I have suffered depression and anxiety on and off all my life. When I think of my childhood, I can remember vast swathes of time where I was worried about one thing and another. I was worried that I didn't fit in at school, with anyone, even my friendship group, and likewise at university, later on. I worried about being misrepresented by people who were supposed to have my back. There was anxiety about my capacity for blistering anger. There was worry that as a young teen and onwards I could not seem to stop drinking.
When I married my first husband, I was afraid of about being beaten and humiliated by him if I stepped out of line, which I always seemed to do. I was worried about being crap at housework, because I was supposed to be good at it. Worried about him having affairs and lying to me, and of course it was because I was a terrible person and a useless wife. I worried that my pub habit had developed into daily bottles in the house, and no longer just in the evening.
I worried about not being able to focus at work because I was constantly hung over and simply waiting to get home to a drink. I started my working life in PR, where socialising and drinking were almost a requirement of the post, followed by charity fundraising and marketing, which again had mixing cocktails as well as company at the heart of its success.
Later, as a teacher, long hours and continuous stress were a breeding ground for bottles of red. Bouts of depression led to too much time off and self-medicating with the old red vino increased. I was an accident waiting to happen, and eventually it did. My drinking immediately before horse riding led to a snapped femur and a year off work, to add to all the other sick leave I had taken.
I worried that people didn't like me and consoled myself, alone, with alcohol. I worried about being lonely to my core for the rest of my life and that red wine had somehow become my best friend.
My weight, and my dress sense, and the fact that my height seemed to preclude find anything to fit always weighed heavy. Everyone else was having children and doing normal stuff where I remained childless - I couldn't have my children worried like me; that would be too cruel.
I was an accident waiting to happen, and it did. My drinking immediately before horse riding led to a snapped femur and a year off work, to add to all the other sick leave I had taken.
My mental health deteriorated noticeably from my early thirties, with an easy correlation to make with increasing drinking. I worried about the amount of money I spent on useless and ridiculous items, duplicates and replacements, stuff hidden away unworn and unused, stuff bought and thrown straight in the bin, stuff bought even though I didn't like it, just for the sake of buying it and because with a drink in hand, there was nothing I loved more than wasting money. My spending was out of control, reflecting my life.
I worried about the fact that no matter what I did, I never felt it was ever good enough. That stuff I did which was actually pretty good, was damned by people I loved by just plain ignoring it, not even a comment on it. People not even having an emotion about it. Or seeing me as ridiculous, or somehow distasteful. My stuff didn't fit. Neither did I. I never had.
I always felt that the hand of doom was likely to come down from the sky at any random point, pluck me up by the scruff, shake me, and throw me into...something worse, that I couldn't put my finger on...it was just going to be really bad...a disaster...and drinking numbed that sense of foreboding.
It was this constant anxiety that led me to drinking to excess, and it is only in recent months that I have finally got a handle on it, leading me finally focus on recovery and to record the first hundred days of my sober journey in the pages of my book.
I don't feel worried with my lovely second husband. He is the love of my life. I trust him with everything. He doesn't generate worry in me. Worries are just ordinary stuff, like getting enough shopping in for the weekend, and the quickly-mounting housework or the toothpaste squidges on the side of the sink, or a bin getting too full. I don't worry about not fitting in, or coming home to find him gone, or him turning on me out of the blue, or playing mind games because he enjoys it. He likes the fact that I am me, even though I puzzle him. He would never hurt me; I know that with absolute conviction. He likes the fact that I am me, even though I puzzle him. I am lucky, although I had to wait a long time for my soul mate.
I am sad not to have had children with him; had we met twenty five years ago, we would have had lots, and they would never have had to worry about a damn thing. But I am happy to have found some relief from the deep, primeval worries that have plagued me forever and sent me to the refuge of a bottle or three ever since I had money in my pocket.
It was the website Soberistas, a social network for people who want to give up alcohol, which rescued me, plain and simple. Blogging there, receiving feedback, and making new sober friends were all lifesaving developments. I came across it entirely by accident, using the search 'how to stop drinking', as I suspect many thousands, if not millions have done before and since. I could never have quit drinking alone, I had tried too many times in the past, and each time I failed, my resolve for the next time weakened a little more. Blogging there, receiving feedback, and making new sober friends were all lifesaving developments. With the sense of community on the site, I made it.
Now I don't drink, I keep experiencing a little mental flutter, which I believe is contentment. Not consistently, but it feels like a little island I get to go to where continuous worry is absent. I am looking forward to having more flutters. I am working on it.
Not everyone greets our admission of a drink ex-problem with joy and trumpets. People out there sometimes look down on us non-drinkers; waiting with their snide and cynical comments (not all of them but a proportion). People who often don't understand, or won't understand, or maybe can't understand. One of the reasons I decided to write this book recounting a hundred days of sobriety was to let others know that they are really not alone in deciding to do something to change for the better.
I also want to reach out to both women and men who have suffered domestic violence, often exacerbated by alcohol; those who have got to the point where they cannot face themselves in the mirror. I want to let them know in some small way that they too are not alone. There is a way out.
There was an item on the radio about 'foods you buy then throw away' - people came up with melon, coleslaw, half used bags of salad, fruit...going to the fridge, opening that heavy door, seeing the coleslaw and saying to yourself, 'not today, coleslaw...' But the day for coleslaw never comes.
