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