Like a lot of people, I started drinking as a teenager and loved it, mainly because it made me more confident in social situations and I considered myself to be shy without it.
I continued with this attitude throughout my life (now I am 36), believing alcohol made me likeable and funny on work and girly nights out, but over the years, the reality became quite different. Blackouts became more frequent. I would wake up in extreme states of shame and anxiety at what I could remember, having made decisions I would never have made when sober. Alcohol was beginning to ruin my life. Gradually it was taking control of social situations and I hadn’t really noticed it creeping into my normal routine.
The Christmas before I got sober, I spent most nights alone, drinking up to two bottles of wine, watching chick flicks on my sofa in a boozy haze. I would desperately text and email ex-boyfriends looking for attention and was constantly on social media feeling jealous of everyone. On the nights I did go out, I would often end up in black out, not even knowing how I had made it home.
I regularly put myself in dangerous situations with no regard for my safety or well-being. The horrible and dark times were vastly overtaking the lessening amount of ‘good times’ and I felt a strong and growing feeling of dread getting greater by the day. I was sick most mornings and became worried that drinking was damaging my health as my drinking had increased every day.
My doctor then diagnosed me as suffering from severe depression and anxiety and prescribed Citalopram. In a way, this is what I wanted to hear as I could then blame my condition on mental illness and not alcohol, which would allow me to continue drinking.
The drugs, combined with alcohol, actually caused my anxiety to worsen and I ended up hiding in my house. I couldn’t give up drinking, lost my job, built up terrible debt and believed my mental health to be beyond repair. I lost interest in everything, except drinking alcohol, and believed myself to be worthless. I tried to take my own life by taking an overdose and drinking to excess. Still I continued to convince myself that alcohol wasn’t the problem, believing that I needed alcohol to help me relax and to escape my problems and mental illness.
I believed alcohol was the only thing that worked except it had stopped working long ago. I was discharged straight from the hospital to rehab, where I stayed for 6 weeks.
I got sober in rehab on 14 May 2017. These past 17 months have been the best of my life. I actually consider each day to be a miracle and a gift.
In rehab, I was warned that my depression and anxiety would still affect me without the alcohol and that I was probably suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I was told to continue taking antidepressants and to increase them up to the maximum dose for at least a year. I was surprised at this, as was starting to feel happier and more stable after just a few weeks of sobriety.
I started to exercise, to eat well and to read up on alcohol abuse and read sober blogs and literature. I went to AA and socialised sober, having told old friends I was no longer drinking. I gradually found a supportive network. I started work again and was able to be reliable. Old relationships took on a new meaning, as I was able to share with people and not hide my drinking. I sorted out my debt problems.
I had been so bitter when I was drinking, often looking down on people and looking for the worst in them. Sober, I found I was able to accept and give love and that was a simple and wonderful thing. Friendships took on more value, laughter became more real, but the main change was that I started to like myself. I discovered that I was not shy after all and that I quite like my own company. What a revelation!
I decided not to increase my antidepressants to the maximum dose, even in the early days. As I was feeling so much better, I did not see the point. With every sober day my confidence grew and my anxiety lessened. Was it possible that sobriety was causing all of this? What about my severe mental illness? As I got healthier, with a clear head, life seemed quite fun. I was happy with how I looked, as my skin had cleared up and my eyes and hair were shiny. People told me how well I looked. I was taking up new hobbies, reading more and talking to people, having interesting debates where I was confident of my opinion. When I was drinking, I was either drunk and shouting, or hungover and terrified. I found that I was enjoying life. In fact, I had never felt better. I asked myself again, astounded at the change – was it possible that sobriety was causing all of this?
I recently met someone who had just given up drinking. She also ended up in hospital and ended up at my local AA group. She was physically shaking and crying, her confidence damaged and her health too. She said she was depressed and anxious. She had contemplated taking her own life. Her doctor had put her on antidepressants and told her she was mentally ill. Just two weeks later, sober, she was beginning to experience the same positive life transformation that I did.
