That’d be me. This week has been hard. I don’t know how anyone (particularly husband) has lived with me, especially since I have taken to making melodramatic announcements like “Oh my god, my life is completely devoid of pleasure I cannot imagine the future as anything but grey”; and “I’m so thrilled I now have a law degree AND clinical depression AND an alcohol problem AND no money AND a career I’m pretty sure I’m not going to love”.
I get like this sometimes. Lack of sleep doesn’t help. This final post-grad which I need to do in order to actually get a practising certificate (don’t even start me on the exclusive, expensive, hoity-toity monopoly that is entry to legal practice in Australia) is hard. Staying up until midnight hard. I have also developed a serious case of study neck, which means that on the brief occasions when I do look up from my books my head feels like it is going to fall off.
It’s not about drinking, this bad mood. It’s about being overwhelmed and knowing that dropping my bundle at this late stage just isn’t an option. It means doing assignments while tears of sheer exhaustion run down my face. I think I just have to accept that this time of my life just isn’t going to be any fun.
I need a break from my books tonight so I am going to take my boys camping. This means I have to lock myself down and get some work done during the day, and instead I am complaining to the good readers of my blog. I want to make it clear that sobriety isn’t making this time any worse. It may be making it easier, because if I had a hangover right now I think I would literally cease to function.
I went to an excellent party last night for a friend’s 40th birthday. The people there were just the kind of people I love spending time with – eccentric, warm, no bullshit false pretences or “where did you go to school and what does your husband do for a living?” The mothers at my son’s private school would have been outraged by such a party. But then, they are generally outraged by anything even remotely fun or interesting.
It was an interesting night for me because there was some fairly R-rated use of illegal drugs (it was not a party I would have taken the kids to, that’s for sure). I don’t have any particularly strong moral feelings on the use of drugs, as a lot of my friends have done so over the years, but I just don’t do drugs myself any more. I have not done so since I was at university where, fortunately, I generally found the experience rather underwhelming. People have always respected that choice. And last night, people also respected my choice not to drink. Most people did not notice or care, but the couple of people who asked about my pretty, sparkly soft drinks were curious in a gentle way. I felt comfortable because they were people from outside my world who aren’t going to go dobbing to the other school mums, so I told the truth. “I find that once I start I can’t stop so it’s better not to start because I have things I need to do tomorrow.”
No judgement. No raised eyebrows. A pat on the back from one guy who simply said “I’ve been there” and went back to sipping the one beer he’d been drinking for literally hours.
I felt really comfortable and managed to find that lovely point where I lost my inhibitions sober – enough to sing songs and dance and have interesting conversations with strangers. That is a wonderful thing I have learned in the last year of experimenting with sober socialising – that it is possible, on the right night and in the right company – to feel that warmth and companionship and lovely sense of human connection without a single mind-altering substance in your brain. Even better that it is real – a flood of brain chemicals brought about simply by being with other people and connecting. As a bit of a science nerd, I find that quite delightful.
I know for many people on this sober journey, the solution to socialising, especially in the early days, is to lock yourself in a bubble and not test yourself at all with risky situations where people are drinking. I get that. You do what you need to do. That’s not an option for me. I need people like I need air, and I get such a buzz out of having had a good time sober that it is worth the risk.
It is only day 3, but it is my third sober weekend in a row and I haven’t pulled that off since I was last pregnant. And this week that baby moved into a big bed and my heart cracked a little looking at her empty cot. She and I are both growing up.
Yesterday’s hangover was a beautiful, life-affirming thing. Not at the time, of course, because it felt more like slow and painful death by cheap red wine. But this morning I opened my eyes to a beautiful Saturday dawn and felt so marvellous after a good sleep and I thought “This is why I am here”. For Saturday mornings. For every morning. For my kids and the love of my life and my own precious sanity. For dancing and laughing and pure, untainted joy. For good days and bad days and in between days and every fucking thing. I just want to be here.
I’ve never been so relieved to be on day 2 before. Never so happy about it. This time, instead of taking me several weeks after falling off the wagon to get back on again, it took just a few hours. This is progress and change. It might seem if you read this blog from the start that I just keep making the same mistake again and again, but I know things have changed and it is what I know that matters.
It is 6am and pitch dark. I don’t do this time of day. Even the children know to sneak quietly into my bed and go back to sleep until the sun has well and truly risen. Except this morning I am in the spare room because I have been throwing up all night and I cannot sleep because I am in too much pain. I just got up for painkillers and apple juice but I have a feeling they aren’t going to stick around for long.
(Leaves to throw up again, returns to blog).
I had an exam last night. It went pretty well. That’s not important, because the outcome would have been the same no matter what. Rather than fall off the wagon, I threw myself off it and over the edge of a cliff. I don’t know why.
Oh, shit, yes I do. I did it because I have an alcohol problem.
The problem with counting days is turning the counter back to one after 13 days of hard work, and facing the rubbish that is day three and day five and a first sober weekend and all the rest of it. But there is no choice. I do not need intermittent sobriety. I need committed, lengthy, perhaps forever sobriety.
