…and I am in recovery for alcoholism.
Phew. Writing those words on this blog for the first time is scary. I had my last alcoholic drink on 9 March 2014. For some people that is no big deal. For someone who was drinking up to four or five bottles of wine towards the end, it’s a pretty big deal. It is something I am both proud and ashamed of. Proud that I have come this far, ashamed that I am an alcoholic in the first place.
One of the biggest reasons I used to drink so much was because I believed it helped me to deal with life, or at least it helped me to not care what people thought of me. Without alcohol inside me I could convince myself that anyone and everyone was judging me. After a glass or two of wine, I would no longer care, although of course hindsight has taught me that is probably exactly when I was being judged, since one glass of wine would never be enough. Versions of this post have been written and drafted since I started this blog last October, none have been published due to the overwhelming fear of being disliked, ridiculed, blacklisted.
There were a handful of times throughout my drinking career when I controlled myself, the longest period of which was during pregnancy and breastfeeding but for the most part I think I have always been alcohol dependent. I placed myself in more dangerous situations than I care to recount and I shudder at the memories; getting into unlicensed taxis, walking home alone at 2 am. One night while I was walking the five miles home, an older man invited me to stay at his place rather than walk home on a freezing winter night. He was kind and I was fine but there were other occasions when that wasn’t the case. By rights I really should not be alive today and I do not say that lightly, I truly believe that meeting my husband saved my life. Although it would take another 10 years for me to accept that I could not control my drinking no matter how much I tried, falling in love with him at a time when I had hit self-destruct kept me safe since I no longer wanted to go out without him and the few times that I did (for example for works parties) he would come and meet me to take me home, to ensure my safety.
Alcoholism is medically recognised as both a physical and mental illness but recognising and accepting you are alcohol dependent is not easy. Everyone knows what the stereotypical image of the alcoholic is like and if you do not fit that image then you can justify your drinking. I turned my nose up at people who I saw in the kids playground drinking cheap cans of cider while watching their children play and at the man who walked to the school to collect his daughter while drinking a can of Special Brew on the way. Yet there were times when I would pick my son up from nursery at 3.20 pm having finished off a bottle of wine. I was reasonably bright, happily married, with a child, had a wonderfully loving family. But because I didn’t drink out of a can or in public parks and I drank Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, somehow I believed that made me better than those other people I was busy judging. It didn’t matter that I could drink three, four or even five bottles of wine a day sometimes, that I would usually experience blackout most days, that I drank myself into oblivion almost daily or that every week the recycling box was full of my discarded wine bottles with no room for anything else, the fact that I was still married and my family still loved me and I hadn’t lost my child meant I couldn’t possibly be an alcoholic. In reality, all it meant was that I hadn’t lost anything, yet.
If someone had told me two years ago that I would lead a more fulfilling and content life if I only stopped drinking alcohol, I would have laughed at them but I now know this to be true. I still have times when I am almost crippled with anxiety, worrying that people are judging me, leaving me out, that they don’t like me. I still have a need to be liked and accepted. Fear of what people thought of me controlled my life for so long and old habits die hard.
That my husband and family stuck by me as my drinking deteriorated during the last couple of years is testament to them, not me and something that I shall be eternally grateful for. I am lucky. I realised before it was too late what I stood to lose if I carried on down the path of self-destruction that I seemed so determined to follow. When I apologised to family for my past behaviour, all they wanted from me was to remain happy and to start taking responsibility for my actions. Making amends to them is about me living my life without alcohol and being a good person.
The last 21 months have been a learning curve for me. There have been some stressful times, times that at the beginning I would have said I wouldn’t get through without that old friend alcohol but I’ve learned new ways to cope. The husband still drinks most weekends, maybe a couple of beers at home, although he didn’t in the beginning and if I am struggling then I just have to tell him and he won’t because nothing is more important to us than maintaining my sobriety. I’ve grown up, taking responsibility for the things I get wrong instead of blaming other people.
My marriage and family life is happier than it’s ever been. I have dealt with my demons. I no longer blame other people for things that have happened to me but I accept my part. As cliched as it sounds, I don’t take my sobriety for granted. I grew up knowing alcoholics and addicts and I know that it really does only take one drink to send a recovering alcoholic back on that path. As an active drinker my drinking only got worse, so it makes sense that if I was to pick up again, it would only be worse, not better.
There are, no doubt, some people who can learn to control their control but I know without a shadow of doubt that I am not one of them. Besides, I have too much to lose to put that to the test.