I’m a bit sick of the world glamourising alcohol and drinking. I know that probably seems like a harsh thing to say, but it really is everywhere we look from adverts to shop shelves, even when I watch home improvement shows, everyone seems to ‘need’ a drink to relax.
I find it hard, because I know what it was like to want and to feel like I’d deserved a drink. I know what it’s like to long for something and to look for any reinforcements I could see to justify getting what I wanted. It was always reassuring to see others drinking on the TV, if nothing else, because it made me feel I was okay.
The thing is, I wasn’t okay. It’s not normal, or necessary for anyone to drink as much as I did every single night. I told myself it was okay because I kept the house tidy, the kids were happy and I worked hard, but in reality, I wasn’t. Nothing was right, and when I realised it, not only did I have to admit it to myself and then to my family, but I also had to swim against the tide of the perception we have of what is ‘normal’.
I couldn’t drink tea in the evening for a long time, because I had conditioned myself that anything other than wine was boring. I wanted to break the habit, but it was difficult, and I’ve found that when something has been so ingrained in your life, and your culture, it’s even harder to step away from it.
We recently went away for my husband’s birthday. We never do things on our own like that so it was really special to have a couple of days away in a hotel together. It was something we’d planned long before Covid, but to be honest, in the end I got fairly nervous about going, mainly down to the ‘not knowing’ and the lack of spontaneity with so many restrictions in place. Lee wasn’t even sure if he could leave work for a couple of days, but in the end we pushed ourselves and went.
A few months or a year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to go. The idea of a hotel, restaurants, a weekend away, it would all have been tangled up in my thoughts about drinking. I wouldn’t have been able to relax without knowing that I could guarantee a few drinks. In fact, I most likely would have taken a bottle with me. It would have been more stress than anything else, and it would have been easier not to go. But that’s the way things were, and when I look back, it makes me feel sad at how much time I wasted because I’d prioritised having a drink over other things. Isn’t it funny how a ‘reward’ can actually take so much from you.
In the hotel itself, it was strange to see most of the walls decorated with pictures and paintings that were all alcohol influenced. Even the pictures over the bed were of wine. A while ago it would have upset me. Now it saddens me. It takes a lot to get free of an addiction, to shake it off and learn to live without a substance. Unfortunately, it’s harder for a lot of us because of the values our society puts on drinking. It can make us feel that we are wrong for going against the grain, but we’re not.
I feel stronger now than I have in a very long time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s taken longer than I thought it would, but I was drinking for a long time, so it’s inevitable that it will take a while to unlearn my habits.
What I’m saying is, life is good without alcohol, so even when it’s hard, don’t give up.
One of my neighbours drinks a lot. This is not a judgement, more of an observation.
Years ago, when I used to drink (and hide my recycling) it was always reassuring to know that the crash of bottles from outside as the recycling men tipped the bottles into the truck, weren’t just mine. In fact, the amount my neighbour drank back then actually just reassured me that I was fine. It’s funny to think the lengths my wine addled mind would go to to make sure I could have a drink. My neighbour and I have very little in common, not age, body type, family, work, etc, and yet because my neighbour drank a lot, I told myself it was okay that I did too.
Nowadays I find it more difficult. Sometimes my neighbour pops to the pub and on their way back I see a sway in their walk, a slur in their speech and a redness in their face that wasn’t there before. Their whole manner changes and chat becomes more abrupt. It’s almost like I have two neighbours rather than one and it’s difficult to see, so I try to avoid meetings like that where I can. And that makes me feel bad, but it’s such a reminder for me of my worse moments and of things I’d rather forget.
I’ve said before, there’s little point in trying to forget, or to brush over the things we’ve done. Worrying or regretting won’t change anything. Instead I try to move on and make sure I never make the same mistakes again. However, having a reminder right there in front of you can make it harder. I know I’m sensitive to the topic of addiction and recovery, having experienced it first hand, but I also know that I’m not the only one who sees it.
Seeing it from the outside is tricky because I almost want to say that it is obvious to the outside world, that it isn’t as well hidden as you think it is, that you’re damaging yourself. I’ve been told frequently by this person that they don’t drink, but I don’t see how that can be with the amount of recycling that goes out, and it makes me wonder if they’re trying to kid me, or themselves. I wonder if they know how their family worries, because we’ve had calls before asking us to check everything is okay as we’re close by.
In reality I know it doesn’t matter what happens on the outside or what you’re told. The only time recovery works is when you’re really ready. That’s the way it was for me at least. I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it until then, even though I know it sounds selfish, it’s just the way it was. If I’d tried to do it before I was really ready, I would have resented anyone who had tried push me.
Hindsight is an amazing thing. I look back and wish I’d seen how things were sooner, but I couldn’t. No one really can when they’re living it and I remind myself that it’s probably that way for my neighbour. I know they aren’t intentionally trying to make me feel uncomfortable with their behaviour.
I’m so grateful for what I have now, and I hope that those of you who are struggling find your way too. At a pace that suits you, when it suits you. Ignore any judgements and just work through things in the way that feels right. One day at a time. It does get easier, so remember to be kind to yourself.
Thank you as always for reading,
It’s difficult to know exactly how some people will react to some comments. We’re all very different, and what works for one doesn’t always work for another. That doesn’t make us wrong for not liking a comment, or others wrong for saying it, it’s just that sometimes the two don’t go together well. For example, if I’ve had a bad day, I want to be asked about it. I don’t want to be brushed off with, “It’ll be okay.” It most probably will be, but the way my mind works, I need to talk things through to let them go. But, it comes down to other things too, like the way someone might tell you that something is all right and give you a justification and yet you know it isn’t. Instead of explaining and having your feelings validated, you instead end up feeling frustrated.