I see it all the time, in life, in blogs, in literature. I can’t ignore it now. I believe that alcohol caused my depression and anxiety, or, at the very least, exacerbated them to a dangerous and life-threatening extent. Now, I don’t drown my sorrows in bottles of wine or end up in situations I regret (and, oh, there were many of those). I enjoy my life with a clear, sober head and when problems do arise, because life will never be perfect, I have the logic and clarity to deal with them to the best of my ability.
I believe mental health is a huge and genuine problem in today’s society and worry that we underestimate the effect that alcohol has on these conditions. Everyone has their own journey and I believe that if I drank again, this would put every positive change that has happened over the past 17 months in jeopardy.
And really, it just isn’t worth it.
Written by Claire, edited by Sober Fish
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‘Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving’.
Terry Pratchett – A Hat Full of Sky
My name is Mel and I have been sober since 6 July 2018. It hasn’t been an easy journey to give up drinking but right now I know it’s been the best decision I have made in a long time.
From the age of 14, I spent my life on an up and down ride of mental health episodes and many different types of medications. For years, I tried to make myself feel better, to escape from my internal demons and keep my head above water.
I still remember the first time I tried a drink; it was like a light blub went off. I enjoyed the warm fuzz and that alcohol rendered me unable to keep a thought in my head.
It was exactly what I was looking for.
I felt like I’d found a friend that would keep me from feeling anything real for the next couple of decades.
I’m not a stupid woman. I logically knew that drinking and anti-depressants were a bad mix but it didn’t stop me. I could literally rationalise any reason to have a drink. It made me feel invincible, funny and clever but I hadn’t realised that I was actually building a prison for myself.
Alcohol was not my friend; Alcohol was my enemy and it was making me ill.
When I was so depressed that I couldn’t get out of bed, I didn’t realise that it was probably my alcohol consumption that was stopping my medication from working. I would then stop taking my tablets but interestingly, never took myself off my wine or vodka. I would cycle between medications without ever telling a doctor how much or how often I drank. Even before I admitted I had a problem I knew better than to be honest about my daily drinking to a medical professional.
I had a couple of tries at mindful drinking. I bought the books and made rules for myself but it never lasted. I always went back to drinking and back into the black hole inside my head.
I drank to blackout regularly. My behaviour was frankly appalling at times. I kept drinking, I self harmed, I kept drinking, I went back on medication, I kept drinking. I completed Dry January and raised money for mental health charities but then went right back to getting hammered daily.
The last 3.5 months have been my best months for years.
I am not taking any medication.
I sleep! For years, I would walk around outside in the dark, drunk, while my family were asleep in bed but no more. I really sleep and wake up fully rested.
This means I look after myself better, which means I am able to give a real part of myself to my children.
I am happy. Genuinely smiling happy. It’s like I didn’t realise how bad I felt everyday until those feelings of desolation were replaced actual joy!
I am able to connect with people better because functioning with a hangover is honestly just really hard work.
I won’t lie. Giving up booze hasn’t been easy. It’s been real work. I have a sponsor, I work the steps and I go to meetings. I have a good support network. All that helps me so much but the thing that really keeps me sober every day is happiness. I love how I feel now. I love that my children have a happy, non medicated, sober mother who can spend time with them because I’m not hiding with a hangover in a back void.
I love that my husband no longer needs to worry about how I might drunkenly embarrass him on a night out.
I love that I will remember what I did, who I spoke to and what I said the following morning.
I love my sober life and honestly I didn’t think I would ever feel like this. If anyone is wondering if they need to stop drinking then please give yourself a gift and give a sober life a real go. My only regret is that it took me over 20 years to understand that drunk Mel’s life was grey and I needed sobriety to see life in technicolour.
Written by Mel, edited by Sober Fish
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This time last year, I was a teacher living in London, in her own place, doing ‘well’ to the outside world, but underneath the carefully constructed facade, I was actually drowning. I had begun what I now affectionately refer to as my ‘final descent to rock bottom’. It was a decline I believe started many years ago and a journey I had to make to start the climb back up.
