A SOBERING READ

I’ve thought long and hard about whether to write this. Once I decided to write it, I struggled to figure out how. Why didn’t I want to write it? Because doing so makes it true and it makes me accountable. It makes me publicly responsible for something that honestly, I’m probably 50% in denial about and the other 50%? Well, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about that.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure I have an unhealthy dependency on alcohol. That’s a hard sentence to write. An even harder sentence to write is, “It’s possible I might be an alcoholic”. It’s such a dirty word though, right? It brings to mind those sad figures on park benches with a can of Special Brew in their grubby hands at 7am in the morning. That’s not me. I’m yet to find myself on a park bench, I’m yet to inhale a bottle of Malbec for breakfast but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.

If I was brave enough, I’d describe to you, in detail, the event that brought me to the realisation that there was a problem. Right now, I’m not brave enough but know this: I was lucky. Very lucky. I got away with something that could have ended in disaster. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, but it was enough, for the first time in my life to shake me to my core. I scared myself to death – so much so that I immediately called my husband and explained what had happened and said, “I think I need to go to a meeting.” So, that night, I went.

You see, it’s not a problem until it’s a problem. If the horrible thing that happened, hadn’t happened, there’s every chance I would still be drinking and maybe, MAYBE, I would go my whole life drinking steadily and occasionally drinking dangerously and not suffering any serious consequences. Chances are though, that wouldn’t be the case. Maybe the serious consequence wouldn’t end in blood and guts and drama but maybe it would be the end of my marriage, or maybe it would be the loss of contracts at work, or maybe it would be my health. Either way, for now I’m not comfortable picking up a drink. I don’t want to take that chance.

Because, I’d be lying if I said that it was all about that one thing that happened. It wasn’t. There’d been a voice steadily growing more persistent in my mind in recent months. It was a voice that was starting to think about that first glass of wine pretty early on in the day. I’d count down the hours until it was ‘acceptable’ to have a drink. I’d drink 2 or 3 glasses of wine a night between 5pm and 10pm when I went to bed. Not excessive as a one off, but every night? That was too much.

Of course, it’s easy to justify. We’re mums, right? Drinking is our thing. It’s our reward at the end of the day. It’s our chance to raise a glass to ourselves for our super-humanness. It’s our adult time, our ‘me time’. As if that wasn’t enough, I come from a family of big drinkers. Really big drinkers. There’s rarely a family gathering that doesn’t end in some sort of drunken craziness. There’s likely to be singing, tears, maybe a fight or two, certainly the odd juicy conffession. Drinking is who we are. It’s what we’re known for.

I work in a very social environment. A lot of what we do is about entertaining, socialising, meeting and greeting, schmoozing. There’s Prosecco at every turn, a cocktail here and there and wine. So. Much. Wine.

If I’m honest though, there’s always a reason to drink. I’ll have a drink of wine because I had a great day, because I had a bad day. I’ll drink a bottle of wine because we’ve got friends over for dinner. I’ll share a bottle of wine with my husband because we’ve got a night in alone – except I’ll always drink more than half. I’ll drink because I’m cooking, because I’m writing, because I’m cuddled up on the sofa reading. Essentially, if the day ends in a ‘y’, I can find a reason to drink.

I haven’t had a drink now in ten days. I’m ashamed and shocked to say that’s almost certainly the longest I’ve gone without a drink in ten years. What worried me more is that, because of the nature of my husband’s work, almost 70% of what I drank, I drank on my own, in the evenings when I’d put the kids to bed. I wouldn’t get hammered, but I’d certainly drink too much to drive. That’s not great parenting.

And that’s where the buck(s fizz) stops. I’ve been a regular binge-drinker for a number of year. During those binge-drinking sessions, I’d put myself in danger a number of times. One night after having Billie, I was ‘out out’. I woke up at home, under the duvet fully dressed. I had no recollection of how I got home and, on inspecting the front yard I found a trail of my belongings starting at the pavement and finishing at my front door including my wallet, my sunglasses and my phone. Just there, on the street. It’s a miracle no one took them. When I showered that morning, I found a bruise the size of football on my thigh. If my children’s life depended on it, I couldn’t have told you how I got that bruise. What I do know is this: firstly, my children’s lives do depend on it and secondly, when Addison Lee calls you in the morning to check you’re ok, you know you’ve taken it too far. But of course, I didn’t know that. Not for sure.

