Firstly Happy New Year to you from me! 🙂 What does one write about on the first day of a new year that holds so much promise and optimism? I think the best place to start are with my words for 2017 which are freedom/liberation. I think they stem from the discoveries I made as I approached 3 years sober.
Perhaps to appreciate my sense of freedom & liberation I have to revisit the life I left. Once more Sally Brampton in ‘Shoot the Damn Dog‘ describes it more eloquently than I so I’m going to quote a passage from her book here. The conversation between her and a friend could have been my ‘now sober self’ talking to my ‘old still-drinking self’ and so it feels really fitting for today and this post.
Suddenly she said, ‘Tell me about the drinking too much’. I shrugged. ‘I drink too much, end of story’. ‘Shall I tell you about my drinking? Would that help?’. ‘If you like’. I was awkward, unused to somebody being open about drinking. I kept mine secret, even from my closest friends. I liked to drink alone. That way, I could drink as much as I liked. That way, I was the only witness to my shame. And I was ashamed. Alcohol does that to you.
Lulu said, ‘Every night, I promised myself that I wouldn’t drink the next day and every morning, when I woke up, I promised myself that I wouldn’t drink that day. As I left the house to go to work, I promised myself, again, that I wouldn’t drink that day’…. I said nothing. Those promises were familiar territory. I had made them to myself, countless times.
‘I’d get through the rest of the day somehow, but my mind was always fixed on alcohol. Perhaps if I just had one drink, after that I stop completely. Just one couldn’t hurt, could it? Then I would decided that, no, I would be good. I would go home, have a bath, make myself something nice to eat and have an early night so I’d be fresh for work the next day. She looked at me, her eyes clear. ‘I knew that was what I was going to do. But I still stopped at the off-licence and bought myself a bottle of wine and got straight into bed without washing or eating and I drank until I passed out.’ She grimaced at the memory. ‘I don’t even like the taste of alcohol’.
Nor did I. In fact, I’d come to hate it. But I loved the effect, the way it stopped the pain, stopped me feeling. She said, as if reading my mind, ‘I drank to change the way that I feel.’. I wanted, right then, to change the way I felt, or how she was making me feel. Even thinking about it made me want a drink. What could be the harm in having one drink, to make me feel better? Perhaps she didn’t know what she was was talking about. After all, it wasn’t as if she had been drinking that much. I knew people who drank far more and they didn’t think they had a problem. ‘It doesn’t sound too much’.
‘It’s not how much you drink. It’s how you drink and why.’
‘I only drink because of the depression*. If it wasn’t there, I wouldn’t drink, I laugh nervously. ‘Or I wouldn’t drink so much’. [*You could change the word here to stress, anxiety, debt, work, family, children, boredom, need to get things done, all my friends do/partner does, insert your word(s) of choice]. ‘Seriously though, a drink doesn’t make it better. It only makes it worse. How much are you drinking?’ ‘A bottle of wine, perhaps two a day’. ‘Can you stop?’ ‘Yes, no,’ I sighed. ‘I don’t know …. No. Well, I find it hard to stop. But I’m not an alcoholic’. Lulu’s smile curved. ‘What’s an alcoholic?’ ‘Someone who sleeps on a park bench? Who passes out? Who gets violent? Who can’t hold down a job?’ Lulu’s smiled curved even higher. ‘I am an alcoholic.’ I looked down at my hands. Her voice was gentle. ‘Sal, I know exactly how you feel. I tried to do it on my own too, and it doesn’t work. We need help. We cannot do it on our own.’ ‘But you look so well, so happy.’ I shook my head. ‘I don’t know. Maybe I can stop on my own. I’ve done it before’.
Lulu got up and hugged me. ‘We’ve all done it before. We’ve done it so many times we’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. We all think we can do it on our own. It’s just that we don’t have to. We don’t have to be alone.’
I nodded. For some reason, I wanted to cry. ‘OK’.
If this resonates for you too, know that you are not alone and if you are looking for freedom and liberation from booze you can always reach out and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you would like help to cut down or quit drinking I run an online course and you can use the link here to get a 25% discount 🙂
If I can do it, you can do it …….