I’m here, not sober, still thinking about it. That’s all there is to say, really. I’m thinking about it. I’ve been thinking about it for years.
A lot of thinking today and an email from Belle have made me realise that I need to clarify the reasons why I drink, understand why I find it hard to stop and come up with some strategies to deal with all of this.
My big enemy is stress. I lead a pretty insane life. I have three children under seven. I work three days a week in the family law firm and I have been studying law by distance for five years now (this is my very last semester). People are always asking how I manage it – here is how. I make dinner, bath the kids, do reading and homework and bedtime stories, get everyone off to bed and then I sit down and I study for three hours. Five or six nights a week. Every week for five years. I don’t watch television. I haven’t read a proper, non-legal book from cover to cover for so long, and reading is my absolute favourite thing. I can’t remember when I last watched a movie. I had an assignment due shortly after my third child was born, so I was working on it in the hospital literally hours after giving birth to her. At exam time I spend a lot of the weekend at the library, studying and missing my babies. My husband is very supportive of this endeavour, but it benefits him as I am essentially his retirement plan (he is a fair bit older than me). I am stressed. Because I study at home, I find it impossible to switch off at home because my books are always there looking at me. Going out to socialise, therefore, is really important because I am forced to switch off studying and engage with the world. This worked until I found I needed half a bottle, one bottle, two bottles of wine to turn my brain off. I feel so clenched, so wound up, and the only thing, the ONLY thing, which releases me is wine.
All the things I used to do to relax – reading, writing, running, yoga, dancing – get pushed to the side. It’s a huge achievement that I have started going to my pole dancing class once a week and insisting on having the time for that. So I was wrong above – wine is not the only thing that releases me. But it’s the easy thing. The thing I can do without forcing my husband into more kid duties (and he is already pretty good on that front). The thing I can do when the kids are already in bed and I’m not going to miss out on any more time with them. The thing I am, like it or not, addicted to.
I am going to work on this. I’m a person who decides she is going to do something and does it. I decide to raise three kids and do a law degree – done (nearly). I decide I’m going to learn to bend over backwards and put my hands on the floor – accomplished. I want to make the best risotto anyone has ever tasted – I practice until it is perfect. I need to apply this willpower and determination which I KNOW I have in me to this. To me. To saving my own life.
All suggestions more than welcome.
I drank last night.
It was a long and tiring day. Two out of three children were cranky all day. They were just relentless. My husband went out and I was cooking dinner and there was a bottle of wine in the fridge so I drank it. A friend came over and we ate some dinner and shared it. She helped with the kids. She is like an aunt to them and I am so lucky to have her in my life. I told her last week I was doing 100 days without drinking but she didn’t say anything about me drinking last night. My husband came home from his work function and my friend and I went to see a band that some of our friends play in. I drank some more. I didn’t get ridiculous but I drank a fair bit. I told my friend some stuff I had intended to keep to myself. I got home at 1am and sat around feeling sad.
I have had a banging headache ever since I stopped drinking and my reasoning last night was ‘I feel shit anyway and maybe it will make my headache go away’. I was also so stressed from the kids and an assignment which is absolutely doing my head in and I thought drinking was the only way to unclench myself from the stress. It probably was the only way. I don’t have any other skills in my toolkit. It felt good at the time. Now I feel like crap. I don’t think this will ever be over for me. I read blogs of people who have been sober for years and it doesn’t seem to be over for them. It seems I have two choices – be obsessed about drinking or be obsessed about not drinking. I don’t want to be obsessed. I want to be free.
I felt really good today. A real surge of wellbeing, a great run and the purchase of some very, very high heels to wear out and NOT fall over in. Relieved and happy to be feeling this way.
I know when I read other people’s sober blogs I always want to know what kind of drinker they were and compare myself (wrongly or rightly). Just in case other people are like me, I’ll fill you in.