On another occasion I emerged from unconsciousness to find myself being sexually assaulted by a work colleague. You’d think that was rock bottom, right? The real low? Nope. Not even close. I walked away from that job but at that point, it wasn’t enough to make me walk away from booze. In fact, I didn’t even consider it. Yes, a woman should be able to lie in the middle of the street stark-bollock naked and blind dunk without the fear of being attacked while she’s there, but, on reflection, I’m not comfortable being stark-bullock naked and blind drunk in the middle of the street. Not anymore anyway.

The real low was the event that I’m not ready to talk about. I’m not ready to put it in writing and maybe I never will be. Suffice to say, that as soon as my drinking started to affect those people I love most in the world is exactly the point at which I said, ‘Enough is enough.’

So, I’m currently not drinking. I don’t know where my journey will take me. It’s already easy for me to think that I can have a drink without ending up blind drunk and I know that I can because there were plenty of times I just had one. But the fact is, that if I keep drinking I’ll always, eventually end up blind drunk at some point and I don’t want to go there ever again. The simple fact is that if I don’t have the first drink, I won’t have the second, and the third and so on. For now then, I’m not having that first drink.

It’s scary because I’ve never done it before. I don’t know what or who lives beneath the veneer of booze. I don’t know if I’ll enjoy social situations as much or if I’ll be as enjoyable to be around in social situations. I have no idea how to answer the questions that I’ll be asked about why I’m not drinking. What I do know is that I feel good about not drinking; I know that my kids deserve the best version I can give them of myself; I know my husband always dreaded the drunken me and I know that I won’t miss those bone-crunchingly painful hangovers.

Like everything else on the blog, this is my story. It isn’t yours and I haven’t written it to pass a judgement on women and mums and how we drink. Like I said before, it’s not a problem until it’s a problem and even if my story resonates with your own, it doesn’t mean you have a problem. You could be drinking way more than me but not find yourself in compromising and dangerous positions. You could also be drinking less than me but feel very uncomfortable about your habits and the situations you find yourself in. If you are feeling concerned about your drinking, chances are you’re also reluctant to talk about it because it all feels a bit dirty and grubby and uncouth. I hear you but trust me, do talk about it. The more you do, the less massive it feels, the less ugly it sounds and the more empowered you’ll feel because for the first time, you’ll feel like you’re taking back control.

Literally, overnight, my drinking became a problem for me, and let’s face it, until that happens it doesn’t matter who the fuck else it’s a problem for.

 

16 thoughts on “A SOBERING READ

  1. Laura says:

    Thanks for sharing. You were clearly wary about doing so but what you’ve done is made others feel less shitty and confused. I too have cut way back on my drinking. Daily red wine once the children were settled. I too had a bit of a light bulb moment only recently, here at home, on my own but the next day was still drunk when I woke up. The realisation was that if I needed to get my children anywhere in an emergency or go anywhere for that matter I knew I couldnt. It scared me & I felt like a selfish cow, that made me rethink things. In a big way. I haven’t stopped drinking though. I had a glass yesterday evening. But just one. I was proud I managed that. Be proud of yourself too of not only sharing it here but going to a support meeting and taking it day by day. Xxx

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  2. Marli says:

    Health is the new rock n roll anyway! Thank you for sharing this beautiful woman. You are stronger than you can imagine. So much love to you xx

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  3. Lindso says:

    Well done for talking about it! You are very brave. Have you read Tired of Thinking about Drinking blog? Belle who writes it is a massive inspiration too x

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  4. Clare says:

    Such an honest post and I hope saying it out loud as it were will help you start out on what could be a tricky road ahead. I think it’s great that you’re getting help and honestly wish you all the luck in the world! As a side note though, don’t you think that the connection of drinking going hand in hand with motherhood is an uncomfortable one? We drink to celebrate, we drink to commiserate, we drink to survive! When I was growing up, we didn’t even have booze in the house except maybe at Christmas. Now it’s seen as ‘normal’ to share a bottle of vino a night. I worry that quite a few of my friends could be dependant to be honest with you. I think alcoholism affects more of us than we care to admit. I’m sorry that you’ve been through something that was so bad that you realised maybe you had a problem. But I’m happy for you that you’re going to get help x

