The Frightening Stranger

My big turning point – the point where I stopped drinking and got sober – came the morning after I hid wine from Mr D for the first time. I’d never hidden wine before, and doing this shocked me into sobriety. It was one bottle of wine that I hid. One bottle – once. I’ve tried to explain why this was such a big deal for me, and why it was enough to spark a monumental life-change, but it’s hard sometimes to articulate why that action was so significant. Sometimes I myself even wonder ‘why was it such a big deal?’ I’m not questioning here that it was a big deal – it’s just hard to articulate why.

Now a brilliant blogger and friend from South Africa has done it for me. Louisey from the blog Letting Go (who is also here on Living Sober as @MaryLA) has written a post about my book and has articulated her understanding of why hiding the bottle was such a biggie for me. She has nailed it better than I ever could have. She has kindly allowed me to re-print some of her post here.

Louisey: “Most of us who struggle with drink or drug addictions find the erosion of personal integrity the hardest and most demoralising thing to bear. We don’t like who we become, we don’t like watching ourselves lie to protect the addiction, steal alcohol, make excuses and break promises. We are shaken by the need to lie, the compulsion behind the lies. When we let ourselves persist with that lying and cheating, we split inwardly from the person we have become. We can no longer keep faith with ourselves or anyone we love.

Lotta Dann did something that made her realise she needed to put the bottle down. It might sound minor in the scale of alcoholic misdemeanours but anyone who has been there knows this was not minor at all. It was one of those kneejerk reactions that reveal the loss of control over our lives when we lose control of how much we drink.

What happened was not really about that lie to her husband or even about hiding a bottle so that nobody else saw how much she had been drinking. It was all about lying to herself. We break faith with ourselves when we need to drink more than we need to tell ourselves the truth. We split within when we do or say one thing outwardly and secretly do something else. ‘Nobody’ else might know, but the self is not nobody. The self knows that “I am becoming a Frightening Stranger”. To lie to someone we love is also to lie to ourselves.

What Mrs D was fortunate enough to grasp was that problem drinking or alcoholism is not just about years of blurry embarrassing incidents at parties or hangovers on Sunday mornings, being unable to have fun without getting blotto, letting the desire to drink determine each day for you. It is about that Frightening Stranger who hides bottles, sneaks drinks, lies constantly about drinking, keeps a flask in the purse while driving, looks family members in the eye while lying, pretends she is someone she is not. The Frightening Stranger whom we don’t like, whom we come to fear, who stares back at us from the mirror each morning and only cares about protecting the addiction.

And because Mrs D saw what she was doing, saw what she might become, she stopped. She learned to stay sober, determined not just to get sober but to learn to live a full, happy and fulfilling life without alcohol.”

There are many people here at Living Sober who are admitting to hiding bottles, telling lies, pretending, sneaking around. They have experienced that inner split – as Louisey so brilliantly puts it – and are living with the Frightening Stranger.

The best (only?) way to get rid of the Frightening Stranger is to remove alcohol completely. Just get it out of your life and learn how to live without it. It can be done, with hard work and the support of others who ‘get it’, it can be done.

Love, Mrs D xxx

  1. paintthemoon74 8 years ago

    Thank you for this post. Frightening stranger brilliant analogy I recognise it. Stranger/Danger. Hostage taker.
    The slippery slippery slope.

  2. Lucretia 10 years ago

    oh yes. the frightening stranger indeed

    and it is odd, the things that become the biggest regrets and wake up calls

    The last night of my drinking, my rock bottom, I woke up on the concrete outside of my apartment after I apparently lost all my belongings again somewhere in town and got put in a taxi home that I couldn’t pay for, and couldn’t get in to my apartment (lost keys). Having to admit that for the fourth time in a matter of months I had lost my personal belongings including my ID and work (police) ID and access cards and had no memory or where I had been or with whom. It was the lowest and most out of control I had ever felt and I was truly suicidal because I saw no other way to stop.

    during my binge drinking years i was raped and assaulted a number of times yet it was those times when I lost my physical belongings that really really hit me and made me want to curl up and die. The assault trauma hit me harder later but at the immediate time it was having to confess to people that once again I had lost control of my life, that was hell. My biggest shame was that I’d lose control of my bladder on the worst nights, it horrified me yet instead of quitting I’d be determined to just not drink to that extreme.