I had the radio on recently, and they were talking about the #thisgirlcan movement. I think it’s great that there’s something out there like that, designed to build confidence in women, regardless of their shape, size or ability, but it reminded me how I felt when I first started running. I get that not everyone wants to run. I certainly didn’t for a long time, but then when I did, I was pretty proud of myself. Some people however made comments which implied it came easy to me because I was younger or fitter, or something that suited them. That was hard because it wasn’t true. I worked hard to get to where I was, and I didn’t find it easy, so it’s strange that some would assume they knew how I felt.
I think at times some play down the achievements of others purely to make themselves feel better, but sometimes it’s like they don’t want to come across too supportive which I find odd. When I’ve had comments like those it makes me feel put out that what I have achieved hasn’t been recognised or understood. I get that not everyone will understand the achievements of others, but to notice the effort that’s been put in would be nice.
It’s true that no one really understands anyone else’s experiences. We can only understand what we’re told or what we witness. When someone makes a sweeping statement it can have an adverse affect on those we are talking with, even if we don’t see it directly. Like, I’ve put on weight over lockdown, (I’m not asking for compliments!) I know I need to lose some but I’m almost afraid to admit it because I’ve been told in the past that it’s okay because I’m tall or been told I’ve not put any extra on. If that’s true I must have gremlins in my wardrobe who shrink my clothes! Those comments are hard because much as people think they’re being kind, it’s difficult when I know how I feel and they can’t see it.
It was the same when I used to drink. Not the whole time, but a lot of it. Maybe, if anyone had agreed with me in the early days when I first wondered if I had a problem, I might have dealt with it better. I might have done something sooner. But hearing others tell me I was okay just reinforced in my mind that I didn’t have a problem and that meant I didn’t have to do anything. I was in denial for a long time, and all I wanted was confirmation that I was okay, even when I wasn’t.
I’m not saying everyone should be brutally honest and unkind to others, just sometimes that we actually want the truth and not a sugar coated version. It doesn’t always make things easier, and it’s not always nice to listen to, but sometimes, it really is better. It can take a lot of courage to admit something we see as a failing or a shortcoming, so let’s all try to be kind and listen without judgement or assumptions if someone wants to talk. Let’s not put our opinions onto others, unless of course they ask for it. Just a thought.
Thanks as always for reading.
I don’t drink, and of that I am proud. It’s taken me a really long time to be able to say that.
It’s been four years since anything alcoholic has touched my lips and I can safely say, I don’t miss it at all. What surprises me is how other people react to my not drinking.
So many people assume I’m missing out, I was even told once, “it’s a shame,” that I can’t have one on special occasions. At the time it upset me, but now I wonder if it’s a way of others justifying drinking to themselves. When someone struggles to stop and others can’t or aren’t ready to, it can highlight the problems they may be concerned about. Alcohol is an ingrained part of our society from an early age, we see the positives of it everywhere from TV to books. It’s seen in many ways as one of the things we need, and yet the negative effects are seldom seen.
I wrote a post recently about the fact that I’ve been thinking more about wine lately. As I said then, I don’t actually feel the need for it, nor do I actually want a drink. It’s nice to be able to verbalise my feelings though because it helps me understand myself more. Connection with others and understanding helps keep us sober. It’s good to be able to express to other people who get how I feel that I do sometimes think about ‘it’ but that doesn’t make me weak or wrong or anything like that. It just means I’ve lived and learned from my mistakes. For me, I like to think, hey things were bad, but if they hadn’t been, I might not have got to where I am now. I might not appreciate what I have now or be so incredibly grateful for it.
It seems funny to be glad for an experience like recovery, but I am, and I have a right to be, I’ve worked hard to get here.
So, no thanks, I won’t have one, whether it’s big or small or just a sip. I’m not missing out, so please don’t feel sorry for me, because nowadays feeling sorry for myself about drinking really is the last thing on my mind!
Sometimes I have to make myself slow down. I have so much to think about, (not complaining, I know a lot of people do), but just with four kids, work, clubs, the house, etc, it feels like I have very little time for myself. Sometimes, I like a bit of quiet, a little bit of time to organise my thoughts, otherwise everything seems a little bit overwhelming. I don’t mean a lot of time, I just like a few minutes here and there. Juggling time and things means I don’t get as much as time as I’d like, which is hard. Lockdown made things a lot easier in many ways!
Anyway, I recently had the day at home with Stanley. I could easily have filled the time, and to some extent I did, I tidied and cleaned, I washed and hung the washing out to dry and got it back in again as soon as it started to rain, but then I stopped, and took my little one out for a walk. We visited the post office to drop some parcels off on the way to the park, where we had a lovely time playing. I would normally have come back after that, and ‘got on’, but instead we went for a longer walk. I took Stanley through the cemetery, I’m not morbid, I’ve always found cemeteries very soothing. I told him about the gravestones and the flowers and why they were there, and then we looked at the ruins of an old chapel in the church grounds. He was really interested and feeling his little hand in mine was magic. Afterwards spontaneously, he said, “Thank you for showing me the castle Mummy,” which means a lot, even if he got the church mixed up with a castle.
It’s such a simple thing but it’s so easy to rush through life ticking things off our to do list. It’s nice sometimes just to step off the treadmill of life and just be. No rush, no agenda, just enjoyment. I’ve never seen so many squirrels at once, and a rat which wasn’t quite as charming but Stanley liked!
The things is, we can forget, life is passing us by. There’s always something important to do, but if we don’t stop sometimes and take a moment for ourselves and our loved ones, then what really is the point?
I’m not saying work isn’t important, because it clearly is, but so too are the little things.