I had a normal middle class upbringing and I wanted for nothing as a child. Except actually, I wanted for everything. I’ve often heard recovering addicts describe this strange emotion; it’s called feeling ‘less-than’. No matter what I had (which was more than enough), I always wanted more. I felt that if I just had my friend’s teddy or the latest trainers or more CDs, I’d finally be happy. Inevitably when I got those things (by being very spoiled), I found they couldn’t fill the hole inside me.
When I found alcohol (and later other substances), I discovered that something had the capacity to fill the hole. In actuality, all that happened was that drinking made me forget the hole was there for a little while. It always came back and – worse – it grew to gaping.
I’ve never been able to consume alcohol (or any mind altering substance for that matter) with either control or any measure of predictability. Before I even hit the legal drinking age, I had checked off most of the ‘what-not-to-dos’, the classic alcoholic markers. I was arrested for being drunk and disorderly at thirteen, I frequently wet myself and I thought that blacking out was par for the course on a night out. I never knew my limits, always went too far and my behaviour while drunk, was erratic, dangerous and extreme. This went under the radar in my early twenties when I was at university and went on to work in marketing; it was glamourous and everyone was doing it.
Now I realise that not everyone was doing it in the way I was doing it.
For example, when living in a shared house in my second year at university, I would drink alone in my room and go out into Central London alone. You’d think the fact my contemporaries (who were no angels) couldn’t keep up might have been a more obvious sign I was in trouble but for years, any niggling ideas that I might have a problem were swiftly swilled away by more booze.
Over the years, I had periods of stability – usually procured in the pursuit of a new job or partner, but giving up drinking entirely never entered my mind. No matter how successful I became, things routinely ended up – eventually – crashing down around me and my drinking progressed. I had more accidents and I began to obsessively worry about my health, turning up at hospitals and calling ambulances convinced I was dying of a heart attack. What was actually happening was that my body was – as it ought to – responding to my intake. I suffered horrendous gastroenteritis, problems with my vision and at one point a swollen liver. Still, the body (particularly the liver) is a pretty hardy thing, and as soon as I recovered from whatever malady I was suffering at the time, the horror of it receded enough for me to start again.
I am a real victim of euphoric recall, where my mind will replay to me the ‘best bits’ of my drinking, kind of like they do on Big Brother when someone gets evicted. Gone are the memories of hugging the toilet bowl and promising never to do it again. These real terrors are spliced and replaced with rose-tinted fakery of things that might not have ever really happened, since I can’t really remember much when I have a drink.
It was in my late twenties/early thirties that my lifestyle began to really take its toll on my mental health. In my relationships with others I could be abusive, dishonest and manipulative. To myself, I was nothing short of vicious. I frequently self-harmed and over-medicated with drugs both illicit and legal. I sometimes sought help rather half-heartedly and started and stopped prescriptions for SSRIs (a type of anti-depressant) and doctored-ordered CBT (a type of talking therapy). I ignored advice to seek help from drugs and alcohol services and now believe I only went along with suggestions to improve my mental health because I believed that it might make me ‘well enough to drink’.
I just didn’t understand that alcohol was likely exacerbating my depression, if not being the root cause of it.
My life trundled on; a succession of ups and downs, a car crash of broken relationships and promises. Somewhere along the way, I became a teacher and grew to love the career I’d chosen, but it still wasn’t enough to curb my drinking.
I’ve since learned that nothing can curb my drinking, because I’m an alcoholic. I’ve got friends who chose booze over their homes, partners, and even their kids. This is not because they are bad people or don’t love their children – it is because addiction is a complex, powerful disease that tells the sufferer that the poison is the cure.
