Just read it

If you happen to be a binge drinker (like me), please read this forward for Seamus Kirst’s book, by his father.

I don’t think I have ever come across anything I relate to so much.

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The time I went to AA

I feel a bit emotionally exhausted.  I tossed up all afternoon about going or not going and then I sat out front in the car literally quaking with anxiety. I think the hardest thing I have ever done was get out of the car, cross the road and walk into the church hall. I had to force myself for every step. 

I listened for a while and had pretty much convinced myself I was in the wrong place. One guy had been to jail 17 times. SEVENTEEN! I don’t have so much as a speeding fine on my rap sheet. He was hilarious, though, and used “fuck” for punctuation, which is something that I always like in a person. Another guy came out of a blackout sometime a long time ago (because he has been sober as long as I have been alive) holding a shotgun in a city street. Anyway, I was invited to share and next thing I was a crying mess and all the scary dudes who weren’t actually very scary at all were handing me tissues and assuring me I was in totally the right place. 

I don’t know if this is some kind of epiphanic, life-changing thing for me or not. What I mainly felt was an enormous sense of relief for taking a bigger step than I have ever taken before towards admitting that I’m not handling this very well on my own.

I don’t want to be sitting in a church hall in 20 years time, telling people about how I lost my family, or started drinking in the morning, or blacked out and hurt somebody. I know it doesn’t have to get that bad. I just don’t know whether I belong now or not. 

It’s day 4, anyway. I had a nice weekend. Spent quality, outdoor time with the kids. Slept blissfully. Taught a dance class and then stayed afterwards to work on some choreography with more energy and creativity than I have felt in a long time. These are all the nice things I get to have when I am not drinking.

Doing something different…

Because what I am doing/have been doing for the past 3 years is clearly not working. If it was working, I wouldn’t be fighting off an evil hangover at work on a Thursday morning with the barely-adequate remedies of mint tea and salty chips. I wouldn’t have gone out last night intending to have one drink with an old friend and instead having an unknown but assuredly enormous quantity of Pinot noir while at the very same time subjecting my poor friend to an emotional rant about how much my drinking worries me.

To that end, I have decided to take the advice you’ve all been giving me for years and go to an AA meeting. There is one on Sunday afternoon. I don’t expect this will be some kind of magical cure for anything, but it might be one thing to put in my (currently very empty) sober toolbox. 

If I could just put some willpower and self love in there as well, I might not find myself full of aches and regret at my desk every week, promising that this will be the last time.

Hi

I’m back. It’s been a while. I’m still stuck in this cycle – binge drink, regret it, stay sober for a few days, binge drink, repeat.

Lots of good things have happened this year, aside from that. I’m working hard and feeling more confident in my abilities. The children are all at a beautiful age. My marriage is strong and full of laughter. We are financially more secure than we’ve been in a long time. 

I’m still terrified about how much I drink. I worry about it almost constantly when I’m not actually drinking. I’m still horribly hungover for two days of every week. I still have regular blackouts. It’s still hard to reconcile the person I am sober with the person I am drunk.

I have not made any conscious, determined attempts to stay sober for a long time, but I am starting today. I’m not going to keep blogging about relapses any more. It’s not helpful to me or anyone else. 

I desperately want to get past the struggle of early sobriety to a place where I am at peace with it. Throw me all your ideas for the coming weeks. Remind me I am cared for. Tell me it will be worth it.

And this is why I don’t come here any more…

Because of shit like this:

This podcast and the intro to it which popped up in my reader this morning. I haven’t been here for a while and I thought maybe the companionship would be good. But stuff like this triggers me to the point where I wonder if immersing myself in sober blogging is perhaps the reason I haven’t been able to string together any long period of sobriety for three years. 
So you don’t have to put yourself through the personal agony, this piece of whiny and judgemental crap just heaps a whole lot of guilt upon anyone who happens to enjoy an alcohol-free beer or a nice drink in a fancy glass as a ritual at the end of the day. That will allegedly tip one right back into drinking too much.

I’ve been having some excellent results using the ideas in Annie Grace’s “This Naked Mind”. I’m feeling joyful and free and happy about sobriety. Posts like the one above dig deep into the darkest fears I’ve held about never drinking again, like that I’ll always be hyper aware of it, that everything is a trigger, that I will never feel completely safe.

I know Belle has helped a lot of people. This, however, is just saying something because she appears to have run out of things to say about sobriety. Is living an entire life talking, writing and preaching about alcohol really living a life free of alcohol?

Sparkles once more

The comments on my earlier post were so helpful. This one, in particular, from karymayhickey, instantly helped…

“As one of my friends on the message boards pointed out today to another person who had broken her abstinence streak, “How would you have felt 9 weeks ago if someone had told you, you’re going to go 9 weeks without drinking and then you’re going to have 3 glasses of wine, but then you’re going to go right back to not drinking.” What would that scenario have looked like 9 or 10 weeks ago? Impossible? Well, now you’ve accomplished the impossible. You can do it again.”

If I went back in time to the morning when I woke up and knew, deep in my bones, that I had to stop drinking, and held my sad face in my own hands and said “you will not drink for 65 of the next 66 days”, I would have been ecstatic. I am ecstatic. I’m also so proud of myself for getting right back up on the horse before it bolted away again.

Maybe I’ll never be one of those people who gets to 15 years sober or some such. But if I can get 15 years down the track and say “I’ve been sober for 15 years aside from 3 occasions when I drank”, I will be fine with that. I’d be overjoyed with that, in truth.

