Convincing other people we have a problem…

It’s hard sometimes to convince other people that we have a problem with booze. They might see us have the occasional bender at a wedding or party, or know that we like to crack a wine open when visitors arrive… but for them that doesn’t necessarily spell ‘big problem’. Especially if we are managing to hold down our lives and achieve most things we need to achieve on a day-to-day basis.

I know most of my friends and family were shocked when I announced I had a problem with alcohol and was giving up drinking forever. They knew I was fond of my wines, but they had no idea I was waging an intense internal battle with myself about alcohol.

This wasn’t the fault of the people around me. Of course they relied on outward signs of trouble to know there was a problem. Otherwise how would they know! I was running my life very well, looking after our kids and keeping the household ticking over. I was working part-time, studying to do my Masters, even going to the gym semi-regularly. High functioning to the max! Why would anyone suspect I was an alcoholic?

Because they weren’t in my brain.

They weren’t inside my head at 3am when I woke time and again feeling hungover, guilty and miserable. They weren’t in my head at 10am when I was beating myself up for over-indulging yet again the night before. They weren’t in my head at 12pm when I was beginning to convince myself that maybe I wasn’t that bad. They weren’t in my head at 3pm when I was making the decision to buy more wine. They weren’t in my head at 5pm when I started fizzing as the alcohol hit my brain. They weren’t in my head at 9pm when I was inebriated, zoned out and numb. And they weren’t in my head when I woke up at 3am hungover, guilty and miserable again.

They weren’t in my head when I went through this 24-hour cycle over and over and over and over many thousands of times.

No-one was in my head but me.

So frankly, convincing others that I had problem wasn’t a priority for me. Sorting out my own head was.

Even now I’ve been sober for over 3 years (and have written a book about my problem and blog about it left, right and centre!) I still sometimes have this crazy notion that I need to prove my alcoholic credentials. I can do this by trotting out vomiting stories, highlighting just how much wine I would drink week after week, pointing out exactly how obsessed I was with drinking, ramming home how stifled my whole experience of life was… but frankly it’s just dumb that I feel the need to do this.

I don’t need to convince others that I had a problem. It is a complete side issue to the main issue which is me needing to sort my own shit out. I have to keep my eye on that prize. My sobriety is about my relationship with myself, and my relationship with alcohol. My recovery is, although often carried out in public, deeply personal and intimate.

It’s about what I know, and what I feel. And what I know is that I feel one million trillion percent happier, healthier, calmer and more proud now that I am not necking wine like it’s going out of fashion.

I’m convinced of that.

Love, Mrs D xxx

  1. KAM 8 years ago

    This is awesome. Its a daily struggle for me having to convince other family members or friends that I have a problem. So I stopped. Partly because I don’t feel I should have to convince anyone. If I say its a problem then they should believe it. But the other part is because its MY STRUGGLE! Its MY DECISION. Its not an easy struggle or an easy decision but its mine. And for the most part (with the exception of a few shitty hormonal weeks) I’m damn proud of it!

  2. janus 8 years ago

    Funny what our head just screams at us. I am constantly battling those thoughts. I dont have to convince anyone else they all Know-its me that I have to convince. Have the constant “head chatter” your ok your dont have a problem. So far that aint working for me. This is me at the moment
    I walk down a street
    There is a deep hole in the pavement
    I fall in. I am helpless
    It isnt my fault
    It takes forever to find a way out!!!!!!!!
    Thanks Mrs D

  3. Jules45 8 years ago

    @Mrs D, how do you always do that…putting into such true and eloquent words, just what I am feeling or going through at whatever stage of my sober journey I’m at?! Spooky 🙂

    You are so right’ we hid it so we’ll that no one knew just how bad things had got insíde our skulls. Even my husband, who agreed I could do with cutting down, seems to think I can go on a break from sobriety for a big week long family reunion we have in July. 7 1/2 months sober, and I feel I need to justify that this is me from here on in?! And then just sometimes that sneaky like booze hag voice joins them and I I have to remind that little b-arch what things used to be like.

