I visited a friend today, one of the mums that I used to drink with at play-dates. It’s all the rage now, play-dates sozzled in wine. This seems to be socially acceptable… in the circles I moved in at least. Since I got sober I’ve realised that my circles may have been limited to people that like to get plastered all the time, addicts like hanging out with other addicts, who would have thought? We used to crack open the Prosecco after the school run on a Friday and thought nothing of drinking the night away.
This is the friend that inadvertently helped me reach my rock bottom moment so in a way she sort of saved my life. This may sound melodramatic but I wholeheartedly believe it to be true. Our friendship was for the most part based on the mutual love of getting drunk. I knew in my heart of hearts that the dynamic would change and that the friendship would probably just fizzle out on it’s own. The thing is I didn’t want her to feel as though I was rejecting her because she is addicted to booze. I also wanted to keep channels of communication open so that if she ever felt like talking to someone about her problem she can talk to me. I never had anyone to talk to in real life because I don’t know anyone that is in recovery from addiction.
Back to my friend… She asked me to go around for coffee today. The atmosphere was strained and I didn’t really feel like we connected. She kept asking me if I’m STILL not drinking and also seemed quite uninterested in my answers as she kept looking at her phone.
She started telling me about an incident where she got really drunk and was talking about ‘the switch’. I think most folks with a drink problem will instantly know what ‘the switch’ means. That’s where something clicks in your brain and you aren’t there anymore, usually this is where things go south and you black out. I was saying that I had experienced it many times when she replied under her breath…”I know, at least I was never as bad as you. I mean I’ve been bad but never THAT bad.”
And there it was. The shame. I felt like I was punched in the stomach. The blood drained from my face and my heart sank right into my feet. The fucking intense shame that I thought I had dealt with in the last year just morphed into little fire ants scratching and scurrying around my skull. I was gobsmacked, she thought I was worse than her!?
I made an excuse and left very quickly. I cried all the way home.
After I calmed down I realised that she is obviously in really deep denial and is looking to justify herself by calling me out as the delinquent alcoholic.
Brene Brown calls shame the most powerful master emotion; she says it’s down to the fear that we are not good enough.
The shame is what keeps us stuck in our addiction and I recognise that my friend was trying to protect herself by calling me the one with the problem. I was in deep denial too and hated hanging out with people that threatened my lifestyle. People that didn’t drink enough or didn’t drink like I did made me feel shame about how I drank, because my conscience knew I was self-harming with alcohol.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~Brené Brown
Who drank the most is actually irrelevant. There is always someone worse off than us when it comes to alcohol; this is the trouble with the stinky man on park bench alcoholic stereotype. The one who stops is the alcoholic while the one who carries on drinking to oblivion just likes to have a good time…until they are the stinky man on a park bench.
Well, I’m calling bullshit on all of that. I’m also calling bullshit on the shame I felt today, fuck that. I’m not drinking anymore and that is something to be proud of.
As for my friend, my door will be open if she ever wants to talk. I’m going to look after myself and keep clear. Like Byron Katie says “Staying in my own business is a full-time job.”