I am blessed and grateful to have that feeling about alcohol now, where before 'today' was always the day for it. Now I think, 'not today wine...' and the day for wine just never comes.
I am incredibly proud to be a non-drinker. I don't drink. That is such an empowering statement. You are in good company if you are seeking to quit drinking, if I say so myself. I have your back. Let us all go forth and multiply.
At the time of writing, I am 47 forty-seven immature years old and would rate myself in my drinking days as an addict who loved the thought of being pissed but was never any good at it. I was a rubbish drinker but kept practising. I had several hundred attempts to give up before July 19th 2013, when I finally decided enough was enough and I was having my last ever alcoholic drink. This book recounts my diary and blogs during the first 100 one hundred days, and I am happy to report at the time of writing I am still happily AF (alcohol free).
I read many messages online from people who say things like:, I am not as bad a drinker as my friends/family/colleagues. Or maybe they talk about the term 'alcoholic' and dismiss the word as simply not applicable. They just like a drink, nothing more. They convince themselves they can have the odd tipple because they were never that dependent in the first place,, but they don't dare test the calm waters of sobriety for more than a couple of days, because deep down they know there are currents they simply won't be able to handle.
I too spent hundreds of years telling myself that my drinking was never as bad as Miss X or Mr Y. I was not on a park bench and didn't have a criminal record. I still had my driving licence and didn't have red veins covering my face like a web. I hadn't been to rehab, nor received treatment from my doctor for alcoholism. I didn't fight in the street or vomit in people's gardens. My family had not excluded me because of my dependent drinking. I had been to AA twice but and hated it; therefore I wasn't one of them.
Yet I was sinking, slowly but surely. I focused less, worked less, achieved less. I didn't really interact with people any more. Most of my evenings were a woozy blur, asleep by nine at night, but awake and sore headed at two in the morning. The depression which had followed me around like my personal raincloud seemed to have lodged itself firmly over my head. If I managed a night of two 'off the drink' I felt rather pathetically proud of myself.
Problem drinker, moi? Look, I can shove it any time I want! The fact that the next time I drank, the whole bottle would disappear in a few greedy slurps was conveniently forgotten. My consumption was increasing, both in frequency and amount and I had moved on from binge drinking (I always called it moderating to make it sound nice), to daily drinking. I realised that even if others drank more and loved it, making comparisons was self-destructive. After thirty years of excess, I had had enough. My husband, fed up with me snoring on the sofa night after night, or having to guide me home early from nights out, could not agree more.
I first decided I had to finally finish this addiction when I had been married to my second husband for about three months, because I had ruined a lovely day and night by too much drink.
I thought, right get your act together and control this once and for all, having only managed a few alcohol free days and nights in a row ever, then just a couple of cans for a few nights and did well for a couple of months on and off, then it would get worse and worse again. I never got better.
I had been kidding myself that I could control this because I couldn't as all the lost weekends proved, as did all the times I went to my local Spar and bought both a bottle of wine and 4 cans of cider because pathetically, I couldn't decide what I fancied.
This epiphany occurred after me getting pissed in the house and disappearing without a word to him, in the worst snowstorm for twenty years, to meet old drinking buddies for more alcohol, and having to stay at a friend's (read drinking partner's) because no taxis were running in the hideous weather. On my return, shamefaced the next day, he having had no idea where I ended up, we both cried so many tears and I felt so upset, angry, selfish, and so many other emotions. He left the house and said he needed a drive for half an hour to really think and I honestly thought he was going to leave for ever.
I begged and pleaded for another chance and the sadness in his eyes told me I had almost pushed too far.
After he'd gone, I sobbed and we argued as he tried to come to the terms with the fact that I would go off like that. I went to the kitchen and threw all the empty cans and bottles (not as many as in the past) all over the kitchen floor and it hit me that I had chosen drink over us.
When he finally came back from his alone time, to my great relief he told me he was giving me us another chance; he loved me so much but couldn't bear to stand and watch me hurt myself with drink and not know what state I was going to end up in once I started drinking.
This wake-up gave me the strength I needed, although it was still, even then, another two years before I finally grasped the nettle; I couldn't lose this wonderful guy to drink.. But it still took two more years of trying to moderate and putting myself through mental agony of daily fights with the Drink Demon before I accepted I had to become an alcohol-free zone.
Another factor in this being the final time I gave up drink alcohol was that I was getting lots of IBS and flu symptoms,were the many disease symptoms that I suffered after drinking and thought I had cancer in my darkest moments. I had some investigations earlier in the year I quit and was diagnosed with diverticular disease. This is a recurring bowel infection where the bowel has stretched and formed pockets, (sorry to be icky)., but obviously it causes pain and other distressing problems 'down there' and can lead to a life-threatening rupture of the bowel, or even be a preceding illness to bowel cancer. I noticed it was particularly bad after heavy bouts with the old red wine and then it started to happen after even a small amount of any alcohol, crippling me sometimes and leading to a lot of time getting doctor's notes for work, which did my reputation no good at all. Since I packed in the drink I haven't had any attacks and most of the time everything functioned regularly.
I get very sad when I read that people are struggling with the thought of drinking and that life is getting too much without a drink to make it all go away. In my book and on my blog sobernoodles, I want to share the my own thought processes; how I conquered the urge to drink. I hope some elements of my writing will encourage others to develop their own thinking (as opposed to drinking) routines.