    Thankfully my (now) husband showed me compassion (rather than the disgust I expected) and he was already a non drinker (never had been a drinker) and he helped me begin moving in to his apartment and write up my decision to never drink again. Having it on paper made it more real for me. I went to see my mum and told her the same thing and felt a huge relief to have just made the decision finally. That was February 2005 and I stayed sober for a long time. I have had two lapses since. although never more than a few glasses at a time. 2013 for a month or so and 2014 for about 5 months… Now it is 9 days and I am determined and relieved once again

    • LetTheSunShine 8 years ago

      Oh my god I thought I was the only one who lost control of their bladder. The worst thing was. . At someone else’s house! Mortification doesn’t even barely describe it.

    • behind-the-sofa 10 years ago

      There’s nothing more crushing than having to look for your vital personal belongings the next day without even remembering where you’ve been.

  3. LjSletcher 10 years ago

    This post rings so scary true. I still get freaked out when I think of all the awful things I did that were and are so not me and against my code of ethics. Hiding bottles to guzzle in secret to drinking during day in my car, driving drunk. Who was that person? I often bring those memories forward to feel the shame and guilt when I want to drink. Puts my addiction into clear perspective.

  4. Alongtimeoverdue 10 years ago

    My moment (June 10, 2014) was trying to hide from the motel staff that I had puked up in their basin (red wine), staying in the room until the last minute to check out (husband had left earlier to go riding), half eaten beautifully cooked breakfast (waste), an hour in their shower trying to make the pain go away (waste). Hoping my brother and sister in law in the next room weren’t aware of my state and hoping they would leave without seeing me. Driving to my girlfriends to uplift 2 boys, trying not to throw up in the car. Puking in her garden, relieved that they were all out playing merrily on the farm and couldn’t witness it. Barely able to carry out decent conversation over a cup of tea because I felt so crap (and I didn’t tell her I had puked in her garden). Driving the hour home super carefully as certain I wasn’t over but not confident I wouldn’t get in strife if stopped and this was 1 in the afternoon. Playing a crap game of netball presumably because I was so crook. Drinking again with girlfriends that night over dinner at mine, regaling them with my story (good God, how old am I?).

    Then Lotta/Mrs D came on Sunday and that was it.

    It is the split personality – the good time party girl, last to leave, rare opportunity for a work dinner out, drink copious wine (yeah, bring the bottle over!). Versus the night I now wish it was – making sure I met someone in person that I wanted to (I was too focused on wine to go find the person), getting home early enough to enjoy a romantic spa with husband, cooked brekkie and a cuppa overlooking the stream, fresh as a daisy to get kids early, cuppa and chat with girlfriend, home early enough to get jobs done before netball and all organised for friends coming for dinner.

    The key sentence from Louisey for me – and Lotta has talked about it a lot also, I need to “learn to live a full, happy and fulfilling life without alcohol”.

    Having had a big grump on Friday night on this site, I have a tingling of excitement that Peaceful Sobriety Island has just popped onto my horizon. 🙂

    • Twinkle 10 years ago

      I’ll wave too, from the sober island. I like the visual. I feel like I’m hanging onto a tree branch like my life depends on it. SHIT!! It does. Does not matter how you get here, but hang on when you do! I’ve had many, many days like you’ve just described. Where the glass of wine in my hand and the 50 that followed became more important than anything else. Always looking for a good time that never happened. Hang on to that tingling feeling of excitement – that just may be your rope. Xx happy Monday :).

    • Author
      Mrs D 10 years ago

      You just made me cry. I’m on the Island waving xxx

    • Alongtimeoverdue 10 years ago

      PS: I didn’t even mention that my husband rearranged an appointment for us – a family fun learning activity to the following morning, upsetting his plans for a day’s activity to “accommodate my hangover”. OUCH!!! I was mad when he made this remark but I knew he was right. I felt selfish, guilty and very angry at myself – well at that Frightening Stranger anyway.

      It is good to write this down, it makes the decision to quit seem an increasingly sensible one.

  5. behind-the-sofa 10 years ago

    Hiding bottles and cans. Why? Because people will think you’re an alcoholic. “But I am an alcoholic.” “Yes but we can’t let people know that.” “Why my precious?” “Because then they’ll stop us from being together. ” “No! I’ll protect you my precious, we don’t need those nasty people.”

