Bear with me, it's a long one...
It's been a hard few years, but I think the worst is over now.
About six years ago, I wondered if I had a drink problem. I knew I drank a lot, but my husband also enjoyed a beer in the evening and it seemed normal to have one or two drinks in the evening to relax after a long day at work and stress with the kids. The thing was, I had a good job and a tidy house, I had happy kids and things were okay, so I decided I was being silly, and that I was fine. It’s easy for me to worry about silly things due to my anxiety so I put it down to that.
About five years ago, I wondered again. By this time I’d got a different job. I’d told myself if I had further to drive, I’d have to get up earlier, therefore I’d drink less. I made a great friend at work, she’d talk with me in the mornings, maybe one of us or both of us would feel a little worse for wear. We’d encourage each other to have a night without, and we’d both mean it, but we worked in stressful roles, and each day was fraught. (Not an excuse!) By the evening, we’d be on the phone to each other reassuring each other that it was just one glass. It never was.
I read a book, it was dedicated to the women for whom one glass was never enough and always too many. That was me. One glass became two or three, and before long, two bottles of white wine every night. Every night. Fourteen bottles minimum in the recycling, just for me. But my house was clean, I had a job and a husband, happy kids. I couldn’t have a problem. I just ‘liked’ a drink. Even when I was on my own.
About four years ago I hit rock bottom. I’ve always had difficulties with anxiety, and depression. I’ve never felt like I fitted in that well with anyone, except that is my husband, my rock who has stood by me through everything, and believe me, I haven’t made things easy for him. I spoke to him, more than once over the years about drinking, and the amount I drank. He supported me, and together we’d abstain for a few days, managing about three by memory. I found this super challenging but I’d do it just about and then having proved that I could do without, I’d have a drink to celebrate. We live in a culture where alcohol is everywhere, you drink to celebrate, to relax, to commiserate, because you’ve had a hard day, because you’ve had an easy day. The list is endless, and it makes stopping hard, because everyone else is doing it. I never drank in the day, I hate to admit I was possibly still a little drunk in the morning from the amount I’d had the night before, but I never drank before 6pm. Then it became 5pm, then 4pm. It’s a slippery slope. I hated wine at this point. I hated the hold it had over me, I couldn’t reconcile how much I hated something I wanted so badly. Nothing was the same without it, I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t be calm. It was my saviour, to know I’d made it through the day and I could have my reward. It was strange though when the reward never seemed enough and then when I started to forget. My family would remind me of things I had said or done, but I had no recollection. I felt like I was losing my mind, my only constant was my bottle or two of wine. I stopped going out. It was work, home, kids, wine. I knew something needed to change.
I shut myself away one day and phoned a support group for help. I was at the end of the line and needed help. I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I played out the worst case scenarios of what would happen now I’d admitted I needed help. It terrified me. What I wasn’t expected was a three month wait for help, and when it came, being told in a meeting to keep drinking. As I was drinking so much at the time, it would have been dangerous to stop. This only confused me further, I was so angry then, at myself, at wine, at life, but mostly myself for letting the situation get so bad.
Eventually I had cut down enough to be prescribed Antabuse from the doctor. Effectively if you take it and then drink you’ll be really very sick. Taking that gave me back a little of the control. I knew that if I willingly took that, I’d not be able, (without risking my life), to drink. It was the first time, in a long time, that I felt a little bit in control.
Recovery was the hardest thing in the world I have ever done. It was also the best thing. I’ve been sober for over three years now and I know that I am 100% me all the time, any mistakes I make, any stupid things I say, that’s me, not wine saying them. I’ve not only had to stop drinking, but basically relearn the way I approach things. Alcohol is so ingrained into our society that we assume there is something wrong with someone when they don’t drink, unless they are the designated driver. It took me a long time to see that I wasn’t boring because I wasn’t drinking. It was also hard to find something to do with all the time I had now. Sitting mindlessly in front of the TV in the evening was not enough anymore. Harder still was dealing with anxiety on a daily basis, rather than drinking to keep my mind sedated. Nowadays that is the tricky thing, alcohol played such a part in being a buffer for me, I didn’t have to over think things because I couldn’t, self-medicating calmed me. Now there is no buffer, it’s just me, doing the best I can, and living with the consequences. I try my best, but like everyone, I do make mistakes. Day by day, I am getting there. It is certainly easier now, even though I’m still caught off guard by old thought patterns.
To anyone out there who is going through something similar, keep going, it is worth it, even though it is hard. Remember too, be kind to yourself.
Thanks for reading!