I have ruined today before it has even started. I am so disappointed in myself.
I write this from my bed, which I just crawled back into at 11am because today has just totally fucking defeated me. When I slammed my office door so hard that bits of the ceiling fell into my coffee I knew it was time to remove myself from the situation.
It’s not just work, although there is a particular file which was the catalyst for today’s tantrum. To cut a long story short, a matter which should have been the simplest thing in the world has become a nightmare because of the behaviour of the other side and if I have to break bad news to our client one more time I might actually burst into tears when she does.
I woke up defeated. In tears. As if a dam wall holding back all of my feelings had burst and everything had been released. I know from reading all I have read about getting sober that this is to be expected – that when you numb stress and grief and exhaustion and anger for a long time they will build up and eventually erupt. It is intense. And frightening. And oddly cleansing.
I’m tired. My days consist of working in a busy job or looking after busy kids, cooking, cleaning, helping with homework and then studying for several hours. I can’t sleep because my brain is too hyped up from study. I get virus after virus because I am so run down. I only have 10 weeks of this post grad study to do but I can’t see even a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I miss the release of drinking – that point of warmth where I can forget about all the things I need to do and just live in the moment. At the same time I hate drinking because of all the horror it has caused me. I hate that, at nearly 32, I feel like I am doing all the groundwork which should have been done in my early 20s for learning how to be resilient and strong and competent, when instead I just partied and forgot to mentally become an adult. I hate that, in the absence of drinking, my first thoughts about how to make myself feel better this morning consisted of cigarettes, coffee and chocolate. Fuck, maybe I should just start sucking my thumb again for all the emotional maturity I have gained in the last 30 years.
I don’t quite know how to get back out of bed today. I can’t be here – there is too much to do and nobody else to do it.
Day 13. I have stopped thinking about wine and started thinking about everything.
Tired on day 10. I did a lot of socialising this weekend – it was unavoidable for reasons of politeness and everything went okay – but perhaps stretched myself too thin.
I am happy to be here, but also sad. I am sad that my life has deteriorated to the point where having two weekends in a row without having done anything stupid, self-destructive or dangerous feels like an achievement. I want to get far enough away from those times to feel safe again.
Just for a minute tonight, while eating pizza and listening to music and laughing with my friends, I stopped seeing this as deprivation. I started seeing it as a huge, generous, much-needed gift of self love. Just for a minute.
One week. Off to bed, smiling.
Not many people in my life know I struggle with moderating my alcohol consumption. This could largely be because I surround myself with people who drink even more than I do in some sort of subconscious social camouflage. Anyway, I put out my intention to not drink for 100 days on Facebook today because some motivation and accountability will help.
I made my status update fun because, dammit, this is going to be fun. I will make it fun.
I’m already on day 6, by the way, and it has not been entirely awful. I am seeing friends tonight and tomorrow night and most likely on the weekend and I am going to enjoy it all. Sober, sparkly, present and well.
My very existence jarred uncomfortably with the existence of everything else today.
It was a perfect day. We are having a run of almost autumnal summer days – cloudless, fragrant, delicious weather. The humidity is low, the nights are comfortably cool for sleeping and there is a breeze which smells of lilac and vanilla and freshly washed clothes.
I woke up disgusting. The hair fanned under my face stank of cigarettes. My eyes were sticky and sore from the mascara I hadn’t taken off. My dehydrated brain pounded in agony. My stomach quivered with every heavy, tar-laden breath. I was in bed but I didn’t remember going to bed. My memory faded out at about 10.30pm, when we ran out of wine and I started drinking beer. Friends were over. Things were getting outrageous. There were risky conversations that threatened to reveal too much. I have a friend who drinks like I do – with frightening abandon. She has become a big part of my life lately. Sometimes we talk about how much we both want to stop drinking, but then egg each other on the next day. I love her but she is bad for me.
I could barely function. There wasn’t a single cell in my body which did not scream for the water and nutrients I had leeched from them by drinking so much. I was a barely-adequate parent and I did not do some work which desperately needs to be done. I was sick in the head, the heart, the body.
I felt so wrong. The shameful mess I was today does not belong in this world, with its sparkling sunshine and beautiful children and puppies and a vegetable patch and love in every corner of the house. The woman who should live here does not wake up forgetting how she got to bed and stagger to the toilet to vomit. This place should be inhabited by a woman who is quietly courageous and faces her demons instead of trying to drown them. A woman who wakes, stretches, stands in the morning sun with her coffee and breathes in the day. An attentive, affectionate, adventurous mother. A dreamer whose worst habits are writing stories when she should be working and eating too much cheese.
If I feel that I do not belong, then I have two choices. I can leave, or I can change.
I’m still here. I’m not having that hair of the dog to make me feel better tonight. I’m writing on my sober blog and reading articles about sobriety and wanting this more and more with each passing day.