Naomi’s Story

I was only going to post one guest blog per month, but this one is just so powerful, that it needs to be seen.

Party girls don’t get hurt, can’t feel anything, when will I learn?
I push it down, push it down. I’m the one “for a good time call”
Phone’s blowing up, they’re ringing my doorbell. I feel the love, feel the love

1,2,3 1,2,3 drink
1,2,3 1,2,3 drink
1,2,3 1,2,3 drink

Throw ’em back, until I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ‘cos I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ‘cos I’m just holding on for tonight, on for tonight

Sun is up, I’m a mess. Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame

1,2,3 1,2,3 drink
1,2,3 1,2,3 drink
1,2,3 1,2,3 drink

I have borrowed these words from Sia’s phenomenal song, “Chandelier”. I have known of the song for some time, but had not taken the opportunity to really listen to the words or analyse the song’s meaning.

Now I understand. Now I realise that it captures my sentiments perfectly. In the end of my dangerous love affair with a most dangerous drug, I felt like I was holding on for dear life, keeping my glass topped up, numbing today, denying the inevitability of tomorrow and then waking up full of shame – only to repeat again – just like Sia’s chorus.

To the outside world, you could argue that my life was / or indeed seemed to be a ‘success’. I had a great career, a wonderful husband, a supportive family and was travelling the world (both for business and pleasure.) I had a fantastic group of friends, a lovely house and a list of impressive hobbies which gave the impression that I was a balanced and happy individual.

I was not.

I first spoke with Sarah in October 2014. I remember one of her first questions was “when did drinking stop being fun for you?” I cannot pin point the day or the time, but I can tell you when the feeling shifted from wanting a sociable glass of wine or two after work with my colleagues to ‘wind down’ to NEEDING / DESERVING a drink for ANY reason – celebrating, commiserating, because I was tired, because I was happy, because I had gone for a run, because I had finished a big project at work, because I had done some housework, because I was on a long haul flight and needed to calm the nerves, because I was bored, because I wanted to punish myself.

I realised that my feelings toward alcohol had shifted unhealthily – I could justify alcohol in just about ANY scenario and more often than not, I used it to numb and to forget – sometimes I did not even know why and what I was trying to forget.

By the time I spoke with Sarah, I had attempted to ‘give up’ alcohol on my own and had managed successfully for about two months before starting again during a holiday. My consumption increased steadily throughout 2014 until I realised how negative it had become, and how I recognised that I was essentially craving a drug – despite knowing it wasn’t doing me any good.

In tandem, my weight slowly crept up and my previous size 10/12 sporty figure increasingly resembled an unfit and flabby size 14. I felt awful about myself, so I drank. I woke up with a hangover, ate an inordinate amount of carbs and then ‘punished’ myself by numbing myself with a bottle of wine (or more like 2 in the end) and then consciously and willingly repeated the torture one day at a time.

I began to grow increasingly withdrawn from my friends and my husband – this was easily excused for a couple of months because I was working very long hours and travelling extensively. I became very skilled at hiding a hangover (and hiding the amount I was drinking.) I would manage to have perhaps two drinks on an evening with friends and then drink at least two mini bottles of wine (mini really meaning 187ml x 2) on the train home and then casually wander to the shop to purchase a bottle of wine that I would drink at home, alone on the sofa, watching rubbish TV whilst my husband was asleep. I would often fall asleep on the sofa, waking up in an awkward position at about 3am. I would crawl upstairs, sleep in my own bed for 3 hours and then awake with a hangover but expertly cover it up (pretending I was simply tired and had been working late) and then start again.

The minute I spoke to Sarah, I felt relief. When I answered her question honestly and explained that drinking did not feel fun for me anymore, I felt liberated. It was so good to speak with someone who did not judge me, did not excuse or condone my behaviour and did not chastise me for my actions. I am an intelligent woman – I do not need someone pointing out that my pattern of behaviour is unhealthy, but likewise I do not need someone to tell me that I work in a stressful environment and DESERVE to let my hair down occasionally.

My 6 week journey with Sarah was a tremendously positive and cathartic experience. Writing down my thoughts at the end of every day made me reflect on my emotions and understand my triggers. The process helped me reconnect with the art of writing – I realised that I loved to write and missed writing for writing’s sake. I realised quickly how much more energy I had without the booze. My creativity re-emerged and my emotions too. It was as if I could finally see the world in technicolour and hear life in surround sound – both beautiful melodies and discordant tones. Sometimes this felt overwhelming.

After about two weeks of my alcohol free trial (that is how it initially felt for me), I went on holiday with my husband. Long haul flights were a big trigger for me. I used to love having a glass of champagne or two in the airport lounge, one on the plane before take-off (it would be rude not to if offered, right?) and then copious drinks during the flight (because I don’t like flying, obviously!) How would I cope without my crutch on a plane for 8+ hours?

I remember feeling initially so resentful and grumpy but Sarah reminded me to “play the tape right to the end” and picture how great I would feel stepping off the plane feeling hangover free, hydrated, relaxed and ready to maximise Day 1 of our precious holiday. She was right!

In those 42 days, I successfully navigated many occasions and triggers that would usually involve a lot of alcohol – long flights, leisurely evenings watching the sun set on holiday, my birthday, Christmas, new year, award ceremonies and work events, friend’s engagements, birthdays, baby showers etc.

This was all possible with Sarah’s help and my own brain too – for that is the beauty of CBT – YOU change your own negative self-talk – no-one else.

This was critical for me. I am not someone who listens to other’s instructions easily (ask my husband!) I needed to find an approach that would work with me – the strong willed, slightly rebellious and fiercely independent person that I am.

I have been free from alcohol for just over four months now and my life is very different. It does not look much different on the outside. But the key is that now I do not give a hoot what my life looks like on the outside!
I can tell you categorically that on the inside, I feel truly grateful and really proud of what I have. I have a great career which I enjoy so much more now that I have a clear head, I have a wonderful husband who I now talk to properly and spend quality time with – not semi-comatosed on the sofa slurring next to in the evening. He has been gracious enough to stop drinking since the day I did – and I am thankful for his encouragement and backing every single day. My family have continued to be supportive and have hugely reduced their own alcohol consumption around me. I am still travelling the world for business but make the most of it now – relishing the opportunity to take photographs and walk around new cities – rather than sit in the non-descript hotel bar. I have enjoyed two holidays with my husband since being alcohol free and have felt more relaxed more quickly than ever before AND I remember each day! I have a fantastic group of friends who I see because I want to see them, not because they enable me to drink. Each and every one I have told so far about my decision to be free of alcohol have been nothing but encouraging and showed great pride in me, not judged me for it. I am still blessed with a lovely house which now truly feels like a home. I really look forward to returning to it each evening after work – rather than spending my previous time in a bar. As for the hobbies, well – I now have the time and energy to re-ignite my passion for sport, writing, reading, photography, music etc.

As for how I look, the weight has steadily and healthily come off (12lbs so far in 4 months), my skin is glowing and I feel really good about me.

For the first time in a long time, I feel that balance has been well and truly restored.

This has been one of the most positive experiences of my life thus far. I have learned so much and can only encourage you to not consider what you are ‘giving up’ but consider what you could gain from making one of the most important investments you could make – investing in you and all you can and will be without this insidious and sneaky drug better known as alcohol.

Naomi’s Story