I was reminded by something I read, written by a friend, (I will link to it if my friend doesn’t mind a whole lot of sober traffic on her blog!) of why I have always liked making New Year’s resolutions. I wasn’t going to make any this year since I so spectacularly failed to keep the one I made last year, which was to not have a single hangover. Oops.
Let’s do this anyway, because I have woken up feeling positive and hangover-free on the last day of 2014. In the past six days I have consumed one beer and been perfectly happy about that, so at least the year ended the way I had hoped it might.
1. Finish and pass my practical legal training.
2. See new experiences at work as opportunities to learn rather than ordeals to dread.
3. Be gentle and kind to myself. Protect myself like I would a child. Shield my heart, head and physical self from anything or anyone who might, either inadvertently or deliberately, cause me harm.
4. Yoga every damn day.
5. Work on a pole routine and perform it on my studio’ s end of year performance night.
6. Be a present, calm and affectionate mother and wife.
7. Take 100 consecutive days off drinking and use the time to reassess my self-destructive binge drinking behaviour.
8. Finally, because it was a good one even if I did fail, to not have a single hangover.
I feel a great sense of relief that this is the last day of 2014. It feels like a time to close a chapter of my life which was the most difficult so far. I know I can’t control all the things which might happen around me, but I can choose to deal with them in a healthy way.
Exactly one year ago today, I wrote this in my diary:
This is about not having a single shame-filled hangover EVER AGAIN. Today is the last. This habit is not my friend. It is starting to take me over and crowd the good and the light and the love out of my life. It absolutely must end. Today was a lesson for me and one I will be grateful for when I am able to say that alcohol is not a problem for me any more. 2014 will be the year I can say that.
There was more, and I sounded so hopeful. I had no idea how deep this issue is for me, no idea how much I would struggle, no idea that I would find myself exactly a year later with an even worse hangover and much less hope for the future. I had no idea that I would repeat this cycle of drinking, shame, hope, drinking nearly every week.
This year has been too hard. I feel broken by it. I have watched my mother’s mind disintegrate with Alzheimer’s and I have struggled to find a way to grieve for someone who is still alive. I feel unanchored without her wisdom. I see this strong, competent woman who I was always in complete awe of struggling to do everyday things and, worst of all, knowing what is happening to her and I just rage against the universe for its unfairness. I can’t even remember what she used to be like, I just remember the feeling I had when I was with her – of being completely safe and of her love being an impenetrable wall around me – and I don’t have that feeling any more. I feel scared for her, constantly worried, like when one of my children is unwell.
My husband has gone somewhere where I can’t find him. I have gone somewhere where I can’t find me. This year has called into question all the things I thought I knew about myself. I don’t know who this drunk person who behaves so outrageously is. I don’t like her.
I don’t know what is wrong with me, and yet I do. I know that I can’t moderate my alcohol consumption. I know that drinking brings out a dark, self-destructive side of me, a woman hell-bent on breaking herself beyond repair. I know that the daily drinking has made me alcohol-dependent, to the point where quitting is really fucking tough. I know that the big nights are getting bigger, the hangovers are getting worse, the shame is stronger, the self-destruction is more dangerous, the stakes are higher.
I do not know how to stop. I just do not know. I usually get to day 4 before I pour a wine and merrily convince myself that I am totally normal. And it feels so good and balance seems restored, until the next day when I pour myself six wines and wake up feeling like this again.
I do not know how to do this. I can’t even muster the hope and positivity I felt this time last year, so how on earth can I even begin without that? I would like to think that this is the worst day, that this is my rock bottom, but I have thought that so many times before and proved myself wrong.
I don’t know how to do this. I don’t even know what help I need. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
This is something I wrote earlier this year which I came back to read today. It is part of a larger fictional story, but the small piece I share here is very much based on my own experience. It is about the void inside and the propensity of anyone like me – with an addictive, drama-driven personality – to fill it with the wrong thing.
What frustrates you about yourself and your propensity to swan dive into darkness is that you have not yet learned how to swim back up without being rescued. If you could only kick yourself to the surface before you nearly drowned, swim confidently to shore and lie in the sun without needing anyone to resuscitate you. If you could only fill your vast, aching spaces with the love of friends and children, with solitude, with music and poetry and, dare your non-believing voice even utter it, some version of God. Something which gives you enough of your own light that your darkness becomes an inkwell of creativity instead of an ocean of sadness.
Maybe the reason you have made this choice at this time is that it cannot enthusiastically resuscitate you. There is the inevitable sense that it will, one day, stand back to let you drown. You could suffer the heartache and indignity of that; not to mention the danger that the depths will simply swallow you forever. Or, you could teach yourself to swim.
I say that “hi” a bit hesitantly because I’ve been away for a while and I hope I’m welcome back. I haven’t been writing because I have been drinking and it’s a bit unfair to people reading this to have a blog about being sober where you write about how much fun you’ve been having drinking. Well, fun is one word for it.
I was doing okay for a month or so. Finishing uni so dramatically reduced my stress levels and freed up time for doing normal relaxing things that the urge to drink excessively really died down. I had a few weekends of being how I want to be – going out with friends, a couple of wines with dinner, home at a sensible hour and then up early for long, happy, productive days. I really felt as if I was getting a grip on my life again after a long time of feeling as if I was on a rollercoaster I could not stop. This is good. This is progress. No matter what has happened in the past fortnight, I have had a glimpse of what it might feel like to be out of these dark days.
Funnily enough, it was going to the shrink which stirred it all up again. I was happy to be going back after a few months of not seeing her to tell her how much things had improved. I told her moderating was going well, children were going well, work and social life and health and fitness were all going well. And then she asked “how’s your marriage?”. And then I fell apart.
We shan’t go into it right now. Suffice to say, things are not easy and have not been so for some time.
There was that, and some family stress, and a major marital fight on Friday morning and then I found myself on Friday night… actually, I really have no idea what happened on Friday night. I went out and I got home. Everything else is a blur. I spent all Saturday sick. Really sick. Unable to eat or drink sick.
The marriage issue is not caused by me drinking. It’s not caused by anything I do, in fact. That’s what makes it seem so unfair. I try and try and try and I just can’t make him happy. I feel like I have totally failed at this. I feel like we are communicating in different languages. I feel ripped off and dried out and shrivelled and old and unattractive and useless. I feel tired.
If I don’t think about this, I’m okay. If I focus on me and the kids and work and friends and being fit then I can fill my life up enough to drown out this problem and just get on with being what we have become – flatmates who raise kids together. But if I think about it and try to work on it I just go into a meltdown. I just don’t have it in me to try any more. Even if I had the energy, I don’t have the skills required.
I have tried talking and I have tried silence. I have tried aiming to please and I have tried nagging and I have tried tears and I have tried being strong. I have tried everything short of setting my fucking hair on fire and the only reason I haven’t tried that is that I am 99% sure he would not actually notice.
I wish I had a better story to tell after all these weeks. I read everyone else’s blogs and admire their incredible progress and I just feel so stuck on repeat.
Meltdown, drink, hangover, stop drinking. Repeat.