How is that some people can have a couple of drinks and then stop and people like myself never can!? I’d always go out with the very best intentions of just having a couple of drinks and going home early, but that never really seemed to work out. There’d always be some extraordinarily good reason that would arise during the course of an evening that would keep me out way past my self-imposed curfew. I knew this to be true of myself and in my last couple of drinking years, I’d refuse almost all invitations that were for events during the week. I understood my condition well enough to know that these school-night outings would probably mean a morning call-in to the office and a day spent shrouded in depression and guilt for not being able to stop drinking and missing work. It was never something that worried me during the course of the evening, but I’d wake up in the morning to phone the office and I’d be instantly remorseful of the irresponsibility of my behaviour. I’d spend the day in bed chastising myself for my inability to curb my drinking and simply getting home in enough time to sleep off the effects of the evening and make it to work the next day.
I know plenty of people who would be considered what is now termed as “functioning alcoholics“. I was not one of them. I checked a lot of the boxes when it came to falling into the non-functioning category. I’d miss work, drink and drive, forget part of my evening, spend money that I couldn’t afford to spend… The list goes on! As I mentioned in previous posts, I was physically and emotionally unwell. And yet I couldn’t stop! I often think about the amount of times I went out for one drink that ended in the very early hours of the following morning. Occasionally the drinking would go on for a couple of days. Then would follow days of abstinence, where I’d swear that I was “never drinking again!” But it would never stick and that’s when the remorse and self-deprecation reached its heights. I thought I was weak and lacking willpower, unable to stick to my commitment to curb my drinking. It’s a horrible cycle to get caught up in, because no matter how much I beat myself up it didn’t change a single thing. And when I look back on the situation now I understand that I was doing nothing to empower myself.
I wasn’t building myself up in any way, I was simply breaking myself down. I was habitually beating myself up for my “wrongdoings” and my inability to stick to any form of sobriety. I had zero respect for myself or anything I was doing in my life at the time. This is particularly true of of the last few years prior to my sobriety. Shame and a complete lack of dignity were my default emotional state. I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror because I was so afraid of the awful truth that I knew I’d see staring back at me. If you’re reading this and you’ve experienced any of these emotions, please know that you are not alone. This is a disease that literally messes with every part of you. It’s not just a physical sickness but a mental one too. It’ll ruin your liver and burrow into the far reaches of your psyche too. Addiction is unique like that I think, because while your body is breaking down so is your mind. Depression is an all too common side effect of overindulgence. Days and weeks, sometimes months spent wallowing in the quagmires of serotonin-deprived misery. And while I tired tirelessly to fight the despondency that ruled my life any progress was always undone with a good Friday night binge.
Just sitting here and typing about this makes me feel somewhat anxious. I’d fight the dejection that ruled my life with the temporary elixir of alcohol, only to wind up feeling more dejected and desperate the more I “self-medicated”. But what I know now is that instead of breaking myself down, the change came when I decided it was time to build myself up. Once I accepted completely that alcoholism is no different to any other disease I might have contracted, I started to look at the whole thing very differently and if you’ve read my post about the night I gave up drinking you’ll start to get a sense of how quickly things can turn around for an addict. And I am so much nicer to myself than I ever was when I was drinking! I don’t always get it right, and there are bits of myself that I could work on to improve, but I look for the good within me rather than focus on the bad. Obsessing about the things that I am not particularly happy about is a sign that I am slipping back into my addict thought patterns. Being positive and accepting of myself allows me the space to stay in touch with my disease and never give it the chance to wrap its claws around my life again. I never ever kid myself that I can have “one drink” these days, because my past has shown me that this is impossible and if I want to stay on this path of sobriety and not slip back into fooling myself that I have an “off switch”, I need to stay focused on the things about myself that I value and treasure.
So I have a gratitude list. It’s the ten things I value most about myself and my life and I always have it close at hand. It allows me to focus on the elements in my life that are a source of accomplishment, gratitude and power for me. It’s far better than going to the fridge and pouring myself a glass of wine, which although offering temporary release never offered lasting happiness.
Til next time