I have been found out. Yep, no longer able to hide behind functioning alcoholic… now just alcoholic. Intervention has been staged and I rattle inside my house as my mess is mopped up behind me. The MO’s birthday ruined by the dry retching he can hear and the tears that steadily fall. The kids still here but being looked after by a ‘sound’ adult. A GP review has confirmed I need help and I await to self refer on Monday to a local organisation. I can’t face an AA meeting tonight. Maybe tomorrow. I tried to discharge the brakes as I landed but they wouldn’t budge. The final blackout too much for my fragile mind to contend with. Like sailors on the dockside, watching their boat submerge “she’s going under chaps! She’s going under!”, my brain cells giving way. I can’t speak these words. Only write them. I can’t stop the tremors or quieten the heart but somewhere, in between those clouds, a glint of light catches my eye. This is my rock bottom. I have found it at last.
The tension mounts but the pressure drops and the sky darkens. Gusts blow post-winter debris along the ground and birds stop singing. I know that from somewhere deep within I am going to blow. Where’s my blue sky?? Where’s my fucking blue sky?! I am stuck in dark clouds, they are everywhere. Under my feet, above my head, they are suffocating. As the heart rate quickens, the tears prick the eyes and I feel caged within my own mind. I can’t penetrate the bubble that everyone else is in, the laughter so loud, so shrill. I can’t laugh. I don’t know how to laugh. What happened? How did this suddenly arise? At what point? Which comment? Which thought? And like a train bound to crash, I know I can’t get off. I grab at a passing reason. No, not that one.. that one doesn’t fit.. that’s not why.. what about that one? No, although it might be plausible than the other. Is it hormonal? Is it overwhelm? Am I tired? I feel anxiety and anger, I feel resentment, I feel fear..and at the same time I feel numb.
At this point I would reach for a drink. Drink through it… ‘just keep drinking, just keep drinking’; not sure Dory would approve. The paranoia continues to mount like some determined mountaineer. ‘Take a break’, I whisper, ‘take a fucking break’.. ‘Oh no young Chloe, no breaks for me.. we’re on a roll!!.. We are going to reach the peak!’. I don’t have the energy for the peak. Not enough sustenance inside of me, I didn’t pack enough protein bars. I panic, I run home and I hide.
These moments punctuate my life in fits and starts. Hard for anyone to understand, including me. I know from past experience though that this is my ‘me’ talking. This is gut instinct yelling at me that something is wrong. That I am not listening. I think I know but I don’t want to hear it. It used to be come-downs from alcohol, or not getting enough sleep, or pride, or ego. So how do I know what it is this time? Which me do I trust?
The more I strip back, the more I face, the more raw and vulnerable I feel. The problem with not self medicating like I used to, is that now I have to face all the Chloe’s in one. And that is no mean feat. I want to line them all up and remove the ones I don’t like. Slowly, I hope to merge the others I do like into just one. Like bits of mismatched play doh… all the same substance but different colours… moulding them together. Making a version of me that I love and am happy with so that in time, others can be happy with me too.
After much to-ing and fro-ing I have come to a decision. I am going sober. No more postulating, no more indecision. There will be those that question my decision and I haven’t yet gone out out but here are the whys and wherefores that have contributed to this conclusion.
(Disclaimer: this has frank accounts of my past alcohol driven behaviour. I am ok with this).
To those that say “but you weren’t that bad”, “it’s not like you were an alcoholic or anything”, let’s pick that apart a little.
What constitutes as ‘that bad’?
Being raped at 21 by someone I knew because I was so drunk I had passed out and fallen asleep? And those close to me at the time, told me that it was not really likely to be rape, because let’s face it ‘that’s the sort of thing you do when you’re drunk’. A little bad?
I reckon the time I nearly lost my now husband due to being drunk, was pretty bad.