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  5. jenchef says:

    So proud of you to post this and fully understand where you were, so easily could be any of us and you were incredibly brave to face up to it, well done my lovely. xx

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  6. RachelInRealLife says:

    Fair play to you for sharing so early into your journey. I was sober for nearly two years before I “went public”. I’ve now just passed the three years mark. I had something happen to me that I never ever thought would happen and, to make matters worse, the following morning I couldn’t initially recall that it had happened. I, without a doubt, am an alcoholic. I cannot have just one drink and yet before recovery, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than not drinking despite all the trouble that drinking caused. Good luck to you on your own journey. X

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  7. Anonymous says:

    I am really proud of you for writing that post. It takes a lot of guts to put something like that out there . I can only really share my experience with alcohol.. My mum was a big drinker. I grew up in fear all the time. Not knowing whether she would be sober or drunk. Would she be happy or angry. It all seemed like it was a fun social thing she did until the nights eventually got worse. She would drink alone and cry. She would embarrass herself at family and friend gatherings. She put my life in danger on a number of occassions and in situations that children shouldn’t be in. I was such a nervous child and bit my nails and had really bad self esteem all the way through my teenager years. She was not a role model by any stretch. I wish she could have seen what she was doing. All I can say is : “be the best person you can be, be the best role model for your children and be the best mother your children need you to be”. But equally don’t be so hard on yourself. Being a mother is a tough job. And sometimes the occasional drink in the evenings is what gets us through those shitty and tiring days.

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  8. Stephs Two Girls says:

    Very brace of you to admit it and write about it in such an honest and open way. I’m sure you will have helped others stop and think, and it might sound dramatic, but you could save lives with this. Not least your own. Good luck with your path x

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  9. MummytoDex says:

    I can relate so much to what you have written, but instead of being ten days in, I am 553 days in.

    It is hard. Very hard. I was lucky, I had my pregnancy for the first nine months to stop me from drinking, then we were co-sleeping. Now it’s the fact that I’ve come this far, why would I ruin it now.

    Like you, I got myself in dangerous situations. My husband hated the drunken me. I’d drink most nights- four cans of lager and more at the weekend. I’d go out once a week and have no idea of how I got home. My point is though- you can do this.

    The first step, acknowledging you have a problem, is the hardest. I went for years without acknowledging it. I thought people were killjoys, I blamed others when they ended friendships with me, I sought out new drinking friends who probably have similar issues to make myself feel better. I repeatedly told myself that my behaviour was normal- it wasn’t.

    I wish you all the best and all the support in the world. It’s hard, but it’s doable l. I promise you that.

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  10. justsayingmum says:

    I think there will be an awful lot of mothers out there that this post will really resonate with and for that, you should be commended. You are so right about that moment when it becomes your problem. You’ve made me think twice about that glass of wine this evening for sure x

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  11. Josephine says:

    Great honest post. I stopped drinking because of very similar experiences. Over 4 years ago. I still enjoy waking up at the weekend without a hangover. Was the best decision I could ever have made and was such a relief. It was really the only decision I could make. The cheesy Jason Vale book really helped me think about alcohol differently…… Oh I worked in a drug and alcohol service at the time. I’m still a shitty mother, wife and friend sometimes but the volume on this is definitely lower! Welcome to sobriety. I’m so excited for you. I’ve given a link to what I wrote about it, took me 3 years to come out and it’s no way as good as your writing but to say, you are not alone, if you need a virtual buddy along the way let me know. I moved to France by the way and it’s only the Brits who raise an eyebrow at me not drinking. Looking forward to following your adventure, Best wishes Josephine

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  12. a positive parent says:

    Thank you for sharing I stopped drinking just over 2 years ago. Well maybe I have 6 alcoholic drinks a year. I am not an alcoholic I can take it or leave it but I am a much calmer, less stresses, more patient mum since not drinking. Its Isolating at times as you say “drinking is our thing” as mums and when you don’t you highlight to other mums maybe is is something that needs addressing. Thanks for sharing x

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