By the time I was 34, I was almost defeated by the poison. My mum passed away suddenly in 2015 and this was a dam-busting turning point. It is one of my biggest regrets that I used her death as an excuse to get worse, not better. I quite simply lost control and embarked on two very dark years of drinking and taking drugs, nearly always to blackout and nearly always alone. I was signed off work, unable to cope with life anymore and one bleak evening in December last year, I took enough paracetamol and antidepressants to floor a horse. I devastated my family, shocked my friends and almost died. And yet, I still wanted to drink. In fact, the very reason I believe I tried to take my own life was because I could no longer see a future for me without drinking. It was killing me, but I didn’t think I could live without it.
After being resuscitated in a London hospital, I was admitted to a psychiatric inpatient facility for a week. As many of us do, I lied to every professional in there about how much I was drinking and using. Even though I had nearly left this world, I was still desperately hopeful there was something ‘medical’ that would explain my behaviour. Once that was sorted, I could crack on with the boozing.
I was in luck. In my experience, medical doctors seem to know very little about the nature of addiction, how it corrupts integrity and decimates honesty, so I was given a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (a disturbingly common label often incorrectly given to addicts). I grabbed onto this diagnosis like it was a Christmas present. Such is the insanity of addiction; I was more amenable to the idea of having a serious psychiatric disorder than I was to addressing my drinking.
This is where I think the borderlines between alcoholism and mental addiction and mental health are blurred. I still don’t fully understand where one ends and the other begins. Does one cause the other, are they symptomatically the same? Opinion varies. What I do know is that the solution to ending my misery was very simple – I had to admit that alcohol was no longer (nor had it ever been) the friend I thought it was.
After a last ditch attempt at “controlled drinking” just before Christmas, which ended with me coming round in a hotel room having ‘lost’ days rather than hours to a blackout, I rocked up – shaking – to a twelve step meeting. Shortly after that, I discovered there was a thriving online recovery community and these two things became the bedrock of my recovery. I am now ten months clean and sober.
Since choosing sobriety, my life has changed in almost every imaginable way. It’s incredibly challenging at times; we live in a society saturated with the message that alcohol is fun and sober is boring. Mums are sold wine as a payoff, gin comes branded by unicorns and prosecco is just bloody everywhere! Learning to rewire your coping mechanisms is no picnic and having to explain to people why you CHOOSE not to ingest a poisonous toxin can be exhausting. But it’s worth it. Because along with these challenges come countless rewards, the most significant being a new way of life that is no longer mired in chaos.
In recovery, I have learned that discomfort is a normal part of life, as are sadness, angst and anxiety. These feelings are okay and it’s okay to sit with them instead of drown them in Sauvignon Blanc. I am tapering off anti-depressants and learning to meditate and through the help of friends, fellowship and online sisterhood I finally find that I like myself. I’m not sure when that happened, but I’m glad it did!
I have had mixed responses to my choice to come clean about my journey through addiction, but I believe telling our stories is important for so many reasons.
I do this because I need to not keep this gift to myself. I do it because had I known about the amount of support and love that was out there, I might not have been so frightened in my rock bottom.
I do this because speaking up about recovering from addiction should be as revered as surviving any life-threatening illness.
I do it because I want people to see my sobriety as a strength and not a weakness or an inability to “cope” with alcohol.
I do this because I was pretty much the last to know I was an addict and there are a lot of people out there, who are dear to me, who have been patiently waiting for me to get well. None of these people have failed to show up for me these past ten months and I’ve been blown away by people’s kindness and support.
If you are struggling with addiction or think you may have a problem, please know: you are not alone and there is always a way out of the chaos. You can climb out of your rock bottom, as I have mine.
Written by Emma, edited by Sober Fish
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In January 2017, after several dismal attempts at moderating my drinking, I decided to do an extended period of sobriety.
For at least six months, I had been hearing this whisper telling me that the party girl lifestyle was no longer serving me; that if I wanted to live the life I dreamed of, alcohol had to go. But I was hesitant to make a change. Didn’t giving up alcohol mean that I had a problem? I didn’t feel like I had a problem…but that doesn’t mean that alcohol wasn’t a problem.
But it was.
So, on January 1, 2017, I decided I’d had enough and committed to doing a sober stint for Dry January.