I am two different kinds of drinker. Since meeting my husband nearly eight years ago, I have been a daily drinker (except during three pregnancies). This sounds bad, but my weeknight drinking is one glass of wine with my dinner. One. Not even an outrageously large glass. I usually sip it slowly while cooking, finish the rest off with my meal and then happily move on to chamomile tea for the rest of the night. This is the kind of drinking I’d be perfectly happy with for the rest of my life. I don’t drink alone. I don’t drink if I don’t like the taste of the wine. I don’t drink if I have to drive somewhere. I finish my wine, read the children a bedtime story and then spend the next two to three hours studying law – I’ve been managing this juggle for four-and-a-half years. I can socialise with family and friends over dinner and have a couple of glasses without any problem. I can attend a wedding gracefully, I can be dignified at work functions. I do, however, really crave that glass of wine and it is hard not to have it. I find when I quit drinking that it is harder to give up the weeknight glass than it is to give up the weekend binges.
On the weekends (and occasional weeknights), the other kind of drinker emerges. I like to describe her behaviour as “Keith Richards fresh out of rehab”. She has been around ever since I was 16 years old, although for a while (until about a year ago) I had her pretty well under control. At least once a week (lately twice), I will drink roughly the equivalent of two bottles of wine over a massive socialising session which lasts from anywhere between five and ten hours. It’s a lot of booze for a woman who stands at 5’2 and weighs in like a feather. My husband likes me to go out. He is a homebody who likes his alone time and he is still living in the days when going out with my friends was a healthy habit which used to make me happy and ease my post-natal depression. And it was good, once. I used to have three or four glasses of wine with my friends, come home at a sensible hour and feel perfectly fine the next day. It has changed. In the last 12 months there have been blackouts, crippling hangovers and downright dangerous drunken behaviour which have made me realise that the party is over for me. Three glasses seems to be the trigger point where my off button breaks and I need to drink until I fall down. Flooding my brain with that much alcohol on a weekly basis has also, I firmly believe, made it harder for me to manage my depression. It has made it harder to stay on top of all the millions of things going on in my life (work, study, children, my mum’s early-onset dementia).
After one particularly dreadful incident in January, I signed up for the 100 Day Challenge for the first time. I did 20 days and it wasn’t particularly difficult so I decided to drink again. For a while, I was okay. I went a few weeks being the kind of drinker I wanted to be – having three or four nights per week without alcohol and drinking no more than 3 glasses of wine (slowly) on any social occasion. But early in April it crashed down around my ears after a really big night and I have been swinging between binging and trying to stop ever since. There have been countless disgraceful incidents – falling over, flirting, throwing up, waking up after a friend’s party with mud in my ears and no idea how it got there. Mud. In my ears. I am 31 years old, for the love of God.
Last weekend frightened the hell out of me. It was a turning point. I woke up on Saturday morning thinking suicide would be a perfectly reasonable option. I have never been in that place before.
I don’t know if I’m at the point where I can never drink again. I’d like to think I can be that sensible weeknight wine-lover. What I know for sure is that I need some space from drinking. I owe it to myself to at least find out what a good long stretch of sobriety feels like so that, if I do decide to drink again, at least I will be making a choice from a position of knowing what the choices are.
Two weeks ago, I wrote this in my diary:
The sad old sleazy drunk lady came out to play again last night. I could not stop refilling my glass at a friend’s party. I refilled it until I was revolting and out of control. I hope to God nobody else was sober enough to remember.
Someone who was going to ride the shit out of this wave would have made good choices last night, probably driven home or at least stayed sensible and gotten a lift. Instead I am letting the wave dump me and slam my face into the sand. I come up coughing and spluttering just long enough to catch my breath before the next one.
All I aim for is one weekend where I feel proud of myself at the end of it. Just one. It has been so long.
I know I have to stop drinking, smoking, living like a teenager with a death wish. I know. I fucking know. The more I know, the harder it is.
Reading that makes me so grateful for this sober weekend.
Inspired by Running on Sober’s gorgeous, summer-evoking words today, I wrote a much less pleasant poem about the weather around here right now.
Wind from Snow
You read, once, on a sign at the zoo, that
the snow leopard’s nostrils are wide,
to warm and humidify the ice-dry air
in the barren wilds of Kyrgystan.
You might prowl, agile, nocturnal,
around this mountain town,
but you are no leopard.
Every breath is an icy knife
plunged in the base of your skull.
At least, that’s what I felt like when I started out for a run this afternoon. After a little while I was warm and extremely grateful for this chilly Saturday without a hangover – the first in a long, long time.
I did not drink last night. I had fun on the whole. And I received a very sobering reminder of how drinking can ruin lives.
