I don’t often listen to the radio at work, but the other day, I happened to catch a show where the presenter was speaking to a lady who was seven months sober from alcohol.
It was an interesting thing to listen to, and it brought up a lot of things that I had forgotten from my own past.
Life changes when you become addicted to something. And as much as you hate the substance (I know I certainly did at the end), you can’t stop going back to it—this is how you know you just can’t live without it. I struggled for a long time to admit I had a problem because I was embarrassed, ashamed, and scared I’d be judged. I didn’t know how people would react to me, and I worried. Oh, how I worried.
No one sets out to be an alcoholic—I certainly didn’t, but as alcohol is such a socially acceptable and legal substance, it is far too easy to slip into a habit that becomes an addiction. I knew that drinking the amount I did—often three bottles of wine a night—was wrong, but there was no easy way to show that I’d slipped from someone who enjoyed a drink, to a heavy drinker, to an alcoholic.
All I knew was that I persuaded myself that I was all right because I didn’t drink in the daytime. As time went on, I found I became obsessed with where the next drink would come from. I just wanted to be “normal,” but I had lost touch with what exactly that was, and I didn’t know how to get back there.
Recovery is an assault on your system in a way that seems harder than giving in to drinking would be, although, of course, it has a better outcome. Not only do we come to rely on alcohol mentally, but also physically, and so it is vital that if you drink a lot, you speak to someone before you just stop. Quitting without detoxing can be life-threatening. I’m not saying that to worry you, it’s just something you need to remember so that you don’t make things any worse than they already are.
Then there’s the fact that alcohol contains a lot of sugar, so on top of the physical desire for alcohol, our bodies are now lacking sugar and craving it. I ate a lot of biscuits, chocolate, and fizzy drinks. I’m still paying the price for that now, but as I’ve said before, I was a skinny drinker. I may weigh more now, but I look alive, and more importantly, feel alive.
Most importantly, there’s the fact that we need to deal with the “why” behind our drinking. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I could have told anyone why I drank; I didn’t really associate it with anything. Looking back, I realised that my mind was so busy and active that drinking wine was the only method I had to calm and quieten it.
Over time, the one or two glasses didn’t cut it anymore, and that was why I ended up in the situation I got to. If I’d kept everything the same, I would have relapsed; I proved that on the other occasions when I tried to get sober. It doesn’t help that alcohol is so socially acceptable. Being bombarded by alcohol in the media makes us feel we are different—when we aren’t. We aren’t missing out—we just need to relearn our strategies. If we don’t, we can easily slip into old habits, perhaps even thinking, “Well, I’ve cracked this, now let’s have a drink to celebrate!”
Recovery is hard. Alcohol is legal, so we justify its use. We have to stop doing that. We have to focus on the good things. For many of us, we are lucky to have the opportunity to stop and reassess our lives, to choose to stop drinking, rather than keep on down the same path. We need to reach out to other people, because although it’s hard, those who have already walked the path will understand, and they’ll be there to support us when we need it. They’ll be able to listen and not judge, and if they don’t, then they aren’t the right people.
There are so many of us out there in the same boat, and as I found out the hard way, there isn’t a perfect definition or image of an alcoholic—or any type of addiction to be honest.
If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and if you don’t nail it on the first try, that’s okay too. We don’t always get there on the first attempt, but that doesn’t mean we have failed.