I started off drinking when I was young at country parties.
It was inevitable that I would overdo things - but I was actually quite proud of my "stamina". There were always jokes thrown around about how ‘’we are such alcoholics" when referring to me and my mates and their drinking ... but underneath it all I knew I drank differently to other people. I just couldn’t seem to get enough.
My first real experience with alcohol was a blackout at some friends’ New Year’s Eve party when I was 14. Then a few things happened that made me feel like my life was out of control – my parents’ divorce, leaving school, break ups with boys - all fairly run-of-the-mill things, but things that nonetheless just really rocked my world.
I found that alcohol had a really calming effect and made me feel like I had things under control - it really comforted me. By my early 20s I was drinking daily. I was able to line up friends in the small county town where I lived and engineer it so that I would drink on the way home with a different friend each night of the week. It was great! They’d complain about the big night we’d had but they were only doing it one night a week – I was doing it seven nights a week.
Gradually my friends started getting married and having children and stopped wanting to stay up all night drinking (boring! I thought …) so I engineered it that my friends got younger and needed to be able to drink as much as and as fast as me. If anyone challenged me about how much I was drinking I would say “Yeah, yeah, yeah - I’ll get onto it’’ and then I’d promptly do nothing about it and see less and less of them; if I saw them at all. I would say to myself ‘’who wants that kind of negativity around?’’
Time passed and going to parties where I would be the “life and soul” or even catching up with friends just seemed like so much hard work. Staying sober enough to drive home seemed to be a great way to wreck an evening, so I slowly stopped going out altogether, started isolating, and changed to drinking by myself at home. Party of one.
Suddenly and without me really noticing it - booze had become a huge part of my life. I drank when I was happy, sad, bored, anxious, elated, in love, out of love. You name it: if there was a reason to drink I had it in spades. It kept me company when I was alone and I thought it made me extra good company when I was with people.
I tried cutting down but that was just yawnsville. I could make it (just) to the end of the week but I would be telling people loud and clear of my “suffering” and it was always with the end goal of getting on it (and hard) at the end of the week. A just reward for being so “good”.
So that didn’t last very long (too much effort) and it was back to daily drinking.
I’d wake up on Monday morning thinking “OK girl new week, new you – let’s be as good as gold”… but by morning tea time (ok while I was brushing my teeth after breakfast!) I’d be planning: who can I catch up with tonight? Where will I buy from? How am I going to finance it?
I lived in a small country town so I had to put a lot of energy into my drinking (mental and physical) – including a new pattern of buying booze at different bottle-shops, padding out the recycling bin so it didn't jingle with empties, hiding the "bodies" (empty bottles) under piles of grass clippings, etc, etc.
I knew it was kind of crazy but I thought, ‘’well, what can you do?’’
I mean the alternative was not drinking and there was no way I could even contemplate my life without booze in it!
Years went by and I thought I was so clever at hiding my secret.
I was so clever in fact that at the beginning of this year I ended up in detox.
I told friends and family that I was off to a health spa. I actually had no idea what I was in for. I didn’t know then but I know now that detox is medically supervised withdrawal from the drug of your choice as opposed to rehab which helps you rebuild your life post-addiction.
A friend had told me that her doctor had said that she needed to keep her alcohol intake up otherwise she would start fitting. I thought to myself “Yeah right. That’s the best excuse for keeping on drinking I have ever heard. How ridiculous!”
Actually she was telling the truth. One of the guys I was in detox with fitted in withdrawal and it really wigged everyone out. But I wasn’t that bad, right? I kept my drinking to social hours and it was only ever wine (plenty) but not hard liquor like 'real alcoholics' (I thought).
Wrong! It didn’t dawn on me until I was six weeks out the other side of detox that when I answered their questions when I rang up they hadn’t said “Oh no, no dearie, no you are not alcoholic enough for us ... play through ... keep going!” They had actually said “we will see you on Wednesday then”.
I am an alcoholic and it’s taken me a lot to realise it and then admit it to myself. To really down-down-deep-to-my-bootstraps-not-joking-in-anyway-whatsoever admit it to my very own self.
My doctor said to me on my first day in detox: “just throw everything you have at this for six months. Right now you are in no position to pick and choose if you want to beat this.”
He could see my lip starting to curl at the suggestion of recovery support groups/meetings. I am so glad and forever grateful he said that because given the choice I would never have had the bottle (ha!) to front a meeting. What a pleasant surprise I had...
Here were not whiskery old farts, walking around in hair shirts with their bottom lip dragging on the ground bemoaning the fact they could no longer drink.. No! Here were smart, funny, gorgeous, intelligent people that were actually doing something about their addiction and getting on with their lives in a really positive way. They were just so welcoming and generous with all of their knowledge.
When I got out of detox then it wasn’t too much of a stretch to front up to group support.
So I started hanging out and meeting those people. Great fun! I kept hearing of various literature and suggested steps to ease into sobriety.
There is definitely a language/patter to alcoholism and I my learning curve has been quite steep. One night I said to a guy “I feel like I’m nibbling round the edges.” He said “Get in the middle of the pack. The wolves pick off the weak ones round the outside!” Eeeeek!! I grew up on too much Lassie on TV and if it wasn’t quicksand it was wolves that were the things that scared the living daylights out of me.
So that galvanised me into action. I approached a gorgeous woman and asked her to be my wing-man and we have been working through those steps since.
My goodness! Did I ever think I would be typing a sentence like that?! Long story short it is the best thing I have done!
I always thought that being sober would take away the happiness and joy in my life. I just couldn’t fathom a life for me without booze in it. Quite the opposite: it has removed a lot of the loneliness, madness and misery. I am reconnecting with life, my friends and family and most of all my sense of self. That’s not to say there aren’t tough times and that life is always easy. I just have tools to help me negotiate those times now without falling in a heap and turning to alcohol.