and he immediately ran off to talk to someone else. Normally I’d think it was me, or something I’d done. Instead I tried to let it go. A few minutes later he came back and started chatting to us and it was clear there wasn’t a problem. Maybe he had something important to say to the others. I’m reminding myself that not everything is my fault.
More people arrived and I joined them in leaning on the bonnets of our cars, watching, socially distancing, all involved, but a step back from normal. I didn’t manage to say anything more than a passing hi to the other parents but I did chat with a couple of teenagers - they’re far less scary! I caught the eye of another parent, clearly as amused as I, watching the boys jumping between fence posts before training started, and we shared a smile, but that was it.
I’m much more at ease with myself now. I do things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago. To many they’re only small things, things like having a picnic in our local parkland, but they’re things I find lovely and I honestly couldn’t have done a while back. Even having a cup of tea in a cafe by myself would have been a big no, no a few years back. Taking Barn to training has helped with that, and before lockdown I was regularly going into the cafe by myself on a weekly basis and watching the team train while drinking my pot of tea and either reading my book or doing a little writing. I even speak to other people! Of course, that didn’t happen the first week. I watched from the car and then after that I popped out to say hi and then went back again. A few weeks later I made my first venture to the cafe and found it was a friendly place to be, filled with other people, none of whom cared what I was up to, or if they did, they didn’t show it.
It takes time to change a lifetime of habits. It doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes there are set backs but, the more you persevere the easier things get. I for one am going to keep trying.
Sometimes I just can’t stop myself worrying. It’s quite annoying as I can’t place exactly why I feel like it. There never seems to be a trigger specifically, take the other day for instance, I’d had a good day. There was one small thing, and although I dealt with it at the time, it’s been playing on my mind ever since. I find myself searching, running through all my thoughts, as if my brain needs a reason to worry.
Being tired affects my rational mind, I know that much. It never helps, for instance doing an extra day at work tires me out. I planned to take the kids for a nice walk after work, but I was so tired I ended up crashing out when I got home, with a nice cup of tea and the TV.
I’m aware I feed off the emotions and energy of other people too. I’ve always done it but with some people it’s more noticeable. So for instance when work is hectic, like it is at the moment, I see it affecting my husband which rubs off on me. Joe has been out and bought a new car and I find that hard. I know it’s his money, and that’s fine, but for me, it’s the worry that he might have bought something that isn’t as good as he hoped and wasted his money. I don’t think that’s true in this case but of course there is still the logistics of buying it, taxing it, insuring it, selling his old car and it all builds up. I guess it’s true that you don’t stop worrying about them as they get older, rather the things you worry about change.
Last week Katie and Stanley somehow managed to flood the kitchen while I was at work. It doesn’t sound too bad, but when I tell you that the flood originated in the upstairs bathroom, through the ceiling, you might see what a mess I had to contend with! They took out the electricity trip because water got into the lights and the water washed my Alexa, so now she doesn’t work anymore. (Yes I do refer to her as a she!) In all honesty though, although I was upset (and I think I was justified) I dealt with it a lot better than I would have done before, both with alcohol or without my anxiety medication. I didn’t get upset, and I didn’t even raise my voice. I just expressed my disappointment. Rather than being angry, I was just sad that the floor is damaged. It was nice to feel that I dealt with it rather than making it more than it needed to be.
That evening though I felt so uneasy, the feeling of worry wouldn’t go, and it wasn’t like anything was going to get worse. So I took a deep breath and tried to focus on the present. I did my Headspace which helped a bit and then pulled out my notebook, because putting my thoughts down on paper gets them out of my head which can only be a good thing!
It seems that I’m finding better ways to cope with my feelings which definitely makes me feel better in the long run.
Life changes us all. It doesn’t matter what circumstances you are born into, we all have different opportunities, different experiences and they affect us all in very different ways. The things we experience shape us and make us who we are.
I’ve struggled over the years to come to terms with the aftermath of my drinking. It cost me relationships with friends and family, but then it also made me realise who I can rely on and who I can’t or who I shouldn’t. I felt very ashamed for a long time of myself and despite the fact that I’d stopped drinking, I sort of felt like I’d lost myself. I was so lacking in confidence, I felt completely unsure of myself and I didn’t know how to fix it. I wanted a magic wand, but unfortunately there isn’t one, or if there is, I couldn’t find it. Time and patience seem to be the best thing for me. They seem to have gradually built up and so now I am in a far better place than I was when I first quit.
