Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Today marks my first year of sobriety and I have to say I never in a million years expected to ever say that.
Even in the height of my wildest fantasies of a future me, the better, healthier, happier me was always a moderate drinker. One who could take it or leave it which was after all the original goal.
When I embarked on the 30 Day Sugar detox, which I only did in order to mask the fact that I wanted to figure out a way to control my booze without anyone knowing I was. My plan was to go cold turkey for a month, to reset my habits.
Towards the ends of the initial 30 days when I had begun fantasizing about having this elaborate carb heavy meal with my favorite bottle of Malbec I realized 30 days wasn’t enough so it turned into 90.
After 92 days of the Sugar Detox, I went to the supermarket, picked out something nice for dinner and picked out my favourite wine. I went home, cooked the something nice for dinner and enjoyed a lovely glass of Malbec with it. I only had one glass, and got on with me evening, back on the water.
The following day I woke up, and as I was taking Flash for his morning woody walk I decided I was going to enjoy a glass of Malbec with my lunch. I went to the shop, bought supplies and it wasn’t until I was unpacking my shopping that I realised I had bought another bottle of wine.
It terrified me that I had gone 92 days without a single drop, and quite honestly not thought about having any or wanting any. It had been out of my equation and therefore out of mind.
I had enjoyed sober living, which had included several visits to the pub none of which made me tempted even in the slightest and here I was, one day into drinking in moderation and I had on autopilot bought wine.
I tried to rationalise it to myself that scared me too as it is a very slippery slope.
Off the back of this, I decided not to drink any booze that day. I succeeded in doing this but boy was that a long day of feeling itchy on the inside.
I drank the rest of the first bottle the following night. I had spent all that day thinking about it again and by about 8pm I had given in and decided to just drink it because the head battle had become too exhausting.
By the end of that week I had had more drinking nights than sober ones and the weekend that proceeded this was more akin to my pre-detox days. If it wasn’t for the weight loss and the running regime it was almost as though the detox hadn’t even happened and I was miserable.
I felt more like a fraud and still people we’re congratulating me on having completed the detox and having lost 3 stones and here I was slightly hungover not able to meet theirs eyes through fear of them seeing right through my boozy bullshit.
The week that followed I started to get a handle on just how much brain space was being taken up by drinking in moderation. I wasn’t even drinking every night, and when I was drinking it was only a glass or two of wine. But it was the space it was taking up in my head that I was growing to despise and those old feelings of anxiety, the feelings I hadn’t felt since embarking on this journey had begun to resurface.
I volunteered for the Brighton marathon that year, got up bonkers early, went over to Preston Park and spent nearly 3 hours putting bags onto a lorry in some kind of coordinated effort. It was a wonderful atmosphere. I thoroughly enjoyed it all and afterwards I went straight to the supermarket, bought something for lunch and also bought two bottles of wine.
My nutrition up until day 93 had been spot on and healthy, in the 2 weeks preceding this it had slowly been put on the back-foot. Marathon day was no exception. I didn’t cook the dinner had planned to and instead I drank both bottles of wine and not only did I feel completely anxious but I was the loneliest I had felt since Boxing Day.
I got up the following day, feeling like utter rubbish. I had in just two weeks started reverting back to my former self.
Thing is when I was strictly not allowed booze for the detox it did not bother me, yet when I was allowed it I couldn’t stop thinking about it whether I was drinking that day or not.
This had to stop and the solution was simple.
So I Quit.
The hard part was telling people.
I mean lets be fair I had created an entirely new challenge in running the marathon and gone on a sugar detox specifically so I didn’t have to tell people what I was actually doing. But, if I was going full time, full on T total I was going to have to say something.
I had, thankfully, tested the waters on this.
Two thirds of the way into my detox, my ex had popped round for a cup of tea and a cuddle with Flash. He and I had split amicably, and though I had been utterly heartbroken, I was over it by then. We split because it is the right thing to do. If we had carried on as a couple we would have hated ourselves and each other. So there we were trying to find our way to friendship in the shape of popping over to my place for a cuppa.
He asked how the detox was going and I told him the real reason why I was on it. I said ‘I have been using booze to self medicate for years and though I wasn’t always drinking every day, or drinking heavily when I was, it had been on my mind and at times gotten out of control entirely.’ I wasn’t sure what I was expecting him to say to this. Our relationship had been mostly about going to the pub or drinking at his flat. So much so, that when I told my sister I was going to hang out with him, knowing that I wasn’t drinking at that point, she said ‘but what will you do?’
