Recently my besties and I went to visit the grave of a very dear and recently lost, friend. This got me reflecting on how fickle I was in regards to my own life during my drinking days. I had complete disregard for how precious my life was, and is. Disregard which stemmed from a very long history of depression and anxiety, a lot of time undiagnosed.
Where mental illness is concerned alcohol has a lot to answer. I was testamount to it. Its supposed calming influence eventually turning sad thoughts into suicidal ones with its use to self medicate attempting to rid myself of the black dog.
This was reinforced this morning when whilst doing a few errands I saw a couple who were clearly alcoholics. The lady had facial bruising and stitches, both held cans of beer in their quivering, slumped bodies. They were shrouded in a cloud of perfume that only alcoholics wear.
I felt terribly terribly sad. It was a stark reminder to me my old ‘alc d’cologne’ I too once wore and of the injuries I drunkenly caused myself; usually in blackout. I have plenty of scars to prove it, mentally and physically.
There before the grace of God….. I am one of the lucky ones.
In life it’s the agony that makes getting to the otherside so marvellous.
Before visiting friends this weekend, friends who we haven’t socialised with since my sobriety, I had slight butterflies. This is unusual for me these days. Although I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety I am extremely adapt at controlling my anxiety and panic – so what is all this about?? I think it was due to an element of not knowing how they would react to the ‘new’ me. This says more about my own ego and the desire to be liked. The desire to be liked by everyone is something I struggle with and find it hard to come to terms with the fact that not everyone will or does. Any way, in this particular instance I needn’t have worried and we’ve had a splendid weekend.
Gosh, how time flies! Not had the chance to blog for a while; I’ve been busy doing, doing this, that, that and this.
However, throughout all my ‘doing’s’ I have continued to be vigilant with myself and self-scrutinise. I usually do this as I’m working my way through the day, (chatting to myself and my dog a lot!), reflecting on my feelings and reactions to things while out walking and, of course, my night time diary, inventory if you like.
There are times during the day when my chatter-brain tells me that “you would have had a drink now”, “you would have needed a drink to deal/cope with this before”. I would then think of the aftermath of what ‘that drink’ would have given and left – complete devastation and chaos, in fact not one positive. I remind myself that there is nothing that I cannot deal with sober and that having a drink will improve; the very opposite.
People often ask me what have I been doing recently – my honest answer is Living My Life the best I can. Sobriety is the best thing I have ever done for myself. I take pleasure from the fact that I no longer miss drinking, even on special occasions when people are having a toast, or when things are going badly wrong.
Sobriety gives me everything alcohol promised. Thank you sobriety – bloody love you!
Back in 2014 I at last realised I needed to stop drinking. My life was a mess. You can’t keep dancing with the devil and wonder why you are still in hell. It was time to dance elsewhere and let the go of the booze.
It was a hard thing to do especially when there will always be a small part of me that will have fond memories, or is the euphoric recall? But life was not healthy and I wanted to spend the rest of my life dancing in sobriety, completely in control of any decisions I made, good or bad. Exhausted from all the lies, deceit, manipulation and effort involved in attempting to disguise my problem whilst continuing to feed the devil inside.
I was terrified of living without alcohol, function without alcohol. Alcohol was fuelling my depression leading me to thoughts of suicide. I was drinking on every emotion that you can name. My self esteem and confidence a thing of the past (or so I thought).
I may have changed my lifestyle permanently but I am still me. I still enjoy the great fun things in life, the difference is that I am fully functional during these fun times and have no regrets in the morning.
Days when I feel miserable, sad, argumentative or afraid are all now feelings I can deal with SOBER, knowing that they are REAL feelings and not those caused by drinking or helped by drinking.
Today I laugh, cry, celebrate, relax, am sociable, courageous in sobriety and I am proud of it. I never realised that I could laugh as hard sober! Overtime I have regained my self esteem, confidence and self respect.
Life is not perfect and there are days that I wake up feeling down, crap and fed up. BUT I love the sober me and waking up knowing that these feelings are ME not a substance that has caused a chemical imbalance to my brain.
Laughter is greater sober (and dancing!).
I thought that by drinking Chablis and trendy Gin I was a sophisticated drinker, not a problem drinker, drunk, alcoholic (loud klaxon), delusional or what! Can you imagine the shock when realisation hit that the price tag or quality or alcohol is irrelevant.