    • Wvlheel 8 years ago

      Good one

  6. gabbygirl14 10 years ago

    Sometimes you just have to laugh. Talking about sex with my newly sober friend… and she says… “she would rather chew off her arm then have sex with her husband sober” Does anyone have thoughts? Men don’t be shy. I feel the same way. Help us please 🙂

    • Anonymous 10 years ago

      I was drinking to get myself in the mood – I am not sure how many glorious encounters I have had sober. Plenty of ‘think of England’ obligatory occasions sober. However, one of my triggers to giving up the booze was that the alcohol was putting me to sleep, thus, not assisting in delivering on the sex component of our marriage. I have reflected that when we got together it was in the boozy, hazy days of rugby games, aftermatches and dancing at the pub until the wee hours with sex always after booze and/or hungover. It was deliriously good. So, was I trying to re-create that magic? In the end, I decided alcohol was not helping and the sex aspect of our marriage was waning and that is never a good road to go down. Something had to change. To give you hope, I have actually enjoyed sober sex since embarking on this journey, it feels a lot more honest than when pissed. Haven’t fixed the libido issue yet, that comes part in parcel with children and running a family, but I am confident that will return to a better normal in time.

  7. redearth3 10 years ago

    My moment was when I first bought a box of soft medium red, not a bottle of Shiraz that was on special, but a box of unnamed variety. I could no longer lie to myself. I could no longer measure my intake. It was a bottomless world and I sank into it drinking to numb the glaring truth.
    The 3am waking after too much red on a Sunday night, the self disgust, spurred me into action and I ripped the bag and emptied it down the drain.
    I spent a torturous day at work, exhausted, barely able to think. I faced an evening of cravings and misery. Somehow my determination not to cave in, my three kids needing tea and kisses and washing (l Live alone with them) got me through. That and Oatstraw tea. 41 days sober

    • redearth3 10 years ago

      you can buy oatstraw from the health shop, simmer it in water and drink it hot or cold. Helps with cravings…

    • Alongtimeoverdue 10 years ago

      Oatstraw tea? What is that?
      BTW same same as you – I was beginning to buy cheaper bottles to offset the quantity cost ratio! How friggin daft is that.

  8. Jilby 10 years ago

    I am going to stop tomorrow – and I will be a constant on this website. So sick of drinking and the guilt.

    • Choosewisely 8 years ago

      Great – do it !

    • Neeno 10 years ago


    • Anonymous 10 years ago

      Well done, I can tell you waking up without self hate is really worth it. I found Oatstraw tea helped me through the craving days.

  9. janabel 10 years ago

    I felt really low and disgusted with myself when i hid a botle of wine in a boot in my wardrobe while having a bottle in the kitchen with my husband. I still havent told him. I knew then i had a problem. It wasnt fun anymore, it was just craziness.

  10. MaryLA 10 years ago

    Hi everyone, I’m Mary LA, also known as Louisey from Letting Go. Reading Mrs D’s new book took me right back to my own first couple of years sober.

    In retrospect I now believe very strongly that it helps to pay close attention to little details about our own drinking patterns and the emotional fallout from them. Those small uncomfortable moments are like valuable compressed revelations about what is really going on under the surface. They represent opportunities to change and act on the problem.

    One early example for me:

    * the first time I smiled at someone and lied about how much I had had to drink. I came back from a boozy lunch on a Friday and told my partner I had only had two glasses of wine. I had drunk SEVEN. I then said I thought I had flu because I felt a little flushed and giddy. Then I added: ‘Those two glasses were enormous and the dining area was so hot! I wish I’d stuck to one.’

    The next day I felt as if I was not only a bad over-compensating liar but a bit of an idiot. I reassured myself that my partner wasn’t worried or didn’t appear to be worried. About a week later I had a dream about the lunch in which I spilled wine all down my front (spilling the beans, hmm?). I woke up and remembered filling up my own glass several times from the bottle on the table while my wine glass was still half-full. This was because I figured nobody would be able to count the number of glasses of wine I was having. I was also vaguely worried that somebody else would begin pouring out wine from the bottle on the table and there would not be enough for me.

    It didn’t occur to me that I would lose track of how much I myself was drinking because i wasn’t finishing my glass before pouring in more wine. Seven glasses was therefore a rough approximation. It might well have been more.

    That morning as I recalled this, I felt a slight revulsion towards this kind of cunning fearful little person who had thought these cunning and peculiar thoughts. And I remembered too how I had begun to watch myself more carefully when i was drinking in social situations. I would take care not to laugh too loudly or get up too suddenly so that I wouldn’t be seen to be acting tipsy. So long as nobody else thought it was a problem, then it couldn’t be a problem.

