ELEVEN YEARS AGO.
It’s a Monday afternoon. Nothing out of the ordinary is going on. My husband will be taking our two eldest sons to their Scouts meeting shortly, I’m staying home with our baby. Outwardly there is nothing wrong with this day at all. It is a calm, ordinary Monday in our busy but functional and love-filled house. However inside my head it is all wrong. Inside my head there is a major problem.
There is no wine in the house.
“Shall we go get some wine?” I ask my husband, trying to sound super-casual.
“Nah, lets just have an alcohol-free night.” he replies. He knows I’ve been trying to cut back. He knows that I’ve just had a heavy-drinking weekend. He heard me state this morning that I wasn’t going to drink today. He is trying his best to be supportive.
“Ok cool” I reply, faking flippancy. I’m not feeling flippant about it. Far from it.
Inside my head I am locked in a fierce debate with myself. Half of me desperately doesn’t want to drink and wants to wake up tomorrow feeling proud of myself with no guilt or hangover. The other half of me wants wine so desperately it is having a major temper tantrum.
Just before 5pm my husband goes off with our two eldest and suddenly it’s just me and the baby left at home. He is playing contentedly on the floor, I am still locked in a fierce internal battle. I want this internal dialogue to stop! There is only one way out.
I pluck the baby up off the floor and actually say out loud to him “let’s go prove how dysfunctional mum really is.” I race out of the house in such a rush that as I back the car out of the driveway I run over his pram sitting empty to the side of the carport - I haven’t even had a drink yet! It takes just five minutes for me to race down the road, buy the wine, and be back home again. Sweet relief as I down the first sip.
I’m not into slowly savouring the taste however.
I proceed to skull almost the entire bottle in the space of about 40 minutes. I gulp down huge mouthfuls in between carrying out my housewifey duties. The baby is changed into his PJs (gulp), the curtains are closed and the heaters turned on (gulp, gulp), the floor is vacuumed (gulp), the dishwasher loaded (gulp, gulp). I am a whirling dervish of boozy, housewifey energy.
Right before my husband is due home I panic. Shit! He’s going to see that I haven’t managed an alcohol-free night. Shit! In an instant I make a snap decision. Hide the wine bottle.
I get down on my hands and knees and reach into the back of the pantry where I tuck the nearly-empty bottle of wine behind the spare boxes of tissues. Then I stand back up, dust myself off and pretend like nothing has happened.
Fast forward to 3am.
I come to consciousness in my bed feeling utterly wretched. My head is pounding, my mouth is dry, my guts feel sick and I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt and dysfunction.
I quietly make my way to the toilet and sit there with my head in my hands. I have been in this miserable 3am headspace before. But this time there is a new layer of guilt to deal with. I have never hidden booze before. For the past year or so I have been desperately trying to control and moderate my long-standing enthusiastic drinking habit, yet here I am and it is progressing even further.
I can see very clearly that hiding my empty bottle is a new dysfunctional drinking behaviour on top of all my other dysfunctional drinking behaviours.
I feel stuck, wretched, and powerless. A huge part of me didn’t want to drink last night, but yet I did. Why the hell do I keep doing this, making promises to myself that I can’t keep? I start crying softly, sitting there on the toilet at 3am. Miserable and at my lowest ebb, my self-worth and self-belief shot. I have a massive, massive problem I tell myself.
Then suddenly a new thought forms in my head, and with it a glimmer of hope.
The problem isn’t me. The problem is the alcohol.
I repeat it to myself.
The problem isn’t me. The problem is the alcohol.
And with this thought comes a glimmer of hope. With this thought comes the sense that I do have some control. With this thought comes the promise of change.
The problem isn’t me. The problem is the alcohol. If I take the alcohol away, the problem is gone.
And so it is, sitting there on the toilet, my cheeks wet with tears and my heart yearning for change, that I make a monumental decision.
I am going to take alcohol out of my life. I am going to remove the substance that causes me so much grief. I am going to solve my alcohol problem by taking the alcohol away. And I am going to learn how to live happily alcohol-free.
And so I do.
I have been living sober for over eleven years now.
I can’t even begin to describe all the monumental changes I have been through since that fateful night when I hid wine and reached my point of change. But suffice to say I have been through a massive process of growth and discovery.
I have learned that drinking alcohol regularly all of my adult life prevented me from developing any real emotional coping mechanisms. I have learned that I am a warm, funny and entertaining woman without a glass of booze in my hand (and if I’m not in the mood to be social that’s ok too). I have learned that it feels much so much better connecting with people when I’m fully present and not blurred by wine. I’ve learned that to be sober all the time and therefore authentic and true to myself in every type of situation is over time extremely calming and rewarding.
But most of all I have learned that it is entirely possible to live a fun, fun, stimulating, exciting and nourishing life with no alcohol in it at all.
Mrs D x
(Photo taken a month or so before I quit drinking.)