What went from a 30-day challenge to a 90-day commitment turned to a whole year of testing the sober waters. A 30-something, social, single lady in a thriving city, I realized I had two distinct options when it came to my social and dating life: either withdraw and become a recluse, or figure out how to navigate the social and dating scenes sober.
I’ll be honest, the first option sounded appealing. A highly sensitive person and outgoing introvert, I used drinking as a social lubricant to make me feel more comfortable and outgoing in social settings. For a long time, I thought I needed alcohol to help me tolerate social scenes and help me be more talkative on dates. As I got deeper and deeper into my alcohol-free journey, I came to one solid (yet rather unpopular) conclusion: if something (a social situation or group of people) wasn’t fun unless I was drinking…the situation or people simply were not fun. Furthermore, if I wasn’t capable of meeting new people or conquering something without the liquid courage provided by a cocktail, who was I?
During this time, I found my truth. I had always been a wildly vibrant, outgoing, silly, joyful, insightful, empathic, smart, capable woman. I had not been using alcohol to bring out that side of me. I had been using alcohol to dull that side of me because I was afraid of my light. I was intimidated by sharing with the world what made me different and special. I was unsure how to operate in a world that settled for mediocrity, knowing I was meant to shine.
So, I dulled myself down in the most socially acceptable way there was: with alcohol (please note that my eyes are full of tears as I type this because I understand how profound this realization is. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with you in hope that you will see a bit of my story in your own).
As I discovered my truth, I also gained the courage to accept the challenge of engaging in the social and dating world sober. Full disclosure: this took time. The physical detox from alcohol is just the beginning of the growth you experience when you quit drinking (regardless of the reason). I encourage you to take time to heal, explore and simply become comfortable sitting with yourself and experiencing the gamut of emotions which will now be available to you.
When I was ready to dip my toe back into the dating pool, a quick survey of my girlfriends and colleagues revealed that it would be quite tricky (some even suggested it would be intolerable). With few options, I decided to give it a try and logged back into a few popular dating apps. I knew immediately that I’d eliminate a large portion of the dating pool. There would be plenty of guys who couldn’t handle dating someone who didn’t drink. To be fair, I’d already dated a lot of those guys and it hadn’t really gotten me anywhere.
So, after I eliminated the guys who I deemed ‘too boozy’ from the start, I had to plan my next move. How would I reveal my new sober lifestyle to my dates? You might find yourself saying, “do I even need to tell potential romantic partners that I’m not drinking?” or “Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle?” I can give an unequivocal, “yes” to both questions, but let me offer you some insight.
If a potential romantic partner has asked you to meet for drinks, you do need to disclose your lifestyle to them. It’s not fair to you or them to wait until you are ‘meeting for drinks’ to disclose. This could turn into a waste of your time, and theirs, if there is a lifestyle misalignment. But, I’ve heard from many sober singles that this is a very tricky conversation. I agree, it is…and I’ve had it the wrong way enough times to know exactly how to have it (I share these tips in a special free guide I created which can be found on my website: authenticallyamanda.com/soberdating).
On to the second question: Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle? Yes, of course they will. But in the world of dating…especially with the added layer of complexity created through dating apps and sites, you have to manage this conversation with finesse because you, an alcohol-free person, are still in the minority and, while potential romantic partners might have the best of intentions, they do not know how to navigate the sober dating world…you might have to offer some guidance. This means, come to the table prepared to offer suggestions for non-drinking date options, as opposed to saying, “I actually don’t drink,” if they’ve asked you to meet up for drinks.
I’ve found that many potential romantic partners are very open to and accepting of my alcohol-free lifestyle, but also don’t have the immediate skill set to navigate a conversation. In the world of dating apps these days, it’s easy enough for a guy/girl to drop a conversation if he/she doesn’t know how to respond. And in a world where drinking is socially acceptable and encouraged; it’s completely okay if they don’t know how to respond. That doesn’t mean they won’t be a good match or date, they just need education.