I went home just before midnight. Two of my friends accepted a lift home. A third friend, who I had not seen much of during the night as she arrived late after work and was floating around the bar socialising, said she felt like going home too but was not sure if she should drive. She lives about 40 minutes drive from town. I told her to leave her car downtown, catch a lift with me, sleep in my spare room and I would take her to get her car in the morning. This is a safe town to leave your car parked and I only live a few blocks from town anyway, so my friends who aren’t within an easy taxi distance often do this. (They then enjoy my three boisterous children jumping on them first thing in the morning – quite the punishment).
Anyway, my friend said she didn’t want to leave her car downtown but also didn’t want to drive home as the roads were icy from yesterday’s snow, so she said she would drive her car up to my place and sleep there. She said she thought she would be fine to drive, and I had not seen how much wine she had so I took her word for it. I am now kicking myself for not being more awake to the fact that she was not sober enough to drive and bundling her into my car, because literally four houses away from mine she was pulled over by the police and breath tested. She was well and truly over the limit. She’d had three glasses of wine in about an hour and a half and she is a tiny little person. I picked her up from the police station at 1am after all the details had been dealt with and took her home. She was devastated. She lives alone out of town, and works in town at a job which requires her to drive. She will likely lose her licence for six months unless my husband (her lawyer) can pull some miraculous result in court and convince the magistrate to give it back. There is every likelihood she will lose her job. I cried with her last night because I felt like I could have done something to prevent this. My friend is not even a regular drinker, and here I am having written myself off weekend after weekend and so far I’ve managed to get away with a whole lot of stupid shit without my world totally crashing down. And I just love her so much and want to fix it, but I can’t.
Nobody will EVER drive home drunk on my watch again.
Today is Friday. Usually, having had a bit of a shitty week, I would celebrate/commiserate this fact by pouring a bottle of wine down my throat, chasing it with enough beer to kill a small elephant and deciding that I am an excellent dancer. At some point I would go for a cigarette, realise that I was seeing four of everything and could no longer string a sentence together and stumble off quietly hoping nobody noticed. That is the best case scenario. The worst is unmentionable.
A sensible thing to do would be to stay in tonight, maybe do some of my research assignment or practice my yoga scorpion pose and go soberly off to bed. But I am in charge of organising people to come out to see my friend who has been overseas for a while and it is just not possible tonight. It would be really easy for me to give up and drink tonight, so I thought I would guard against this by letting everyone who is invited know I’m doing Dry July so that I will get hassled if I drink. I also hate failing in front of people. I sent a group email letting people know the plan for tonight which I hope reflects
- My desire to not drink, and
- The fact that I am going to be an incredibly awesome and interesting sober person.
Here it is:
Hello, hotnesses. I have been reminded that I haven’t organised a time/place so here is the plan. We shall meet at the Irish pub at approximately 6.04pm, eat something and then head to wherever the mood takes us. I personally plan to end the night showing off my new twerking skills on the dance floor. Given that I will be sober for Dry July, it is more likely that I’ll be holding your hair back while you spew and warning you that the creature you’re about to pash is not quite as attractive as your vodka goggles have led you to believe. And I can taxi y’all home. This alone qualifies me for Australian of the Year. See you tonight, sexbombs.
I thought that was fine, until I realised that the only person who ever needs their hair held back is me, because all my friends seem to be able to drink copious amounts without being a tool and regretting their behaviour for the next decade.
I am not looking forward to tonight. This is because I have had the voice in my head all day saying “Going out sober isn’t fun. You’re not fun. You should have a drink. Stop being such a melodramatic loser.”
I finally seem to have my appetite back. But I still want to crawl off for a nap every 30 seconds and my alleged alcohol-free glow is actually a face full of pimples. Eck.
When I duck out of the office to pick my son up from school (sometimes I do it, sometimes my husband does it) there is usually about a 10 minute wait in the pick up zone. I use that time to sit in the car and bawl my eyes out. I figured today that the other mums probably don’t use that time to cry. I don’t know what they do. Maybe think about what to cook for dinner, sing along to the radio, catch up on Facebook on their phone, stare out the window. But I am pretty sure that most of them don’t use the precious alone time to cry their eyes out. Not drinking for six days has so far made no difference to this. Tell me I’ll feel better. Because I just want a glass of wine right now.