Or the time that I was 22, living in the Santa Cruz mountains and working for an American friend with the sole responsibility of looking after her 8 months old baby at a conference she was attending (she was pretty high up in the company). I had gone to the bar and had a few more than just a couple, ended up singing in a karoake with her work colleagues and then had to be led back to a hotel room by a security guard as he was worried I was about to disappear with some dodgy bloke who was giving me a light for a cigarette. I have no recollection apart from attempting to sing an Eurythmics song (ridiculous I know, who the hell can manage to sing like Annie Lennox?). The shame the next day was dire. That sparked off my first foray to AA. Again, quite bad.
Or the time in my mid 20’s when I passed out on the Bakerloo line and must have travelled the entire route from Wembley to Elephant Castle about 4 bloody times before I was kicked off the train. I couldn’t see or walk straight and had to sit in a shop doorway. A strange but kind man who lived up the shop came down with a duvet and radio and sat with me until I realised I really had to try and get home. I then managed to put 2 and 2 together and got to a phonebox, I rang my then (also verging alkie) much older boyfriend who told me to get a cab to his and he would pay. Something clicked and I realised there was a bank. And I had a bank card. And I had money in my account. This resulted in a lightbulb moment (took 2 hours to reach) and was able to pay for my own cab back. There were also quite a few ‘waking up on a cold bench in a closed railway station’ scenarios. I’d like to think that not only was that bad but also pretty fucking stupid.
And more recently, well yeah I would agree that more recently I didn’t binge drink that often, but the thoughts of wine were frequent. I would rather sit at home and drink than make the effort to go out and drink. I felt safer drinking indoors (due to aforementioned ‘bad’ behaviour). I would look forward to getting home and having some wine. If we were at a friends it would worry me if the wine was running out. I would check to see if I was drinking too fast. Thank god for the friends who would drink more and faster. I would struggle not to drink wine every night. And if I did manage a few days then my god did I go on about it.
The thing is, I want to move on. If I make a mistake or sound like a tit, then I am going to own it! A sober tit if you please.
To the “just cut down, don’t drink so much” crew?
Er.. no. Because that means I have to constantly self moderate. Is that enough? Do I want more? Can I have more? Am I being an arse? Would I have said that sober? When you have to put that many thought processes either before, during or after an event such as lifting a glass of alcohol to your lips, then I don’t think that event is worth it. I’m getting older, I need my brain cells to actually fire and connect. I want to feel mentally and physically fitter. When I drink alcohol, even for just one evening out of seven, I feel dumber. The next day I am tired, emotional, stressed and anxious. I have three children and I don’t want them thinking that my drinking patterns were normal. If we are in a society where the amount I drank and the thoughts surrounding my drinking, are considered ‘normal’, then we really need to get a grip. My MO’s friend asked.. “what happens if you go to a really big party, won’t you drink then?”. My MO replied, “she doesn’t need to get drunk to get crazy, she already is crazy”. My eldest two have told me that they prefer me sober. That speaks (painful) volumes.
Some might say that I am very brave to put this to paper on a public forum. Yep, probably. They might add that I will regret doing so. No. I don’t think so. Our country has some of the worst statistics when it comes to the drinking culture, However, this is apparently lessening according to the Office for National Statistics. There are certainly more alcohol free drinks in the supermarket aisles than I have ever seen in my lifetime. Public Health England have a campaign about reducing alcohol consumption, and most are aware, that should alcohol be introduced as a new drug, it would be banned. So if my ‘sharing’ is uncomfortable for you, then ask yourself why? Coz I am ok with it. If reading my blog means that just one person is tempted to look at their own drinking behaviour, then it means some good has come of it. Will I now go around bleating rhetoric every time one of my friends drink? Don’t be daft! I might be a little envious that they are still able to enjoy it, I might leave a party a little earlier (“how is that even possible?” I hear my friends laugh… yeah okay, you can have that one) but at least I won’t be passed out. Getting The Horrors the next morning, wondering who I have offended or what twattish thing I have done now. So if I am there with you whilst you drink, don’t worry that I am judging you, but equally don’t judge me for being sober because I am happy with my decision. I feel relieved and ready for my new chapter.
Good arvo all…
I‘ve been reading back through my blog entries.. I am a bit of a twit aren’t I? Suppose I ought to apologise or something but to be honest, it is my propensity to twitness that keeps me going.
