I made a promise to myself when I started writing. I would write openly and honestly. If this resulted in judgement and an injured ego – so be it. I’m a big girl.
If I was to say that lockdown had caused me to allow alcohol to take charge over my life, I would simply be lying. Alcohol has been a huge player in my life since my early teens. I can’t recall when it become front and centre, but it was always, most certainly, there.
Stealing our parents’ Cinzano in the early 80’s and topping the bottle up with water. Drinking Bacardi and coke in the local pub at the age of 14. I would have been about that age or maybe slightly older the first time I got absolutely smashed.
By my late teens onwards it was just a part of my life. As present as food and friends. We all drank. Always. The actual drink sometimes changed. Bottles of beer in the 80’s, wine in the 90’s, gin, vodka, tequila. But always wine. The posh person’s excuse to be a drunk. There was a made up romanticism around alcohol – :I love a G&T in the summer.” “Nothing beats a full bodied red in front of an open fire in winter.” Truth was I’d drink anything, anytime.
I stopped drinking. When I was pregnant with my eldest. I stopped drinking and I stopped smoking. The day I found out. And I didn’t start again until she was about 3 months old and no longer breastfed. That was the only time. I drank through my subsequent pregnancies.
Several times in my adult life I have been accused of being an alcoholic, by people I had loved, but people who wanted to hurt me. So it didn’t count. I could discard their opinion as being one of spite.
I am now, potentially, in the last third of my life. And I am still justifying drinking. Until the last party we had. A party that was the first since we had come out of a period of being home and locked down. Where my drinking had escalated and alarmed even me. The clues were there and didn’t need Sherlock Holmes to decipher them.
- Denial of the quantity and frequency of drinking
- Hidden alcohol and empty bottles
- Hidden transactions from liquor stores
- Speed drinking when windows of time alone presented themselves
- No memory of conversations or agreements
- Constantly planning my life around drinking and having a sober driver
- Regrettable behaviours
In the last 10 days I have gone 8 and a half without a drink. I count the half as something made me resort to the pattern of behaviour that sees me secretively drinking. So my husband had gone out and I made a vodka and lemonade that I drank at speed before he came home, for no reason. I thought about it, confronted it, chastised myself and settle on maybe it was because it was secretive that made it appealing. So I told my husband.
That made me consider triggers. What triggers my urge to drink, what causes lie beneath it, and if I can understand some of that, what solutions can I put in place to protect myself. Protect myself from myself. I am my biggest cheerleader and most vicious critic too.
Triggers – emotions; loneliness, anger, frustration, disappointment, fear, anxiety, insecurities. Am I funnier, brighter, more attractive with alcohol onboard?
Understanding triggers – unpicking the emotions and why we feel the way we do. Recognising the emotions and the feelings and facing them head on.
Distraction – when the urge to drink occurs, distracting myself. Go for a walk, phone a friend, brush your teeth. Often the urge will pass. Write it down. Write down the challenges, the triggers, what worked, what didn’t.
Accountability – this is a tough one. Tell someone. Tell someone you drink too much and you want to reduce it or stop. And be honest with that person.
I’m aiming for 6 alcohol free days a week. From zero to 6. Every step backwards is a step forwards in the long term, providing I address it, confront it and use it as a learning opportunity.
I’m taking the control back.