This is not a pitch for moderation in the slightest, but a recognition that my path is my own and it may not be perfect. I’m raising my chamomile and lavender tea to imperfections, to life-affirming slips, to sober internet friends, and to keeping on going one day at a time. 

One more lesson learned

I had three glasses of wine on Friday night. I’m not planning to have any more.

Friday would have been day 63. 

I felt off all last week. A constant headache and low mood for absolutely no reason at all, which was a rude shock after feeling so fabulous for so long. Looking back, there were a few things going subtly wrong. Too much work, not enough exercise, definitely not enough sleep, miserable weather, a really stressful situation where a friend has gone completely off the rails with alcohol and drugs and has a tiny baby thrown into the mix. I didn’t actually think about drinking at all until I got home from work all tearful and frustrated and poured it before I’d really had a chance to think about what I was doing. 

I’m often a mess on Friday nights. My job is emotionally exhausting – let’s face it, nobody needs a lawyer when everything is going swimmingly. There is a disproportionate number of high conflict personalities – because nobody needs a lawyer if both sides are reasonable people who can compromise. And I am still learning what I’m doing in a lot of ways, which is totally frustrating, because by 33 I imagined I’d be CEO of the universe and not clinging to the bottom rung of my career ladder. As a result, I often come home with none of my self-soothing resources left, and if I don’t drink then I smoke a bunch of cigarettes or eat a stupid amount of chocolate or get into an argument about something I don’t even care about on social media. 

It’s not like I don’t know what the solution is. Or solutions. There are heaps of them and they have been working for nine weeks. Making plans to do something  which involves being totally sober – like ice skating or pole dancing. Or retreating to the bath to slather my face in a mud mask and read a novel and drink tea. Gosh, it’s not rocket science.

I didn’t realise how annoyed I was at myself until I sat down to write this and started crying hot tears of frustration. Three glasses of wine isn’t the end of the world. For me, though, it was enough to bring back the awfully painful gastritis symptoms I get from drinking, which don’t exist when I’m not drinking. I’d forgotten how puffy I get from drinking  – my socks leave elastic marks around my swollen ankles and my sunglasses leave marks on my face. These are more things that don’t happen when I don’t drink. And those are only the physical symptoms – if I was feeling flat before the wine, I felt downright miserable after it.

I liked that my sobriety date was my birthday. I liked how strong and brave and a little bit smug I was feeling. I liked myself, even. I have experienced too much of how great being sober can be to throw it away at this point.

Week 8

The highlights:

Falling asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow each night and waking up eight hours later.

Gorgeous almost-Spring weather.

Being inspired by the Olympic gymnastics to start a new back flexibility challenge and noticing results already.

Starting a new knitting project – legwarmers for pole dancing warm ups based on this pair I found on Pinterest.


Getting a much-needed haircut, including a hot towel hair treatment and glorious scalp massage.

 Figuring out how to connect the TV to the Internet so this household can step in to the 21st century.

The mundane:

A lot of work and occasional stress about how to do it all without spending 12 hours a day in the office.

A highly emotional 5-year-old.

The usual never ending  cooking, cleaning, washing cycle.

The weird:

People trying to convince me I didn’t have that much of a drinking problem and that quitting is a significant overreaction. My brother came to visit and I though it would be a good opportunity to speak about it.

Him: But you didn’t have a problem like Dad or so-and -so.

Me: I don’t want to end up with a problem like Dad or so-and-so. I was binge drinking 1 to 2 bottles of wine at least twice a week, drinking more than the recommended amount most other nights and the last time I drank I fell over and gave myself concussion for a week. I would go out intending to have two drinks and wake up the next day with no memory past the sixth drink. I think most reasonable people would call that problematic.

Him: yeah, but you could just cut back.

Me: that’s what I was trying to do when I fell over and knocked myself out. Didn’t seem like a spectacular success.

Another friend has also been questioning whether the quitting is necessary. These conversations aren’t not making me waver, I just figure they come from a place of literally no understanding of what it is to lack control over your alcohol consumption. 

I continue to love not having to try and exercise that control. It has freed up so much space in my life.

A disturbing new development

Pink clouds come and go. It’s not a problem when I fall off one. In fact, it’s something of a relief to not be so crazy-ridiculous happy. Like last night, when I was leading my dance students through some stretches and I started giggling like a mad woman in child’s pose. I told the class I was remembering something funny from the day, but really, I was just happy to be alive and feeling good and not hungover. 

I still have problems. Some of them are pretty huge. I have not had the time or inclination to write about them. They all involve external factors. Me? I am fine. Better than fine. Kicking myself for not figuring out that alcohol was my biggest problem sooner than this, but fine. Absolutely no inclination to drink and ruin this. Day 48.

Distance and perspective

When I was lurching from one blackout night and miserable hangover to another, I did not fear the next time. In a remarkable similarity to childbirth, I forgot the pain almost instantly. I guess denial played a big part in that. If I could have recognised how much damage I was doing to myself, I would have had no choice but to stop. It wasn’t until that terrifying head injury (which still hurts a little when I reach up and touch the ridge where my skull cracked, 44 days later) that I was unable to deny it any longer.

In a complete reversal of the childbirth-like loss of memory of pain, I can now see what my life was like, stuck in that cycle, in excruciating detail. I can close my eyes and feel it. I am terrified of going back there. Every step I take away from the last three years is a step in the right direction.