    That incident was minor in itself in one way but it encapsulated all the behavioral and psychological changes beginning for me as a problem drinker. When I was drinking in front of others I had to watch what I was doing (one part of me had to stand back and observe the other part of me, splitting), I would compare myself to others and watch how they drank and feel pleased if they were drinking more than me (splitting, comparing and projecting) and afterwards I would congratulate myself if I hadn’t sounded loud or confused or behaving aggressively even if I felt like hell and was privately worried about how much I had had to drink (splitting and denial). Splitting, projection and denial are dysfunctional behaviours and need to be recognised and stopped before they become habitual.

    This turning point, this discomfort, was a missed opportunity to sober up. What happened next (sigh) was that I realised it was much safer and less anxiety-provoking to drink alone at home.

    • Sober lush 10 years ago

      I so know what you mean, sigh for me and you!!
      I drank mostly on my own alone, even more on my own , I would only ever have two at the most when out and started making excuses that I needed to get up early so I could get home and drink more at home, lies,lies. I even made excuses not to go to friends places, I would call and say I was to tired, so I could stay home and drink on my own as much as I want , without anyone judging me, but I was there, the other me, the drunk single mum who drowned her sorrows, her anger and her loneliness in wine, only to come back the next day 100 times worse with a hangover, I was still alone, still sad and even more angry then adding my guilt, what a wonderful recipe for a dis functional life.
      Well no more, that person has left the building, I do still get angry and feel lonely, but I feel happier, stronger and really proud of who I am becoming as I emerge out of the fog, I bought a card for myself the other day and it says. You simply sparkle , I am starting to,!
      Thanks to everyone on this sight but I would not have done this without you mrs d, I would still be in my fog, you saved my life, I now have a friend joining this sober life so maybe you have started a revolution.

  11. Leonie 10 years ago

    Sneaking/hiding a bottle was the catalyst for me. Louisey … you’re absolutely right – it was the self-disgust which set me on my path to sobriety …. which is why I feel so happy being sober …

  12. Freebe 10 years ago

    Looking back, a biggie for me was choosing to hang out with certain people over others, simply because I knew they’d have a ‘big night’ with me. Or suggesting that we go for a meal in a restaurant on a completely random night (like Tuesday!) because that would mean I’d be allowed a drink. For me, those choices didn’t shock me into sobriety, but they help me stay sober now. It’s so right the way Louisey has expressed this as a loss of personal integrity, and that you split with the person you’ve become. Have had a tough night tonight. Sunday nights are the worst. It’s the end of another weekend, all I’ve managed to do is catch up on all the housework and admin and now it’s back to work tomorrow (well, that’s how it feels right now). I so so so so wanted a drink. I just wanted to tune everyone out and feel happy, just have a moment that was for me and not anyone else. But still be in the same room as them and pretend to be taking part. I’m at 64 days and tonight was definitely the closest I got to getting a bottle of red. I got myself a soft drink instead and some chips and sat on my bed and read all the comments on this site. Feel better now. My husband got all shitty though because I wouldn’t keep him company. I reckon that might be an OK price to pay for my personal integrity 🙂

    • Lulu 10 years ago

      I totally get the part about using alcohol to be in the same room with others while you’re actually tuning them out with the drinks. What you really wanted was some time to yourself. Before your post I wasn’t aware of doing that. Thanks for sharing that insight Freebe and good for you for resisting what was clearly a strong temptation.

  13. MrsH 10 years ago

    This is so right! I become an asshole when I drink. So much so that I don’t even recognise myself. I’ve also had incidents where my friends have said that it was like I was a completely different person. The asshole likes to have their finger hovering over the self-destruct button all the time, is never satisfied with anything in their life (despite having a wonderful husband and wonderful children), transfers all of their internal guilt across the entire spectrum of their life so that “alcohol isn’t the problem, it’s that horrible job and your horrible family”.

    51 days booze free and things have never been so crystal clear.

  14. inthegarage66 10 years ago

    Yes, I can relate to that. Big time. But not today!

    • Firebird 10 years ago

      Hi inthegarage66 I see you have been quiet since Catherine’s post asking if you were Ok? You’ve been such a source on this site and Mrs D’s of positivity, support, congratulations and blunt talk! I really do hope everything is Ok???

    • JudeD 10 years ago

      This is a great piece of writing Mrs D and Louisy, and it crystallises how many of us feel, including me. As I’ve written before I managed around 80 days earlier this year before attempting to moderate. Lol. Now back to my former ways as was predicted by all I was communicating with on the great site Soberistas 🙁
      Like Catherine, I can say not today for me. BUT I am trying really hard to get in the right mind set for another attempt to beat the demon starting Sept 1st. Reading all of the posts from you all is helping me to get there…

    • Catherine 10 years ago

      R u ok inthegarage66 ?

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