Four months into my sobriety, I remember meeting up with a friend who said to me – “That’s great… but it’s one thing to cut it out, it’s another to have control”.
And I just thought… £@%& you. Being able to say ‘no, thank you’ to alcohol & drugs has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. To go out and drink pints of Pepsi until I felt sick but dance, dance, dance, while most around me were three sheets to the East London wind. I didn’t want to miss out. Having drunk consistently, and hard, since I was 15, at 25 I was getting spat out the other side of binges achy, ego throbbing, and giving up on life. I felt resentful towards this friend, why didn’t she question her drinking? The narcissistic ‘why me?’ running in my head: Why can’t I stop? Why can’t it just be the one? Why do I have that all too familiar ‘£$%@ it’ whisper itself in my head and I know I’m done caring about myself? It’s unfair to think this way, because really my reaction to her comment was only ever about me, not about her. And I am grateful for her saying it, because it’s stayed with me throughout my sobriety until now, and I’ve given it some real thought. But my reaction to it is representative of one of the uglier parts of me, how needy drinking made me – for others to validate me, to love me, to fill every porous hole of my self-esteem with false courage. And I guess, in a way, I wanted my sobriety to be my all-redeeming salvation.
Checking into rehab
I hate writing these words. I hate admitting to this. I hate the version of myself that lost control. I hate the version of myself that lost control and liked it. I hate the shame that washes over. Using the amnesia of booze, I created blank canvases for all the painful moments in my life. But mostly I felt really sad for that girl. I wish someone had said to me at the time, “everything, everything, everything, will be okay”.
I ended up checking myself into rehab. I spent three months there, and to this day, it is the best gift I ever gave myself. I often ask people in groups I’ve run, “what’s the greatest gift sobriety has given you?” For me, the answer is always the same: Love. I fell irrevocably head over heals in love with life.
I was sober for one year, 2 months and 28 days.
Alcohol-free for a while
The last 10 months have been a huge learning curve in opening up that conversation around alcohol with alcohol. I’ve fallen flat on my face. Hard. A couple of times. I’ve also been able to just have one drink and stop. I’ve been able to say no entirely. Because life has started to mean more than my next drink. I do worry, that I’m a fraud. That when I stand in a bar and tell people what I do (working with people trying to get a handle on their drinking – if that’s quitting or calming down or stopping for a bit) with a pint in my hand, I watch their eyes glance down. And so, we talk about the pint in my hand, and the whys and the whats of sobriety and moderation and society. I’ve had some really interesting conversations with people, and I would like to think it’s sparked debate around a subject that isn’t possibly talked about enough, especially in our 20s.
From teetotal to moderation
I never thought abstinence was for me. I might be in total denial of my more addictive traits. Moderation is not something I’ve ever casually practiced, in anything. Drugs and booze, but also food. Sport. Love. Self-hate. It’s a whole mind, body, soul dedication – to turn away from the cravings or to stop after a small amount. I fill my dark corners with stuff to numb out the lonely and sad. I know this dynamic I have with alcohol, with any of my vices, is going to be a life-long thing. I will always circle these with hesitation and awareness. But I’m trying to find some peace. I’m more ready than I ever thought I would be, and I’m grateful for having opened up that dialogue with myself now, so that ‘just the one’ or ‘no, thank you’ comes naturally to me. Finding moderation is something I find strength in too. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care – it just means that I’m hearing myself out.