I think it’s important to share that I have encountered a lot of uncomfortable situations dating; it hasn’t been all doves and rainbows. But I’ve learned so much about my own capacity for handling my own emotions and awkwardness. I share about my failures and successes dating and socializing over on my blog authenticallyamanda.com and Instagram @authenticallyamanda.
I hope you’ll follow along and reach out if you too are navigating the social, single and sober world.
Written by Amanda, barely edited by Sober Fish
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I had been sober and ‘kiss free’ for 13 months before I felt I was ready to plunge back into the world of internet dating.
I downloaded the dating app ‘Bumble’ and started swiping. Almost immediately, I saw a friend from childhood who I hadn’t spoken to since I was 8 years old. I swiped right and it was a match, so I sent my first message “How the hell have you been for the last 20 years?” and waited patiently for his reply.
The conversation was easy. As sobriety can be a deal breaker, my profile openly stated that I was sober. He mentioned my sobriety in weird idolisation, saying it wasn’t something he could do but that he wished he could as he’d heard great things.
A few days later, he told me he had taken cocaine at the weekend. I told myself I was cool with this as he said it didn’t happen often, that he didn’t seek it out and that he just had a hard time saying no. My better judgement was screaming out but because I really wanted him, I ignored it.
Our first date was a perfect evening of staring into each others eyes and laughing and soon it was time for my first sober kiss. It was the type of kiss you see at the end of a movie when the girl gets the guy, with fireworks and incredible passion!
Things continued to progress with the same fire. He had soulful depth and had examined his inner psyche. This was something which really turned me on in sobriety. He knew what it was like to dig through the darkest places of the mind. Once, he sat with me in silence for 20 minutes as I worked up the nerve to be vulnerable to a man without liquid courage. It was all new to me. His patience turned to understanding and appreciation of my vulnerability.
In the beginning I was 100% myself and I thought he got me on a level that I’d never experienced before. He didn’t drink alcohol for our first couple dates and after that, asked me respectfully if it was ok for him to have a drink.
We would see each other 2-3 times a week until I took a trip to Denver and then things changed.
The night before I came home, he told me how happy he was with me, that he was all in and we could talk about what that meant when I got back. I felt it was finally happening for me; a healthy happy relationship would be another gift of my sobriety.
However, when I got home, he was different. Once again, my gut was telling me things weren’t right but I ignored it. A few days later he told me that he needed space and asked if we could slow things down. He told me that he sometimes got distant and it was hard for everyone in his life. Panic ensued in my body. I felt anxious. I was feeling rejection for the first time in 13 months and it hurt.
Although we continued to see each other, things were never the same again.
Desperate for his affection, I grasped at any crumb he would throw my way, however any positive moment would be quickly overshadowed by the overwhelming unhappiness he had in his life. I sympathized with him but could feel my own depression grow from his sadness. I tried to break things off with him but he told me that wasn’t what he wanted so I took that as a sign he was coming round.
From the day I started to retreat back to myself, I made a promise that I would no longer question if he liked me. I would work on me instead and get back to a self that I liked. After that, I only saw him one more time and knew it was over.
After a while, I started to wake up with a new perspective on life. I realised I’d been spending too much energy on people that did not reciprocate. I reached out one last time and he said something that really stuck “Your need for reassurances really wore me down. I think you have some issues you need to work through”.
Instead of dismissing his criticism, I chose to listen. As painful as it was to hear, he was right and I was thankful for his honesty. I had never been in a healthy relationship; all of my relationships ended up like this. Why did I think I would magically be in a healthy relationship just because I was sober now?
With his words ringing in my ears, I got on the internet for a different reason. I started reading about attachment styles. Oh hello anxious/fearful attachment! and emailed my therapist to set up an appointment. My research and digging continued and then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
People pleasing, fear of rejection, low self worth, validation by others opinions of me, not trusting oneself and all was rooted in addiction. It was me; all of the above.