I still don’t advertise my alcohol free life though, it’s not a secret but I just don’t go out of my way to tell people. That might seem strange considering how open I am with you all, but honestly I don’t tell people in the real world that often. I’m still doubtful that people will believe I was really that bad or maybe that they’ll think it is an attention thing. “We are all born equal, but we are not treated equally,” is one of my daughter Katie’s favourite quotes. Whoever we are, and wherever we are from, we are all coloured by our life experiences. We face privilege or discrimination based on other people’s perceptions of us, even down to small things, like whether we are a teenage mum or a boy racer. A lot of people seem to assume the worst of others. My experiences are different to others, and while that often makes me a lot more understanding of other people’s struggles, it isn’t always the first thing I want to explain to everyone.
I sort of thought one day things might just fall into place but of course that only happens in movies. The song “Wear Sunscreen” by Baz Luhrman, was released when I was a teenager. I think everyone has heard it, but although I’ve always liked it, it hasn’t really been until recently that it struck such a chord with me. It made me realise that I am me, whether others like me or approve or not. I can’t and won’t change for anyone else, and I wish I had realised it earlier! There is a part in the song that says something along the lines of, some interesting twenty year olds don’t know what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives, but the most interesting forty year olds still don’t know what they want to do! It makes me feel better when I worry that I haven’t achieved everything I want to have done yet!
Life is a journey. Let’s enjoy it!
Sometimes I wake up with a bit of a fuzzy head, and it reminds me of before. It actually makes me panic for a moment and then I remember, it’s not a hangover, I just haven’t woken up properly yet. There were days before when I had a proper hangover, there were days when I just had a headache, more of them than I’d like to admit really, and then there were the days when I couldn’t remember.
There is nothing so bad as waking up and not being sure of the events of the previous night. I’m not even saying something bad had to happen, it’s not all as dramatic as it is on TV or in movies, but more a constant gnawing away at my confidence and self-esteem. In my case I might not have had a fight, or lost my car, or got arrested, but on many occasions I repeated a conversation, or forgot I had even had a conversation. I may have forgotten I’d had an argument, or wondered why one had started. I didn’t know sometimes whether an argument had been sorted out the next day, and I was always afraid of putting my foot in it. It was like walking on egg shells.
Blackouts for me weren’t something I’d ever experienced, and when they did at first I didn’t even realise. I thought I’d just fallen asleep. It’s when you talk to someone and realise that you were still there, even when you had checked out that it gets worrying. For me the last year of my drinking was the worst, I had lost a lot of weight and was drinking at least two and a half bottles of wine a night by myself. There wasn’t a night I had off, and while I kidded myself it wasn’t binge drinking, and instead I was helping my body by building up a tolerance, that just meant I drank more to get the same effect. That effect became short lived though as more often than not, shortly after I’d got the feeling I’d been craving, I was zoned out. I couldn’t focus on TV, I couldn’t read a book, and I couldn’t have coherent conversations without going off on a tangent. Everything felt extreme and it was draining trying to keep up appearances and the facade, even though I often didn’t know what was going on, trying to pretend that I did.
Blackouts are probably the last thing I’m really ashamed of admitting. It’s a hard thing to talk about, because rather than just being dependent and addicted, I also drank to the point of losing control. It’s not a good place to be, and even though that is in my past, it’s still a hard thing to admit to.
We watched “The Girl on the Train” recently. I read the book a few years ago and it was a difficult read for me. While I liked being able to identify with the main character, her drinking and inability to remember and piece together events also hit a little close to home for me. It’s a difficult balance, but that was then and this is now. Even knowing the content, although not how it would be shown, we watched it together. I’m never sure of how they’ll portray storylines with drinking as a central part, and I always worry that those characters will be seen in the worst light. I have to say, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the book, but I find that is often the case with books and films. It was sad to see the character confused and muddled, not just by her own actions but easily led by those around her. It made me realise really just how far I have come since my own fuzzy days. I could identify so much with her, and although she was a fictional character, I sympathised with her. For once it was nice to be able to separate it from myself though. I may have been there once, but I’m not anymore and I have no intention of ever being back there again.
Take care and thanks as always for reading.