There by the grace…

Went to the shops the other day to get some bits and pieces. While I was standing in the checkout line there was middle aged woman that looked really unsteady on her feet. Her face was red and sweaty and she was clutching two bottles of white wine.  She was talking to one of the shop assistants a slurry voice when I heard the shop assistant say really loudly: “Are you drunk again, dear?”  He gave me a knowing look and a sly smile as if to say: “watch how I humiliate this piece of trash”

I could see this was turning into a scene and just felt so helpless. People were starting to talk in muffled whispers. There was laughing and pointing. When she got to the front of the line she became louder and more animated which of course caused more looks of disdain.

I waited in my car to see if she was ok and also to check that she wasn’t getting into a car and driving! Thankfully someone else was driving the car she go into, she left.

I started crying in the car park. Uncontrollable sadness overtook me. I was heartbroken by people’s reaction to her! I cannot believe how she was treated like absolute shit! Like a second-class citizen. Like a fucking leper. I’m so heartbroken that people don’t know that she isn’t choosing to be that way! She is addicted! That removes your choice and addicts need care and understanding.

I could be that woman! I was that woman! I always sent my husband on last rounds drink runs to the shops before the shops close at 11 so HE was her too!

Our society has such a fucked up view of alcohol/ drugs and addicts. Just because their Facebook/ money/shopping/TV/game/approval addiction isn’t plastered across their face doesnt make them better that the woman in that shop! I commiserate with food addicts so much because they get the same disdain from society; their addiction is obvious for everyone to see. My addiction was easy to hide for a long time but towards the end it wasn’t anymore. My skin, my breath my sweaty face was there for all to see.

My heart goes out to that woman in the shop with her two bottles of Pinot Grigio. There by the grace of God go I.

I can’t vs. I don’t

party

One of the things that used to rope me back into drinking is the fear of social occasions never being the same again. I was also terrified of the reaction of my friends and acquaintances when I quit. What would they think? I thought that by not drinking I would be the dry drip putting a dampener on the party.

I was scared to let everyone down. I was also scared that they would find out how addicted I had become so my excuses were always flimsy at best.

‘No thanks I’m driving’, ‘I’m on medication’, ‘I have Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo’ (This outlandish one I used to get out of a hen weekend where there was going to be lots of boozing) One of my personal favourites I used very often is ‘I’m on a detox/cleanse’.

Looking back now, I know that I was keeping that back door wide open in case I couldn’t cut it sober. I couldn’t possibly be on a detox or cleanse forever. I tried many times so I was tired of failing and perhaps in my heart of hearts I was hoping that an extended break from alcohol would re-set my software and allow me to drink like a normal person. Of course, no matter how long the break of sobriety was I always eventually returned to my usual level and with each lapse, the consumption revved up a gear.

I was ashamed of being the one that couldn’t drink, the one that wasn’t allowed because ‘she can’t handle it’. Why was I the chosen one that turned into the incredible hulk with an insatiable thirst while everyone else has a fabulous sparkly tipsy time? It wasn’t fair, dammit!

I guess if you have an AA coin and you are ‘out’ this shuts people up much more quickly.

Would you like a drink? No thanks I’m, an alcoholic.

—-Insert crickets chirping, tumbleweeds blowing and a look of panic/sympathy/social awkwardness across the hosts face.—-

Perhaps I will get to that point one day where I can say those words in front of anyone. I am just not ready for that yet.

I also used the words ‘I can’t drink’ in my internal dialogue. When I looked at alcohol I would look at it like an old sexy boyfriend that was bad for me, I would still lust after it.

These days something has shifted massively for me. I know I’ve tried before but there is a knowing in me that wasn’t there previously.

‘I don’t drink’ versus ‘I can’t drink’ are two very different statements. ‘I can’t drink’ implies that I am not allowed; I am being deprived of my choice. ‘I don’t drink’ is a powerful affirmation. It reinforces in my mind that I am not making any sacrifices, that I am making the most positive choice for myself, for my mental and physical health.

You may enjoy this article that explores this in more detail:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/heidigranthalvorson/2013/03/14/the-amazing-power-of-i-dont-vs-i-cant/#476f57cbd037

When I’m offered a drink these days I just say ‘I don’t drink’. I say it with conviction as if I’ve always been a non-drinker (this takes practice and sometimes you have to fake it till you make it)

By starting off in that frame of mind I can answer the following questions from a powerful place of positive choice instead of being rooted in shame.

This is the way the conversation has gone.

Friend: Would you like a drink?

Me: No thanks I don’t drink anymore.

Me: Like forever? Yes forever.

Friend: Why, we used to have so much fun drinking wine together?

Me: I just don’t like the way it makes me feel anymore. I don’t enjoy it at all.

This is met by a quizzical stare and a rapid change of topic.