    How blissfully calm the inside of my head is these days 🙂

    • Natalie 8 years ago

      Mrs D,
      I am 53 days sober! I am currently a day client in a alcohol recovery program in Wellys. I am a single Mum of two girls with my own business (that I’m still managing to run from rehab ha!). Although it is early days, my program and your experience has shown me that it is possible to give up alcohol and still have a reason to ‘get up in the morning’ 🙂 Do you ever come to Wellington? Could you come in to speak? They are a great bunch of people (it has surprised me how much I have come to care about them in just a few weeks). I know they would respond to your cool, candid approach, your unique perspective. If you can send me an email to the above email address, that would be great. Although I’m sure you have 100s of emails to wade through these days. Cheers, Natalie

  4. elhall 8 years ago

    My sister has been an awesome support for me so far. I’m 18 days sober. I think she didn’t really think I had a problem to begin with but now she’s become accepting of my choice to be alcohol-free. It’s hard for her to understand what getting sober is like since she’s a “normie”. I decided to send her Mrs. D’s book to give her some perspective, since it’s hard for me to put into words all of the feelings that come up in early sobriety. Thank you Mrs. D for sharing your story. Not only has it helped me, but sharing it with family helps them understand as well.

  5. mski 8 years ago

    Today is my 36th day of sobriety. I don’t believe any of my friends or family members would agree with me that I am an alcoholic. It’s due in part because I would go to great lengths to hide my excessive drinking, but it is also because they cannot see the shame, guilt, anxiety, and constant battles that took place within myself everyday. Thank you Lotta for this post and being such an inspiration to so many.

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      great you are here @mski.. have you been in the members feed? Congrats on 36 days!! xxx

  6. Caroline 8 years ago


    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      🙂 🙂

  7. ginger60 8 years ago

    Fabulous post Mrs. D!

    I remember when my sister, whom I drank with announced to the family that she was an alcoholic (15 years ago) and that she would be abstaining from drink. I think that I came against her and tried to convince her that she wasn’t an alcoholic until I found out that after she left my house she continued on in her drinking. Just to clarify, I wasn’t ‘needing the drink’ at that point yet. I didn’t see half of what she divulged to us and I think it was because she was a ‘high functioning’ alcoholic.

    I think this is why I’m reluctant in telling anyone including my husband that I was on a slippery slope to destruction. Its just too much explaining and quite frankly this is none of anyone’s business and its my journey!

    I like how @Mac007 said it:
    “It takes hard work and you don’t need to waste energy to convince others you are doing good for you. Heck, we have already wasted enough energy and years convincing others and ourselves we were ok when we weren’t!”

    • Augusta 8 years ago

      There is so much angst that comes from the deceit of being a secret drinker and many of us did a good job at keeping it from our family and friends. It confirms that there is now all this energy to spend on our wonderful new life once we become sober. . “Waging an intense internal battle” sums it up. It was exhausting.

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      wow @ginger60 that’s amazing you’ve got a sister in long-term recovery! Must give you great strength. Wonderful that you are getting sober now yourself, hope you are doing ok xxx

  8. Anonymous 8 years ago

    This is a brilliant piece. I think that it is so crazy we have to convince others that we have a problem with alcohol, in order to justify our perfectly valid choice to not drink it. Isn’t that just MAD?? It’s like others are disquieted by seeing someone making different choices, that they need to make their own behaviour seem normal by making my choice not to drink seem like a great big over reaction to a non-problem. It’s weird, very weird. Having said that, I don’t give a rats arse what anyone else thinks, because living without booze is so, so, so much better and this is MY life.

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      I don’t give a rats arse either anonymous!! Love that phrase!! xx

  9. Ali thompson 8 years ago

    For me convincing others wasn’t a priority or a need. I knew I had to get sober to be able to live again.

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      yep Ali, sounds much like me. xx

  10. Switchedon 8 years ago

    Thanks @Mrs-D this is a good one. There is that old thing we often hear that if you have to ask yourself or others or an on-line questionnaire or whomever if you have a problem with alcohol then you have a problem. You are right, it is the headspace freedom, the freedom from exhausting worry about booze that is the best thing. Maybe that is a problem to others, maybe it isn’t – but if we are happier, healthier and freer without alcohol then why would we choose to stay unhappy, unhealthy and locked in our own personal hell? Of course I get others saying that they don’t think there is a problem – I would have said it myself to others because if they really had a problem then I had a problem – ouch!

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      yeah I think that’s the other thing @switchedon… sometimes it’s also quite confronting for those around us when we announce our drinking is a problem and we’re stopping.. but with that too I just couldn’t put any energy into worrying what others were thinking, doing or saying around me. I knew my truth. xx

  11. Seizetheday 8 years ago

    I knew I had a problem for years. I was drinking so much morning to night. I told my husband, my sister in law, my doctor, my therapist, my chiropractor, a couple of friends… They all laughed at me because I was functioning, appeared “composed”, kids were “clean and tidy”…
    They each said there’s no way I was an alcoholic. I was so miserable with booze controlling my life. My wake up time was 1:30… And I’d maybe get back to sleep at 6 for half hour if I was lucky.
    The one thing I do know is that alcoholics have amazing determination to keep going when you’re so so hungover n tired.
    I was desperate for someone to hear me
    But finally I realised how deeply personal the decision is. I’ve hardly told anyone about my 8 months of sobriety I am so proud of – coz no one realised how addicted I was in the first place.
    That’s why this place is so precious to me – we all do get it, ultimately we’re doing this for our own precious selves
    So thank u Lotta, always

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      hey @seizetheday, hope you sleep right through 1.30am nowadays?? 8 months is awesome you should be very proud xxx

  12. Mac007 8 years ago

    The poker face. Seen from the outside its shows no sign from the turmoil within!

