Five Years Ago
Five years ago I was at the beginning of my journey. It was one of the toughest times in my life, I’d tried to stop drinking several times before but it had never lasted. Normally a few days off would convince me that I didn’t really have a problem, or that I could moderate. Of course, having just that one never ended there, it was always a very slippery slope for me.
The last time was different. I knew I couldn’t moderate. I knew one would never be enough, and more to the point, five years on, I still know that now. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t romanticise it, or miss it, it’s just that if I ever think about drinking, I know for sure that one would lead to more. At the end it wasn’t even the taste I wanted, it was that ‘feeling’. But that feeling got harder and harder to reach, not only because my tolerance was so high; I was drinking between two and three bottles of white wine every night without fail, by myself; but because most nights ended up with me blacking out.
Blackouts are scary. You’re there but not there, able to function and hold a conversation, but your brain is physically unable to store the memories of the things you’re experiencing. It chips away at your self confidence, as you try to remember what you said or did or didn’t do the night before. Even the most simple things disappear, like the end of a book or a film, or a conversation and it can be hard for other people to understand, as they know they’re talking to you and you’re answering. It’s just your brain isn’t quite there with you in the way it should be. I found mornings became a bit of a mission as I tried to piece things together from the night before, without of course giving myself away. It was exhausting.
For me the 8th September is a special day. It marks the anniversary of the day I finally kicked alcohol to the curb. I’m not saying it was easy, because believe me it wasn’t, not even when I was 100% committed to doing it. Just trust me when I say the difficulty was worth it. I don’t think I really had a choice in the end, I knew things were going to end badly if I carried on drinking, I wasn’t able to limit myself and in actual fact, trying to do that just made me feel worse, because I was always trying to work out how and when and how much I could drink. It widened the gap between me and ‘normal’ drinkers and made me realise how much I relied on wine. It’s even more poignant at the moment because I’m coaching a group through their first 60 days of sobriety. Seeing them back at the beginning makes me realise not only what I’ve achieved, but how far I’ve come. It brings back the feelings I had, and it makes me grateful for everything I have. Seeing others at the start of their journey makes me a little emotional too if I’m honest. I just want to fix things for them, but I know from experience that while we all need support, in reality the only person who could fix things for me was myself.
I honestly never thought I’d be able to say I’m five years sober. I never thought I’d want to stay sober, but I do, and I’m not only looking forward to the next five years, but the rest of my sober life. I’m in charge of myself again. I don’t rely on something else to help me achieve a feeling, I rely on myself. When I feel stressed I go for a run or a swim. When I’m worried I talk about it, when I need to escape I pick up a book, and when I’m happy I laugh. It sounds so simple, but for so many years I didn’t do that, instead I opened a bottle, until I forgot why I was even opening it, and that my friends is something I really regret. I can’t change that, but I can keep moving forward, and if I can help others on my way, then that makes everything feel better too.
Thanks as always for listening.