Of course, my nearest and dearest know that I am addicted and they know the hell it has caused me. It’s important for the people closest to you to know so that they can support you.

Brene Brown talks about people having to earn the right to your hear your shame story. I don’t feel its necessary to go into so much detail with people I hardly know or people that are fair weather friends I used to party with.

The other point I wanted to make is that not drinking isn’t weird. We weren’t born ‘two drinks below par’. We are perfect and complete. We don’t need to pour alcohol down our throats to fit in.

People aren’t walking around asking a recovering heroin addict if they just want one ‘little bit of smack to take the edge off’ Or asking them why they cant just have the one. (Forgive me, I don’t know the heroin lingo, so I don’t know if you even call it smack.)

The fact is that I am addicted to a highly addictive, socially acceptable legal drug. That doesn’t make me weak or strange or unique even. It’s just the way it is, and I choose not to drink anymore because life is so much better and easier without it.

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Shame and vulnerability

shame

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.”

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It’s all fun and games till you fall over at the school bingo night

When I woke up it felt like a freight train had hit my head. Something evil had my head in a vice and I couldn’t breathe. My whole body ached and was sore, it felt as if I had been beaten up, my skin was crawling. A message came through on my phone. I couldn’t open both eyes. I read the message: “Hi lovely, just checking that you are ok. you were a little worse for wear last night, a couple of falls at the school gate. Hope you are ok?”

I looked around the room, I was still in my clothes from the night before. Jesus fucking Christ what have I done?

I was desperately trying to piece the night’s events together. Ok, I was at the PTA bingo night, we were all laughing and joking around…and then nothing…a void. Some blurry flashes started coming back…I was on the bathroom floor with my friend. I couldn’t walk. I fell.

I text her back. Fuck!!! Did anyone see me??? All the fucking PTA school mums?

I was in tears, warm alcohol soaked tears that smelt of gin were rolling down my cheeks. Text came back. “No she said, we waited in the bathroom till everyone left.”

It turned out that I was so drunk I couldn’t stand up straight or walk. I fell and knocked my head on the koi pond. I was out cold for 10 minutes while my friend was wondering whether to call an ambulance. Eventually she managed to half carry me to the school shed. She rang another friend to come help carry me over the school gate and put me in a taxi home.

That was it. That was the turning point for me. There is no glossing over that or denying that you have totally lost control over how much you drink when you fall over drunk at your kid’s school.

I’ve had several of those types of moments in my life, and I think it’s true sometimes it takes a couple of rock bottoms to really reach ROCK BOTTOM.

Tonight I went to a quiz night at the school. I really didn’t want to go, but forced myself. I was so nervous, didn’t want to face the memories of that night and I cried all the way there.

As I walked past the koi pond where I fell and knocked my head I saw the lotus flowers in the water.

Something beautiful out of the murky darkness.

So, how bad did it really get?

I need to fully explore and put this into words so that I can refer back to it when I need to. If my history with alcohol has taught me anything is that after a couple of months of sobriety the rosy glow fades. There will come a time when the voice, lets call him “Jack” pops up and says (In the voice of a sleazy salesman):

“Hey girl! You’ve been so good, been sober for x amount of time and you haven’t slipped up once! You’ve shown that you can control it and besides honey, you were never THAT bad! There are so many people in a worse of state with booze than you, I mean you hardly drank during the week! Everyone drinks! Come on, we all deserve to cut loose sometimes, cut yourself some slack. You’re too much of a perfectionist that’s your problem. Have a glass of wine, GO ON HONEY YOU DESERVE IT!

So, how bad was I?

Its true I allowed myself to drink one night of the working week. So I was sober 3 days. This didn’t apply to holidays of course when I was permanently sloshed. The other 4 days of the week I drank as much as I wanted to which was quite a bit. I would say one and half to two bottles of wine on average and then more on weekend and parties, it really all depended how long the drinking session lasted. One weekend I specifically remember I finished almost 1 liter of Gin on a Saturday! We were just having a barbecue at home, stated drinking at 12 and carried on till the early hours of the morning.

Blackouts started happening very regularly I was blacking out almost every time I drank no matter the amount, this scared the shit out of me. I was losing half of my life to a world of which I have to recollection. It was like leading a double life.

From time to time I would get reddish blotchy skin rashes when I drank like I was allergic to alcohol. Rosacea I think it’s called?

I was really paranoid around people in the morning.

Needed to secretly drink when my father in law was here for Christmas. He’s a teetotal and my husband all of a sudden developed an ability to only have one glass of wine?!
So I had to improvise and drank my wine in the shed in the garden.

At social gatherings when everyone was drinking very little or too slowly I’d sneak into the kitchen and take a couple of swigs from whatever bottle was open.

I drank most of my hangovers away with the exception of the Monday hangover wich was complete and utter hell to get through.