I realised that I had no clue what a real loving relationship was supposed to look like mainly because I’d never had a proper example. There was also a possibility that I didn’t even know what love was.
These revelations were more heartbreaking to me than the heartwrenching catalyst that had forced me to look at myself. As numbing these thoughts with drugs and alcohol wasn’t an option for me, I sought help from my therapist and did some serious reading and research.
Slowly, I began to heal. It was painful. I cried and I sobbed every day for a month but in the end, I found bravery, self confidence, and a fearlessness I had never known before. The codependent weight has finally been lifted off my shoulders and I was able to release baggage and trauma by acknowledging and forgiving myself and the men of my past.
Recently I hopped back into the dating world with my new life lens and had two dates in two weeks. Honesty, openness, and authenticity afloat, I still didn’t see either man after the first date. This time however, I moved on easily from the rejection.
I now understand that there is value in these learning experiences and will continue the inner guidance and self knowledge whilst sometime wistfully daydreaming about the man I left 5 years ago.
Written by Kate, edited by Sober Fish
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When I was 17 years old, I started my first dream job as a trainee Zoo Keeper. I was shy and uncomfortable around people and had always said I would never drink or smoke because I’d seen how alcohol affected people and didn’t like it.
I’d been invited out by my work mates who all liked a drink and was introduced to cider and baby sham, the ‘in drink’ back then. I liked the taste of it and it went down a treat. Then I had another, then another. It was great, I felt great and I could talk to people now! What a night! I felt amazing!
The next morning however, was a totally different story. I felt strange and confused, like I was hallucinating. I didn’t like the feeling and deep down, I knew this was something I didn’t want to do again; it really wasn’t for me.
On the next night out though, I felt shy and awkward and thought ‘I’ll just have the one to give me a little confidence’. And then had another and then another, and so it went on.
I soon realised I couldn’t have ‘just the one’ but I was young and your younger years were supposed to be spent like that right?
My nights out were amazing. I met so many people and had the best social life. Before long, I was out most nights of the week.
Sometimes, grabbing a quick drink after work turned into being kicked out at closing time, still in my work clothes. In the morning, I would head to work red-eyed and stinking of booze from the night before. My boss would shout ‘Were you out drinking last night again? Look at the state of you’ but I’d just laugh and get on with my work.
During those years, I tried all the drinks; different spirits, beers, wine, etc. I loved vodka but it made me violent. I tried whisky but didn’t like the taste and it gave me severe hangovers.
All of my relationships centred around alcohol and none of them ever lasted very long. I’d attract people who liked a drink as much as I did and gradually saw less of my sensible drinking friends.
When I reached my late 20’s and had another failed relationship, I realised that alcohol had played a big part in this relationship from start to finish. I’d become quite violent to my partner at the time and would feel terrible the following day, staying in bed for as long as possible so that I didn’t have to face the shame of what I’d said or done the night before.
After this realisation, I decided to monitor my drinking habits a bit more. I’d choose drinks that were a bit lower in alcohol content and try to have a glass of water in between drinks. I even decided to work in a bar at weekends so I’d still be socialising but not drinking, but none of it worked. Hell, I just drank more working in the bar spending all my tips on alcohol when I finished!
Every time I tried to moderate my alcohol intake and failed, my drinking would then get worse. It felt like going to a weight management class to lose lots of weight only to then put it all back on again and then some.
In my early 30’s, I knew my drinking was unhealthy but thought ‘I’m not an alcoholic’ as I don’t drink in the mornings, can keep a job and a roof over my head and don’t need to drink every day.
I knew I was a binge drinker but that was ok right? Yeah, I blacked out nearly every time I drank, yeah I’d wake up in strange houses and yeah, I’d been in hospital twice this year due to drink related accidents.
I then decided that what I’d do was just drink at home so I wouldn’t embarrass myself any further. I’d buy a box of red wine (because that’s good for you right?) and I’d have just 1 glass of wine per night, no bingeing and therefore consume less than 14 units a week.