I’ve stolen the title ‘Sophisticated Pisshead’ from my rehab days where I met two of my greatest recovery chums and we gave each other nicknames. One was Sophisticated Pisshead, the other Tree Frog (no idea why), and mine Cupcake because I love cake and I am as small as a cupcake, (along with the nickname Tiny Tears during therapy sessions!).
Jokes aside there was nothing sophisticated about my drinking problem, especially when I wasn’t adverse to the odd swig from the bottle of cooking sherry. Utter insanity is what it was, which is why I found myself a resident of an acute psychiatric hospital. Without this though, I’m certain that my road of destruction would had led me to either imprisonment, death or both.
It is where I was diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety; where, after years and years of struggling, I received the understanding, help, care and support I desperately needed to rebuild my life and to give me the tools to try to repair the damage I had caused at home and to my family.
It is where I was helped to believe in myself, build my self esteem and confidence. I went in feeling a worthless human being who wanted to die. I came out wanting to live, and for the first time in decades actually liking myself – and I love that.
I am living testimony to the fact that there is life after booze; and a bloody good one if you are willing to work at it. Work that is required daily, some days more than others, but it is worth it. Every day is a good day if you are sober because things are always far far worse when drink is involved.
When I entered rehab I was an emotional wreck, so much so that I earnt the nickname of Tiny Tears, (Tiny because I’m small, Tears for obvious reasons). I’ve always been emotional but this was in a whole new league. I literally cried every single day, during every single therapy session for a whole 28 days.
It became clear whilst there that there was a huge amount of my past that I had stifled for so many years. It was like a massive thunder cloud and once the first drop of rain had escaped the cloud released all the rain, there were a few rumbles of thunder too.
My healing possess was a long, arduous, painful, exhausting (and wet) one; and took a good 12 months of therapy, kindness and patience, from others and myself. I was lucky to have such a fabulous support network. My husband tethered himself to me and our children like a safety harness – for which I shall be eternally grateful.
Recently I discovered the following passage, it could have been written for me because it describes my relationship with alcohol perfectly:-
I drank for happiness and became unhappy. I drank for joy and became miserable. I drank for sociability and became argumentative. I drank for sophistication and became obnoxious. I drank for friendship and made enemies. I drank for sleep and woke up tired. I drank for strength and felt weak. I drank for relaxation and got the shakes. I drank for courage and became afraid. I drank for confidence and became doubtful. I drank to make conversation easier and slurred my speech. I drank to feel heavenly and ended up feeling like hell.
I am one of the lucky ones who has managed to rebuild their wreck. But the old wreck requires regular checks, I can ill afford to hit those rocks again and will do anything and everything it takes never to.
Bank holiday weekends for recovering alcoholics can be a problem. Being surrounded by an environment that advocates beginning the weekend ‘celebrations’ from clock off time on the Friday continuing for most pretty much all weekend. It’s hard, being bombarded by advertising, references on social media sites, supermarkets – the list goes on.
I remember my first ‘celebration season’ after coming out of rehab. It was Christmas – couldn’t have picked a bigger one! I approached it with anxious trepidation, wondering how on earth I would get through the season sober. In order to get through this I needed a plan of action, so as I had been advised in therapy I put into place a Helping Hand Contract which I gave to my most trusted family member and friends. On it I wrote a list of warning signs that could indicate I might be heading towards disaster. It included the steps I wanted them to take if I was dismissive of their concerns. This contract was signed by them and me.
An important tool for me was my support network, friends that I have made in rehab. We have a chat group and use it to express feelings and worries that could have us tumbling down the relapse road. I am extremely lucky and privileged to have these wonderful people in my life.
Further to this I also had, and still do, a code word that I say to my husband if I ever feel compromised or uncomfortable in a situation and need to remove myself from it immediately.
Be aware of potential triggers, some which may be individual to you AND stay alert for that sniper sitting and waiting patiently to strike. If needed avoid people and places that you once associated with drinking, and the social pressure of drinking.
I sincerely hope you all have a wonderful weekend and think of the benefits of three days of uninterrupted sleep. You will be starting next week feeling refreshed, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Fully dignified with no memory loss, blackouts, wondering who you upset and what you said, feelings a paranoia, guilt, shame, remorse, embarrassment, injuries, nausea, diarrhoea. All of these I am guilty of! Oh the joys (not)! It was bloody exhausting.