I’m not very good at admitting I need help. I’m even worse at asking for it.
Years ago, I wouldn’t (or maybe couldn’t is more accurate) admit that I had a drinking problem. One of the main reasons was because things like that didn’t affect people like me. The other reason of course was that by admitting it, I’d have to do something about it, and I didn’t want to do that. Even though I knew I had a problem, I wasn’t able to picture a life without a glass or two of wine.
After a few months of carrying around a flyer I’d picked up from the doctor’s surgery, I eventually phoned the number on it. I think that was probably the second time I’d picked up a leaflet. The first time I had probably binned it. It filled me with shame and regret to have anything like that in the house, although of course admitting and asking for help was far better than burying my head in the sand! I locked myself in the workshop at the bottom of our garden. My window overlooks the garden so I could see if anyone was coming and I couldn’t be overheard. Mind you, I still kept my voice as low as I could. The call brought me to tears as I explained I needed help, that I’d tried several times to stop drinking but I couldn’t and I was at the end of my tether. I didn’t know which way to turn or how to help myself. The voice at the other end of the phone was patient and they listened. They asked a lot of questions but they didn’t have a miracle cure. That was hard. Then they asked about the kids and that was terrifying. I knew I drank too much, but I also knew that my kids were safe and happy. I never put them in any harm and suddenly I was afraid someone was going to swoop in and take them from me. I even explained this to the person on the other end and they reassured me that wasn’t their purpose, but while they were there to help, they had to ask set questions. Then they informed me that I would be put on a waiting list and someone would call me back.
I couldn’t believe there was no help straight away. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. It had taken me so much effort to ask for help and I was finally ready, but there was no one there to give it to me.
It was around three months later that I finally had a call back. I’d almost forgotten that I’d asked for help. My drinking had crept up again and with each slip or relapse I had, I felt a little worse, a little more fragile and a bit more broken. The call back came at a time when my guard was back up, as was my alcohol fuelled bravado. I rode the wave of it through the day, even though I didn’t drink in the daytime, I still felt the after effects of it. I did as I was asked though and made an appointment to meet with a counsellor.
It’s difficult to open up sometimes, especially about something you are ashamed of. It can be harder still to open up to someone you don’t know, when you’re a bit all over the place. I felt, not judged so much, but certainly not understood. I said what I thought they wanted to hear, because it was easier than trying to dig down and unpick my thoughts and feelings. I covered up a lot of how I felt because I was ashamed. I just wanted to find the off switch and it turned out that I didn’t have one. Talking things through didn’t seem to help because at the end of the day I still went home and drank. The difference was, then I could reason that it was okay, because I had been told to moderate rather than quit for the time being.
It’s a difficult thing to ask for help, and it’s strange to be given advice or help that you aren’t expecting. Recovery isn’t an easy thing for anyone, some people get there on the first go, others like me take many more attempts. There isn’t a one size fits all solution for any addiction and I think on our hard days we all need to remember that, and to be kind to ourselves and each other. Although it can seem like a bit of a rollercoaster, more often than not each new day is a little easier than the one before. One day, with any luck, you’ll look back and realise just how far you’ve come. Sometimes I forget quite how hard and long my journey has been. I forget how hard things were in the early days and how much more manageable things are now. It’s been hard, but it has changed me for the better in so many ways.
Take care and thanks as always for reading.