I have drunk happy, sad and started to drink myself round the bend after over 20 years of a nightly bottle, or two. It started probably, in my mind, before I even took the first sip. As a child of a strict, religious and probably quite controlling upbringing I knew that my ‘escape’ at 18 would be marked with getting really pissed. And it was, and as I found the escape into being someone who was witty, funny and fell over a lot I thought I had found the panacea for all my ills – for all my insecurities – hah, just get pissed; for feeling like the odd one out – a quick few pints and I was as well integrated into any party as the rest; for learning to be an adult – well I had no idea how to do that one, so I just sank another.. and another.. and another. Good time party girl, could drink any man under the table. And under that table I remained, thinking every night I cant rise above until I’ve had a bottle of wine.
Stupid thing was that I spent nearly 20 years looking for myself, for peace, for happiness and I never found it at the bottom of the bottle. I saw the adverts that showed women like me being glamorous, funny and letting go (but just a bit) of their inhibitions – so why did I always end up like some vomity Worzel Gummidge. Laughing as I fell and threw up into a Wheelie Bin – that was fun and glamorous wasn’t it??
So why was I so sad inside, counting the units every night to try and make sure I drove to work under the limit, how on earth did I hold down quite a successful career and bring up 3 children I’ll never understand. But underneath it all, every day, like some mercenary parasite was the little voice “it’ll all be ok after that bottle” and was it? No, I was just drowning out the little voice, the stress and the sadness.
Do I consider myself an alcoholic – not sure really. I spent the first years of my career working with street drinkers and chronic alcoholics who drank themselves to death, I wasn’t like them was I? My choice of anaesthetic was Shiraz not Denim After-Shave (and yes I did work with a man who drank that – he smelled lovely but had a serious case of Korsakov’s Wet Brain). I think for me, it was the intent that went with it all – that it wasn’t for the taste, the enjoying times with friends, it was to drown all those feelings I couldn’t deal with.
Even through some major and traumatic losses in my life, one as a direct cause of my drinking I still turned to the bottle because it was the only way I knew how to cope with hard and difficult feelings. Wine turned from being my good-time friend to my tormentor – the feelings of self hate, the shame I felt – “if only people knew how awful and weak you really are” would be the little voice inside that got louder with each drink. And I thought I could stop, maybe cut down but I didn’t know how, and each time I tried and failed I felt like I would never be free of it. Like a charming con-man who becomes a tormentor, so became wine’s hold on me.
And I did manage some sober times, like some marathon runner waiting for the relief of the finish line – I would hold off drinking for a month, or two, I even managed three after doing the Alan Carr one-day workshop – but as I got to the end of the ‘sober marathon’ I would spend the next few weeks catching up in style.
So why did it have to stop? Because I got to over 40 and realised that there was no way beyond without doing so, because some days I drove to work knowing I was too near to the drink-driving limit (and hungover to boot) to be safe, because I was sick of it all. But I couldn’t see the life without my wine, I live in a society where all things associated with relaxing are also inextricably entangled with a good skin-full of the most expensive and beautifully bottled poison. Because I had to, because if I wanted to start to live I had to face life in real.
Enter Sarah (ta,da) – real, warm and beautifully honest woman. She might tell you the hard stuff, but that’s just what I needed.
Did you know that it takes 6 weeks to even clear this stuff from your system, and that that 6 weeks is a roller coaster of emotions (you know, the ones that have been stuffed down for so many years). But Sarah’s approach is calm, assured and loving – (Sometimes we all need a good bit of old fashioned love it’s one of the things that we have been missing for a long time) – and she shows you how to start being kind to yourself – dammit I might even start to think about learning to love myself! Maybe that’s what I needed after all.
But what I also needed was a guide through the storm, I knew that my very clever neurology had created such a strong link between feeling sad and lonely and ‘curing’ it with a swift and large glass of the very best red. I suspect that even after the re-wiring job currently underway, I will always have that neurological link in my brain and for me wine will not be something that works for me in any setting, and I’m increasingly less sad about that fact, whereas at first I could not imagine ever ‘enjoying’ sober merely tolerating it (you may recall I had a particular hang up about being the odd one out).
I am just over three months sober, and apparently a much nicer person to live with. I haven’t yet lost the three stone I was hoping to (!!!) but I look into the mirror and feel generally OK with the woman smiling back at me. What worked with the Harrogate Sanctuary approach was on many levels, but the sane voice of calm through my storm of getting sober was the biggest thing. The daily emails helped me to start to unravel what damage alcohol had done to a fragile self-esteem, and understand what drove me to seek solace in a bottle of red. The knowing I could text Sarah, when the ‘off-licence’ voice was shouting strong. The way I was heard and valued even during my silly strops about not being ‘allowed’ to drink.
I’m still early in this journey, and I have really appreciated the way that Sarah ‘never goes away’ (her own words!) and has responded to my panicked emails about feeling like giving it all up for a swift night of obliteration. One thing I have truly learned is that physically getting sober is just the start, because all that time I was drinking I was failing to grow up. So the work starts……..to grow up (I believe it is called ‘emotional sobriety’ in the AF world!). I’ve found underneath that I do have some problems with being able to cope with bad emotions, but rather than running away, I’m facing up to them and learning to learn to live with and understand them.
I’m so happy that I decided to do this, it hasn’t been easy, and I know there are many things I need to learn to deal with and to live with being happy and alcohol-free. But it is so worth it, to wake up every day without regretting what I did or said. People keep telling me I’m looking so well… the three stone can wait because I’ve got my life to live and I’ll say in honesty I was not living for a long time.