Revisiting my moderation warzone

So Prim & were discussing my recent interview on The Bubble Hour and how she had learned new things about me.  These were primarily to do with my time before I started blogging so that murky past that was my repeatedly attempted and spectacularly failed attempts at moderation.  I think you have a flavour of them from my shared last drunks and final drinking horror but not an appreciation of the total warzone that it was.  I was battling myself and my desire to drink on a daily basis and those internal emotional battles spilled over into external marital discord and parental shame.

We wondered maybe if there existed this perhaps self-limiting belief that those of us who blog out here just decided one day to stop and that was it – bingo, job done – which fails to recognise that there were many quit attempts that preceded that final desperation driven decision and the need to ‘up the ante’ by adding visible social accountability to the mix.  So in an attempt to debunk that potential myth about myself I’m going to provide a brief history of those years of moderation between the end of 2008 and my quit day in September 2013.

To set the scene before we moved to France in early 2008 and up until that point my drinking was problematic but still manageable.  That’s not to say I didn’t do incredibly stupid things when drunk and have many shameful memories of drink-driven drama and mis-behaving.  France changed that and we spent all our time after France trying to regain control and never succeeded.

Because it’s almost 10 years ago and I can’t recall all the details – hangover securely in place – I’m going to do a timeline to paint a broad brush outline:

  • End 2008 returned from France to home county in UK with baby and small toddler in tow.
  • Early 2009 returned to work nursing full-time, MrHOF stayed at home and cared for children.  This was a difficult time for all of us, readjusting to returning to where we grew up, me working, he house-husbanding and not working and two small people in our charge.  Our daily drinking continued unabated and our marriage was showing the strain.  Days of not drinking would follow particularly shaming altercations by way of reparation.
  • 2010 decided to enter London Marathon ballot – started running.  Tried to decrease drinking and smoking as I tried to get ‘healthy’.  End 2010 – lost my maternal grandmother and my step-father became ill.  Was struggling psychologically so started anti-depressants and returned to therapy.
  • 2011 Marathon training in earnest so this is when the stopping and starting drinking started proper.  Gave up for New Years resolution to aid training.  Remember attending 40th b-day party in Feb and had managed 6 weeks.  Mid 2011 – lost my step-father, who was my father from birth in all but genetics.  Two close family deaths meant my drinking spiralled once more (which is the reason for the image at the top of the post, because these types of huge family loss events can be deeply traumatising and can tip us over from coping to not coping).  Remember noticing first Dry January posters for 2012.
  • 2012 did Dry January and carried on to do three months – partly I think to prove to myself that I didn’t have a problem!  Drinking less regularly & frequently but when I did they were spectacular binges.  Trying not to drink in the week so the week-ends were horrendous.  Started my Health Visitor training and gave up smoking for good.  During training was working professionally with families where drink was a problem and the cognitive dissonance created began to become unbearable.  I knew that if I didn’t get this under control I was in danger of visiting my own childhood on my children.

“The best predictor of a child’s security of attachment is not what happened to his parents as children, but rather how his parents made sense of those childhood experiences” Dr Dan Siegel

  • 2013 more stints of not drinking interspersed with spectacular blow outs.  Early physical signs of damage from alcohol abuse and ongoing symptoms noted with alarm.  Becoming weary of the whole process and drinking was no longer fun in any way, shape or form.  Still in therapy on and off although had never discussed my drinking!  London Marathon running buddy came to stay for week-end and had just mentioned my drinking to my therapist as a ‘door handle moment’ in my final therapy session with her.  Decided to stop for good.  Had night of heavy drinking with her, bought Allan Carr’s book on Kindle, read it all week, final drinking week-end.

So as you can see there was a huge amount of back-story to my stopping which I haven’t fully disclosed here before.  I’m not sure why.  There is a sense that in talking about it I am somehow condoning moderating – which I’m not.  Equally I think we have to acknowledge that this period of one step forward two steps back is part of my story and part of many people’s journey.  So if you’ve read my blog before and thought ‘well she’s different from me because she just stopped’.  I’m not and I didn’t.

As we head into the end of January and you may be considering going back to drinking because you’ve done a month to prove you don’t have a problem I just ask you to pause and think again.  The reason I did all those stop and start attempts is because I started to see the benefits and knew that there was potentially something better on the other side of the difficult first few months if I just stuck with it.  I urge you to consider doing the same because you can always go back to drinking later can’t you?   What have you got to lose? 🙂

11 thoughts on “Revisiting my moderation warzone

  1. This is a great post, Lou. I remember when I was getting serious about quitting, when I began to hear the stories of others, it seemed to me that most of them were able to stop without relapse. Until I read your e-book and took your course, that is 😉 But now I realize your story (and many others) include the moderation attempts and changes in habits so that we’d be able to drink without stopping completely. When I started drinking again after “almost” 4 months dry, I thought of it as relapse, and huge failure. Now I realize it was another failed moderation attempt, and final confirmation that I could not moderate! It’s good to let those who are struggling know that it doesn’t happen easily, and in my opinion I think of moderation attempts as a diagnostic tool, as you and Jean talked about. I apologize for being so “wordy” but this is an important part of the journey! xx

    1. Your wordiness is warranted Lori as this is an important discussion! Thank you for sharing your view and experience 🙂 xx

  2. It’s a brave person, a courageous person who can acknowledge the many times moderation failed. Just stopping can look easy to those on the outside; just as stopping eating when overeating is the problem, looks easy – but none of it is easy & there is a constant tension within oneself – a daily internal battle in the head that becomes noise & loud noise too, competing to be heard. Your blog & E course put it all in perspective for me & I have not had to face the nightmare since 29/2/2016. I am still recovering from the physical insult to my body but my mind is calm & I am a better person. I, too am a nurse & could not go on professionally talking about health & not living what I was doing. I am a wife, parent & grand-parent & could not live with my husband & children being a witness to my behaviour. I too lost many significant people in my life who died under sad circumstances & it tipped me over to a very dark place – but I am here & I love my family; I love my work & I am happy without the madness of alcohol & all of its web

    1. Hey Anne Marie Thank you so much for adding your voice and congratulations on almost 1 year sober!! I’m so happy that my blog and course helped you stop the cycle and that you are in a happier place 🙂

  3. Really interesting seeing that timeline in detail…. the long and winding road that gets us to the point of change.

    I love the thought that you and I were on a very similar trajectory which would end up in our blogging and then becoming friends. Eg I started running in 2011 and gave up alcohol for Lent in 2012 before taking the final leap into abstinence in 2013.

    That book you lent me says that sobriety is more like learning to read than having an apple fall on one’s head, which I think is a great analogy. So glad we are all learning together! Xxx

    1. Great minds think alike Prim 😉 And agree it is much more about behaviourism infact Skinner’s operant conditioning comes to mind. Me too! xx

  4. It was such a long and winding road for me, too. I like to count my days as the moment I decided to make a real change in my life. I’ve been on that path since 2014, even I have had a drink since then

    1. Hey Jamie Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog. It is a long and winding road – keep going 🙂

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