As I sit here, 2 weeks after I posted a self-declaration about my own recovery from addiction, I remained bereft at the sheer ripple effect of this illness. I am so happy that so far over 600 people have interacted with my post, but I am also aware of my powerless over reaching everyone affected by this illness.
As someone who desperately tried to control her drinking I got to the point at the age of 30 where I was virtually unable to control it once I started and although I could stop (I was a binge drinker) I couldn’t stay stopped. How had it got to this? I had everything, a house, a successful career as a college lecturer, a house, a car, a loving partner, a dog a picture-perfect life, and yet, I drank.
I drank to escape, I drank to quiet the thoughts, I drank because I felt less than, I drank because I was happy, excited, depressed or angry. I drank to celebrate, commiserate…. you get the drift! So what made me decide I was an alcoholic?
When I went to my first AA meeting, I was horrified. I knew my friend had stopped drinking but I had no idea this was how! I felt utterly humiliated and horrified, yet, strangely welcomed lovingly. l sat cross legged, hungover still from what was to be (touch wood) my last drunk and listened.
I didn’t identify with everyone there. I hadn’t lost children (I didn’t have any to lose), I hadn’t lost my marriage (I wasn’t married), I hadn’t been to prison (yet) and yet, here I was in the room with such people. Then, a lady described how she felt. She described the loneliness she felt and how she always felt out of place, ‘not fitting in’. She told me about the feelings of not being able to stick to promises or to maintain sobriety and the absolute guilt of being this way and yet having no ability to change it no matter how much she wanted to. I identified. To the outside, I was the life and soul of the party and yet, I was lonely, misunderstood and terrified.
As the meeting went on a man made me a promise I have never forgotten. He said. ‘You never need to take another drink’. Wow, what a promise! Most people with a drinking problem would be terrified of this, but do you know what, I was done. I had had enough. Yes, me. My partner had had enough long before me, but this time, after several blackouts (where you don’t know what you have done in
My last drunk was not my worst, I threatened a man with a pint pot in my local pub. I was in blackout. I had never met this man before and yet, because of my unresolved anger and lack of drinking control, here I was threatening him. I can’t remember it at all, or the people who manged to get me in a taxi, or the taxi driver, or getting home. The details were filled in by people the morning after as I sat knowing something had changed in me. I knew that I had crossed the line from a ‘happy drunk’ to a potential dangerous drunk. I knew where it could take me, I wasn’t a stranger to the effects of drinking, it was an ever present occurrence in my childhood and the damage was a ripple effect. I knew it was time.
Not everyone is so lucky. I have lost people to drink over the 13 years 9 months of sobriety. Some from the effects of drink and friends who could not longer deal with life and who decided to take their own.
There have been times where life has thrown things at me, loss of parents (mum suddenly when I was 6 months sober), Loss of my jobs and my beloved dog but a drink has never come to mind. I find it amusing now that I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to share a bottle of wine in my new home. I have never shared a bottle in my life!
I don’t underestimate the power of this illness, yes it is an illness, and there is no known cure. But I do know that if you want to stop, there is a way, in fact, several ways! It all starts with the awareness that drinking is problematic and a willingness to do something about it. If you are unsure as to whether your drinking is a problem, ask your loved ones. You may think they are overexaggerating, or being boring or controlling but that is what love looks like. That is them telling you ‘ “I love you, I don’t want to lose you, or better still, I want you to live and be happy and free.”