He knew I drank heavily. He had seen me in a drunken stupor often enough and often enough he had been right there drunk with me.
He nodded. Said he could understand that and then went back to praising me for my hard work before crying with laughter when I accidentally said the Neapolitan diet instead of Paleo.
I didn’t say anything to him at the time but I had been over the moon at his reaction, this had been what I had hoped for.
This had given me the strength and courage I then came to rely upon when I had taken a deep breath and started telling people.
It did not go well.
Though it did make me realise just how well he knows and respects me that he immediately took it for what it was without question. It’s one of the reasons I had always been keen to remain friends with him. Having people in my life that love me enough to water me and let me grow for myself, not pluck me, stick me in a vase then throw me away when I inevitably wilted.
When I started telling people mostly their responses were
‘But you don’t drink that much.’
‘But your not an alcoholic’
‘But you don’t need booze to get you through the day’
‘You don’t have a problem though’
The people that said these and similar things we’re either trying to be kind towards me by playing down what I was telling them, or they associated this with looking at their own habits and didn’t want to have that flashlight aimed at them.
The effect it had on me was troublesome because it reminded me of the numerous conversations I had had with my dad many years before.
My parents split, my narc dad gaslit me into believing it was my fault mum left, my fault I couldn’t persuade her to come home and my responsibility to look after my younger sisters. I developed the eating disorders as a coping mechanism then I took to drinking the booze from the sideboard as a coping mechanism for the eating disorders I had developed.
And here I was being reminded of my dad’s dismiss attitude about my mental ill health.
When I had been at the height of my eating disorders, and taking a dangerous amount of laxatives to try to purge my body. Where he would tell me I didn’t have a problem and I just needed to cheer up and stop eating.
With him, I had been 16 years old desperately sick and being emotionally neglected. I had, reached a point of such desperation that I threw the entire content on my bedside cabinet at him, dozens and dozens of blister packs of laxatives. Some empty, some full, some loose tablets all just flying everywhere like an arc of shining misery falling at his feet. And I strongly suspect that the only reason this had worked was because he had not been able to dismiss my violent outburst like he had been able to dismiss my tears and my words.
I didn’t like being reminded about that point in my life, but at the same time I couldn’t shake how perfect it was, that this decision to stop drinking permanently had evoked the very memory of the time in my life when I had started drinking in the first place.
To quote from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
‘I open at the close.’ only for me it felt like ‘I close at the open’
I let that thought wash over me and in the end I embraced that memory as I embraced the responses from everyone around me.
They didn’t understand, and why would they? I do not fit the stereotypical notion of an alcoholic.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have a problem. I have always had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol as I used it to self medicate. I was expecting it to make me feel better although it never did. I kept on believing it would, my own cognitive dissonance.
When my ex split up with me, almost 18 months ago now, the moment he left my flat I was out the door myself almost running to the shop to buy several bottles of wine, even though I had already bought two bottles before he came round, half knowing what was about to happen. I got drunk and I pretty much got drunk every night for the next 6 weeks. I was functioning in society but I was also drinking heavily. My heart was completely broken and I have never felt the pain of a break up like it. The only thing that seemed to help was crying, drinking and eating junk.
In contrast to this, four weeks ago I took Flash to the vets because he has a very prominent limp and lump. I was told the worst news a pet owner could get. Flash has a soft tissue malignant tumor. It’s inoperable. The only thing we can do is relieve the pain but once the pain meds stop working or the tumor grows I will be faced with the most painful decision of my life. He is 13 years old, he and I have been together for 12 and a half years. I walked home from that outwardly sobbing (I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve I wear it like a coat).
This hurt significantly more than the break up.
Three days after I found out this news it suddenly occurred to me that at no point did I think about having a drink. I hadn’t thought about doing anything self destructive in the slightest.
And I was once all about hitting self destruct.
In the wake of such horrible news, that was the silver lining. If anything was going to make me drink it was this, and it didn’t.
Though I’m living every day with Flash half wondering if that will be his last, a heart ache more exhausting than running a marathon.
I am also finally at peace with myself.
I am finally the woman I have spent 20 years fantasizing about becoming. I am healthy, I am happy and I am strong. Plus I have the best dog in the world currently trying to fit on my lap whilst sniffing my eyebrow.