Couldn’t stand people who didn’t drink or that drank very little! I thought they were ‘holier than thou’ boring idiots.

I was in a constant state of stress because I was withdrawing from the last binge so I was dog tired.

I was obsessed with drinking to the detriment of everything and everyone else around me. I was either recovering from my hangover or planning my next session. My life really did revolve around it.

I used to wake up with bruises, didn’t know how I got them.

I’m sure there’s more, I’ll add it as and when I remember it.

Effects of alchohol on your appearance

True Activist published a new article today about the effect that alcohol has on your appearance, to read it click here

It begins with: “Drinking alcohol might seem like the normal or ‘hip’ thing to do, but consuming it in excess over time can take a toll on one’s health.”

I am so impressed that they used the words “might seem normal”.

Ok, I know this is ‘True Activist’  an anti media news site that “exposes  the truth one lie at a time” so it’s not exactly mainstream, but the message is getting out there that consuming alcohol at least in excess is not normal.

The before and after photos are very inspirational. Most of them are of young-ish I would say 20-30 somethings that obviously partied too much. The main difference in the before and after photos is their weight and also their skin tone.

This is all very encouraging but that got me thinking about weight. One of the biggest and most coveted benefits of stopping drinking is usually listed as losing weight.

The trouble is that if you have an unhealty relationship with food on top of an alcohol addiction the chances are you won’t lose any weight when you first stop drinking. In fact since I stopped drinking 3 months ago I’ve put on 5 kilograms. The 5kg might have a little something to do with the truckloads of Magnum ice cream I devoured whilst re-watching the desperate housewives boxset (you do what you gotta do during those first months to stay away from booze.)

My many previous attempts to stop drinking had not necessarily hinged on the weight thing but it was a massive motivating factor to stop. If I didn’t lose a stone in the first 3 months my resolve was significantly weakened.

I would tell myself things like: “I’m being so good by not drinking, at least I should have the benefits of looking like on of those bikini clad yoga bunnies on Instagram to make up for the sacrifice, damn it!”
This time I know its different for me. I can pick up another stone in weight and I will still stay stopped.

This time It’s not the weight, or the clear skin or the extra money or even the liver health. This time it’s about self-compassion, self-love and self-respect.

I’ve just realised as i’m typing this that I have been lost in a cycle of self-hatred, self harm and self loathing for the best part of 24 years.

No more. Enough now.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

So yesterday I sat down and wrote out all the horrible things I did while drinking. The things I could remember that is!

I cried, I howled and I breathed through it.

I wrote apologies to my children for being an absent mother and for being aggressively hung over for most of their lives.

Facing it wasnt as bad as I thought it was going to be.

I realise now that yes I did all those things and yes its totally deplorable and awful but that doesn’t define me.

That  was a drunk mess who thought she had no other option.

It’s like that quote from Maya Angelou.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

 

 

Facing the guilt & shame

I have been dreading this.

Woke up this morning a cold sweats. I had a dream that I killed someone and tried to bury the body and it was about to be discovered. (I didn’t actually kill anyone by the way, I’m pretty sure that this dream is a metaphor for my drinking problem)

So I know all my instincts are saying that its time to face the shame and guilt I have around what I did at the height of my drinking. Things I’ve been afraid to admit to myself. Memories that I’ve tried to bury really deep.

I have to write it down and then burn it.

I am so shit scared of going there. I’m scared if I write it down it makes it real and then I’ll just disintegrate into a pile of shameful blubber. The useless pile of crap I think myself to be when I really look at how I was, how much I drank and what a shit mother I was to my gorgeous children.

Fuck it, I can do this, I have to…

 

Things I won’t miss about drinking

The self loathing that started at the 4am wake up call, the dry mouth.

Piecing the last nights events together. What did I do/say? How did I get to bed? How much did I drink? Blackouts are the pits!

The all-absorbing thought stream about how much you will drink today, where how and who with.

The pre-loading of drinks when you go to a party where the crowd drinks too slow for your liking.

The amazed look on the check out persons face when you do your weekly shop. “Having a party are we?” No actually that’s just my weekly alcohol consumption sans social interaction or occasion thank you.

The chaos surrounding an alcohol fuelled life, the confusion and disruption.

The lack of rest and sleep.

The black shadow following you around telling you that you are killing yourself and damaging everyone around you.

The denial, justification, lies you tell yourself to make the next drink ok.

Trying to moderate and failing! There is nothing more soul-destroying than trying to climb that fucking moderation mountain and feeling like a complete and utter failure every time you drink too much which invariably happened most days.

The dry skin and red eyes, the puffy marshmallow face.

The red blotchy cheecks and veins around my nose.

The drunken arguments with my husband that turned really dark and nasty.

The sinking black feeling like you are closing up like a telescope.

The eternal jingle jangle of my recycling bin.