I am currently 27 days sober as part of my Dry January pledge and today, as I am making my thousandth attempt to reshape my body, I took MO with me to ParkRun in Worthing. We had a good old chat about the fact that he wouldn’t be stopping constantly as Mum really is training to be an athlete after all and needs to work on her.. erm.. form and stamina. He agreed he would either keep up or let me run ahead. Unfortunately his anxiety got the better of him which meant we stopped. Quite a bit. And then… after I had faithfully stuck with him despite crying inside.. the little sod SPRINTED to the end. Leaving his poor bloody mother struggling with her calf muscles seizing up (because she had stopped and started so many times), coming in 19 secs behind him! The absolute audacity. So that’s it. He is banned from ever running with me ever again.
I have also decided that as I am nearing to the end of January, I am now going to be do 100 days dry. I haven’t felt this healthy since I was born and even then I was on the verge of malnourishment at one point apparently, so in fact one could say that I am literally the healthiest I have EVER been. I am still wobbly and rotund (the LO loves telling me that I still have a fat belly, each and every time he gets the opportunity. He now lives outside.). Even Mr P has been sober (although he admitted to two small (large) gins last night at a friend’s house. I gave him a particularly pitying look and nodded in a very understanding, albeit sanctimonious, way. He is now currently out on a bike that he has rescued from underneath a tarpaulin at the end of the garden. I have no idea how well it works. Guess time will tell. If he’s not back this evening I shall presume that either it collapsed mid-pedal or he just cycled to the pub and is refusing to leave.
I have found a great FB group that is really supportive and not at all preaching or judgey. Which is great because I already have children who are willing to fulfil that requirement. If anyone (like literally anyone) is actually reading this and needs/wants to address their relationship with alcohol.. I recommend reading a couple of books that I have read recently (This Naked Mind – by Annie Grace and Alcohol Explained – by William Porter). Also joining a FB group might be more your cup of tea than joining another well known anonymous group. Plus if you join the Dry January challenge, you can set it for a year and see the little tea cups mounting up as you tick off the days. Marvellous.
Not drinking has made me address a lot of things. My dependence on alcohol as a social crutch, a stress crutch, a relaxing crutch. I knew my consumption was mounting but I was also aware that so were my stress levels. My inability to just be content. The constant striving to do the next thing. In the past 3 weeks I have had time to contemplate about the changes that being sober bring upon you. Yes it can be hard and frustrating and with that brings the resounding resentment but this is usually in fits and starts and abates as the time goes on. I wake in the morning feeling glorious in the knowledge that I am not hungover. That if I feel shit it’s because I just happen to feel shit. That I haven’t brought it upon myself and with that I shoot yet another arrow at the Shitty Guilt Fairy who usually resides on my shoulder. In fact.. the SGF has been pretty scarce recently. She does rear her head as the drinking memories flood in whilst driving to uni or as I do some house work. “Remember the time you passed out at so and so’s birthday party”, “remember the time you promised the kids you’d go somewhere but couldn’t because you were hungover”. I have told her to do one.. and her voice gets a little bit more tinny and pathetic as the weeks go on. I reckon she is going to have sign-on soon.. see how she likes the queues at the local Job Centre, that’ll piss her off. With her becoming more absent, I have become more present. I am starting to like myself. Those of you who know me will know that I struggle with self-esteem, despite appearing so confident. I like to jump up and down on it with studded shoes. The first 30 or so years of my life, I made a lot of bad decisions to cope with feelings of failure and resembling a misfitting puzzle piece and a lot of those decisions were fuelled by drinking too hard or any other form of self-destruction I could lay my hands on. For the first time as I looked into a mirror whilst getting ready for an exam I had this week, I actually looked into my eyes and told myself that I was doing ok. That ‘Chloe’ was alright. That finally the child who felt worthless at times, or neglected, or just plain odd.. was ok. That she was winning. Tears streamed down my face. A sense of control has taken hold. A sense of who I am has taken hold. A sense of being ok has taken hold. For the first time ever, I feel capable of doing whatever I put my mind to, without the SGF whipping my back until I bleed tears.
For once. I am actually doing ok.