I am sitting on the toilet seat in my bathroom, looking at my husband who is crouched down on the floor in front of me. He’s got a tea towel in his hand which he’s holding against the side of my head and he’s talking to somebody on the phone. I think he’s talking about me but I’m struggling to work out what’s going on. Why’s he in here? Who is he talking to? Why does the bath look like a scene from Psycho??!!
Three years ago, after a family Sunday lunch and far too much red wine, I fell over in the bathroom and smashed my head against the tiled wall. I didn’t feel it and couldn’t remember exactly what had happened until two weeks later when it all came back to me in some hideous Hollywood-style flashback.
I felt incredibly ashamed. I work in Emergency Services and am more than aware of the cost of time-wasters (which is exactly how I saw myself). My accident was totally unnecessary, caused by my inability to stop drinking once I’ve started.
I wasn’t always like this. As a teenager, I wasn’t really fussed about alcohol. I never tried to buy a drink underage, partly because I looked like a 12 year old boy until my mid twenties but mostly due to a complete lack of interest!
In my twenties, I would drink from time to time, but my social life revolved mostly around music and I would quite happily drive to gigs. I don’t remember ever needing to drink to be sociable. In my mind, the two things just weren’t really connected. Even though I wasn’t blessed with a great deal of self confidence or self esteem, I never used alcohol as confidence booster……..until I did.
Fast forward to my mid thirties when I met my now husband and we soon moved in together. We used to buy wine from our local shop – three bottles of red for a tenner. These three bottles would last us all week, no problem, and often, we would even have half bottles left over!
My husband has two sons who lived with their mother but spent weekends and holidays with us. My relationship with the boys was good and being a stepmum was generally very rewarding but could be challenging at times. The main issue was that their mother would take every opportunity to try and damage my relationship with them, mostly by rewarding them for behaving badly around me. I never retaliated but at times it was very difficult to cope with.
In the early days of our relationship, we took the boys to Spain for a holiday. We had a good time but the efforts of their mother had made things more difficult than they needed to be which affected the boys’ behaviour and made me feel quite stressed, insecure and at times, very on edge. So, I took the edge off with wine! I didn’t get drunk but would have a drink on and off throughout the day and evening and it just made the whole situation much easier to deal with.
After that holiday my drinking habits changed slowly but surely and soon it became the norm to drink most days. It became apparent that I’d broken my own off switch!
After several years of this habitual drinking, I started to notice that it wasn’t so much fun anymore. There were some incidents and arguments that were entirely down to my level of intoxication and were becoming more frequent. Then came the bathroom accident where it transpired I had split a vein on my head, wasted everyone’s time at A&E and was told by the doctor that if I’d have hit it a centimetre lower I would probably be dead.
So for the next two years I was much more mindful of my drinking. There were occasions I would still have too much and do or say something regrettable but not as frequently as before. I even managed to stay alive! Great! Well done me! BUT it was fucking exhausting! A constant battle to keep it in check.
Last year I became so tired of constantly thinking about drinking that I decided it had to be easier to ditch it altogether. What I was doing wasn’t ‘mindful’; it was a constant mental battle with myself and I’d had enough.
From July through to the end of September I was alcohol free. There were odd moments where I missed it but generally it was easy. I felt better. I looked better and all my relationships seemed easier and calmer. So you know what I did don’t you? I thought I must be cured and so on 1st October I had a drink. Then a week later I had two drinks. Then four days later……I don’t need to tell you, do I? It took about three weeks and I was back to square one. I still massively regret being such a twat and listening to what I now understand to be the voice of addiction, the devious little fucker!
After that I struggled to find the mindset to start again until the 16th June this year, when my wonderful husband said the magic words…. ‘do you fancy doing 100 days alcohol free with me?’ Do I? Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?? YES! YES I DO!!
My husband is mad keen cyclist and is training for a major event, which at the time, was 100 days away. So, on 17th June, we both ditched the poison and we dived straight into life without it. Whatever has come our way, we’ve done it without alcohol. No excuses. And here we are feeling so much better and both of us agree that we will never go back to the way things were before.
My top tip for those of you who, like me, have had successful alcohol free stints but ended up back at square one? Don’t listen to that voice that tells you that you can moderate. It’s a big fat liar. Give it a name. Create a mental image of it and then tell it to fuck right off!!
Beautifully written by Jan and barely edited by Sober Fish
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