    In your head, it’s only you.

    Your body is ‘you’. Your head is ‘you’, and your heart and soul is all ‘you’.
    No-one else’s!

    I total agree with Lotta, that it is not a priority to explain, convince others.
    The priority is to look after you.

    It takes hard work and you don’t need to waste energy to convince others you are doing good for you. Heck, we have already wasted enough energy and years convincing others and ourselves we were ok when we weren’t!

    When that turmoil turns to calm, its ‘you’ that feels it.

    And the most amazing thing is, that you will shine on the outside when it does.

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      @mac007 you have such a way with words!! Hope your wedding is going well.. look forward to hearing all about it my friend xxx

  13. Momentsofgrace 8 years ago

    I regularly question whether I actually have a problem with wine and whether I’m over thinking my relationship with alcohol, which is what my husband and best friend tell me. On top of that I actually work in a hospital and see first hand the “real” alcoholics who are brought into ED every day. The ones who have well and truly hit rock bottom. The ones who have been living in squalor or hiding out from their children and families in hotel rooms so they can drink. The ones with puffy faces and damaged livers. The ones who discharge themselves against medical advice because they just want to keep drinking. Sometime I see them as proof that I don’t have a problem because I’m not where they are. Most days, however, I look at those patients with nothing but compassion in my heart because I understand the pull of alcohol. Most days I see their lives as a warning of what alcohol could do to me and those around me if I don’t change. And as you said Mrs D, the only thing that matters is my relationship with myself and how I feel when I put my head on my pillow each night. I can choose to go to bed feeling horrible, or I can choose to fall asleep and wake up the next morning feeling at peace.

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      Oh gosh that must be full on seeing those people who are so absolutely lost to their addiction @momentsofgrace. Love that line “I can choose to go to bed feeling horrible, or I can choose to fall asleep and wake up the next morning feeling at peace.” We can use words to describe ‘at peace’ but to actually live it and wake up feeling it is absolute pure gold xxx

    • Momentsofgrace 8 years ago

      I should add, I’m not a doctor or a nurse in case anyone was worrying lives were at risk when I was coming to work in a hospital after drinking the night before. Like Mrs d, I have been functioning so well in all areas of my life even those closest to me aren’t convinced I need to give up the vino!

  14. delgirl68 8 years ago

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said here MrsD – you’ve nailed it. I don’t think anyone I know would think I had a big problem with alcohol, but I know I did. And I know if they knew what was going through my head then they would fully support me in my choice to no longer drink. I know I have made the right choice for me.

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      Yes @delgirl68! Anyone who makes the choice to take alcohol out of their lives is making the right choice (in my opinion!!) xxx

  15. madandsad 8 years ago

    Excellent blog! Yep, the internal versus the external can be amazingly deceptive. Not just with alcohol, but with many other complex issues. I have been quite good at just forgetting about the affect alcohol had on me, the bad affect or should that be effect, hmmm not sure…
    I need to think about it more, but I think I want to forget about it. Violent outbursts was my specialty 🙁 – I really don’t want to think about it!!!!!!
    I know I am much better without alcohol, in all sorts of ways. I do hope I can keep on going.
    I do know that I will be forever grateful to you Mrs D xxx

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      of course you can keep going @madandsad and if your brain starts trying to convince you to drink again you come here first and talk to all of us, ok??!! xxx

  16. Rosieoutlook 8 years ago

    Do you know, sometimes I wonder if I had a problem or was it all in my head! You just confirmed it Lotta. My head was the one that suffered the most when I was drinking. Now, my head is healing and my thoughts no longer contain the negatives with which Alcohol created. Thanks Lotta, you always articulate the issues on alcohol so honestly,and you are truely real and a sober Warrior Gem! Xxx

    • Author
      Mrs D 8 years ago

      yeah and don’t let yourself forget that boozy misery @rosieoutlook, I constantly remind myself of the awful treadmill I was on with alcohol.. am so happy to be free of it.. great you are here xxx

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