As a nurse I am very familiar with Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ 5 stages of grieving and Friday night (posts here and here discuss) really made me reflect on this and how I was going through a grieving process about alcohol. It had been a part of my life for so long and now it wasn’t.
The five stages are denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance.
I tried to work out how long I had been in denial about my drinking and this I find really hard to answer because it was only last year when I started a new course with my job that ‘intellectually’ I understood that I had a problem. Before that, my family had always drank, the friends I chose always drank as did the boyfriends – and then husband, and his family too. It was so ‘normal’ for me that denial wasn’t necessary. But then I would have events in the past after too much drink that would trigger questioning that I quickly buried.
The bargaining part is easier to answer as moderating became a pattern from 2008 onwards. But for me to be bargaining, or moderating, then I must have known I had a problem before last year.
The anger stage on Friday was evident as was the following dip into depression. I worry about the depression stage as depression has been a feature of my life before and this is not something I am keen to revisit. But I also accept that this is a necessary part of the grieving process that cannot be skipped and that I must do what I can to manage this, not avoid it. That’s what led to a drinking problem in the first place.
So I have put strategies in place to help with the anger and depression stages like running, meditating, luxuriating in a bath and other small treats. I need to feel that giving up alcohol isn’t a lose:lose situation but a win:win and mostly so far it has been.
I am partly at the acceptance stage but also at all the other stages too. I say that I’m not going to drink again but this feels like a big ask and so honestly, part of me is still wavering. I can see the benefits already but the neural networks of a non-drinker are not fully laid and embedded yet in my brain and so the drinker pathway still has strength (a topic for another post).
We do not travel through the stages of grief in a linear fashion but ricochet through them, revisiting some many times, before the work is done. I am committed to the pathway to acceptance as there is no going back for me and am just waiting for my neural networks to catch up 🙂