I wrote recently about the ingredients of my addiction recipe but lately I’ve been thinking about the different things that got me to the point of making a change. I passed my 2 year alcohol free point this week. I didn’t feel the need to celebrate or mark it in anyway. It’s just how I roll these days. I saw some friends for a walk and food in a garden last week. Six people felt like a crowd and we laughed and had fun. I took a bottle of AF fizz. When I said that I really liked it a friend commented ‘until you realise it’s not working’. ‘Actually I don’t get that feeling anymore’ I replied and she looked surprised. I had no envy of their alcohol and it felt great.
It took me 15 months from 1st stopping to finally quit for good. I’d had the thought in my head that I needed to cut down for a good few years but the idea of giving up completely never crossed my mind. The death of George Michael in his 50s, heart disease related to addiction for sure and a friend of a friend, 49 years old, alcohol related, 2 teenage children gave me an uneasy feeling that disappeared when I drank. My attempts at moderation got less and less successful but if I had a couple of days off a week I thought I was doing ok.
When I divorced and met C my fears subsided and my drinking escalated. I was in love and having fun but also dealing with heartache – my own and my daughters. The two things don’t co-exist easily and alcohol helped. I signed up for an online rider training programme but couldn’t commit to getting up early to do the workouts. At the back of my mind I knew this was due to drink. I was also getting more erratic at work, increasing my stress and therefore my ‘need’ for a drink at the end of the day. I knew I was spiralling down but I had no idea how to stop it.
A few months before I stopped C and I were in London for a conference. I found the crowds difficult to deal with, I was anxious and irritable – a state that was becoming more normal for me. I now realise I was on a withdrawal intoxication see saw all the time. On the Saturday we had a perfect day. We walked and sat in the park in the afternoon and then went to the theatre, An American in Paris – great seats, drinks along the way. The play was magical and when we came out there was a busker and people singing with him. We joined in and danced in the street. I felt wonderful. Then we went into a restaurant and suddenly my mood switched and I had a go at C. We left without eating and I stormed off. Realising I didn’t know where I was I tried to call him but he didn’t answer for ages and panic set in. Eventually he did. He was in a rickshaw heading back to the hotel and came and found me. I got in and half for real half jokingly beat him up all the way back. My mood was teetering on the edge of happy versus angry and sad and I was too drunk to have any say over which way it would go. By the time we got back the bad mood prevailed. We argued – I don’t know what about and I spent the night sleeping on the floor crying. We missed the morning of the conference and the speaker I most wanted to see. I went home feeling dejected and a failure.
There were a few other incidents like this and I knew that the problem was my drinking whatever I might say in an argument. When I wasn’t drunk I was irritable and thinking when I could have a drink; when I was the nice part was getting more short lived and then I was turning on the person I loved. In those moments I felt like my mother at her worst. Triggered into disinhibited rage at the drop of a hat. I didn’t even know what I was angry about. It had a force of its own and was almost a compulsive re-enactment. Now I think the real argument was internal – between my true self and my addiction. This wasn’t my Mum’s stuff – we just shared the same problem. In spite of this slowly dawning realisation I kept pushing it away with alcohol as the idea of stopping seemed impossible. I wanted someone else to tell me and eventually my daughter did. Another night spent crying with shame and I decided to stop.
In those 1st few months I took up yoga and white knuckled my way through social situations. I felt physically better and both of my daughters and C’s tender care towards me confirmed just how much of a problem my drinking had been. The idea of permanence was still daunting though and at 100 days I decided to try moderation. Over the next 9 months things gradually slipped back. A yoga retreat in India in the autumn that I’d booked whilst sober gave me a break and strengthened my true self. I came back determined to control it but when I’d failed to do dry Jan, Feb or March I signed up for The Sober School, a blog I’d started following the first time round. I’d tried AA but didn’t like it and on line anonymous help seemed a better fit. I knew the demons were just around the corner and I didn’t want them back.
I read a lot of quit lit and followed the daily lessons. One of the most helpful things was learning about the addictive voice. Recognising this part of me as ‘other’ was powerful and a game changer. Realising how much we are sold alcohol as a solution to all life’s problems sealed the deal and half way through the course I realised I didn’t want to drink again. I have occasional urges but mostly it’s easy. It’s not will power it’s mindset and my mind is set to not drink anymore. I’m on the 2nd phase of the rider workouts and have a competition this weekend on the horse I couldn’t ride before I started looking after my body. My daughter hugged me when she realised it was 2 years and told me how proud she is of me. I wouldn’t swap that feeling for anything in the world.