This way, if I did drink more than a glass of wine, nobody will see me making a fool of myself. I wouldn’t dread answering the phone or the door the next day. It was sorted.
So on a Thursday night, I’d buy a box of red wine and sit it in the kitchen. I’d have a glass then convince myself it wasn’t quite a full glass so I’d just have a little more. Then I’d think ‘it’s still early and I feel fine’ and have another .. and then wake up at 5am the next day with a hangover and … you guessed it .. an empty box of wine!
So what do I do now? People keep telling me I’m not an alcoholic as I don’t drink every day but something is clearly not right.
On New Year’s Eve in 2001, I had a fabulous night celebrating in Edinburgh and ended up going to a party afterwards.
In the morning, I woke up half dressed with no idea what happened as I had no memory. Still drunk, I went to my parents for New Year’s Day dinner. As the alcohol started to wear off, the hangover and depression started to kick in with the realisation that something had happened, something I had let happen. I was riddled with guilt and fear and broke down to my mother. I was desperate now and knew I can’t go on like this. I knew that after this event, I could never drink again. Never.
I didn’t drink for the next 2 weeks but I missed it. I convinced myself that I’d had a huge fright and that I’d be ok but would stop drinking when I felt like I was getting drunk.
So, once again, I decided that I’d just drink in the house and bought a small bottle of rum. Oh boy I’d missed this; the taste, the feeling. I felt great, amazing, so happy. After a couple of hours, the bottle was empty and I was in a party mood. I called a taxi to take me to the local pub and decided to meet up with some old drinking buddies then go onto a party. It’d be fine, I convinced myself. I was working in the morning so I wouldn’t stay late.
When I woke up, my head hurt like hell. I couldn’t remember but concluded I must’ve drunk whisky. Then I realised I wasn’t at home. Oh no, I’d blacked out again and I needed to get to work. I quickly went home, got changed and somehow, drove to work. I was so ill, I just couldn’t be there and luckily managed to get away early where I climbed into bed, and stayed for 2 whole days.
I couldn’t go on like this. I couldn’t live with alcohol but I didn’t think I could live without it either. I needed someone or something to help me.
On 28 January 2002, my dad was having a retirement party. I didn’t want to embarrass him or make a fool of myself and knew I needed help.
I decided to go to the doctor but he wasn’t much help, telling me I wasn’t an alcoholic. He prescribed me some pills to help with the side effects of not drinking alcohol and refers me to a community psychiatric nurse, advising I will wait sometime for an appointment.
In the meantime, I tried Alcoholics Anonymous but decided it wasn’t for me. I then found a womens group through the NHS that I attended once a week. I found that talking to other women and being re-educated about alcohol helped me so much. My employer was a great help too by giving me the time off.
My parents were so supportive. I thought nobody understood but if it wasn’t for them, I’m sure I would’ve have failed. I cried and cried when I realised this was it. It felt like the end of a relationship I thought I could never leave, I was bereft.
15 years on, I now own my home, have my own business, have travelled all over the world; New Zealand twice, Australia, Kenya twice. I have volunteered for an HIV orphanage for 3 months, went to Namibia to volunteer with the Endangered Species Trust, visited Singapore and Hong Kong, all on my own. I have discovered a love of cooking and found out how magical and amazing life is. I have 2 dogs and a cat who are my life.
I am 48 and still single and that’s fine because my life is so full. I’d like to meet someone eventually but it’s not the ‘be all and end all’; I’m in no hurry.
Being sober is definitely the best thing I have ever done. It’s been an amazing journey of self discovery.
In a weird way, I’m actually grateful for my experience with alcohol, I reached rock bottom, my rock bottom and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have experienced just how wonderful life can be.
I know if I hadn’t stopped drinking when I did, I’d be dead now.
If I had listened to the people that told me I wasn’t an alcoholic, I’d be dead right now.
Instead, I listened to the inner voice inside me, the one I ignored as a 17 year old. The one I will never ignore again, for that inner voice, is my guide.
Written by Jackie, edited by Sober Fish
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