AfterAlcohol and the terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day

Work is dire at the moment.  I work in a job which is way below my ability level, mostly because my career got torpedoed when I had children, and the pay-off that keeps me there is that it’s low stress and with flexible hours.  Except that right now, for very boring reasons I won’t even try and explain, it’s both busy and hostile.  Today I gave a presentation in front of a group of people whose entire purpose for attending was to voice their displeasure at my company’s actions, and to catch me out in an inconsistency.  

Naturally, knowing that I had this on today, I went to some lengths to make sure I had a calm evening last night.  I made lentil soup for the week’s lunches, hung up an outfit for the morning (very smug: see me and my sober thinking?   Preparing nutritious lunches, organising an outfit, I might even push the boat out and take my make up off!) and went to bed early.  Whereupon I discovered that Little Girl had removed her nappy before falling asleep.  You can’t leave a thing like that, so of course I re-did it, which she was most displeased about and let me know same, going on to inexplicably wake up about five times during the night.

Come dawn, then, I was too exhausted to think straight.  My alarm clock elected to turn its volume control up to maximum, so I was awoken by deafening music.  Too tired to find the volume control (I’m pretty much blind without my glasses), I unplugged it at the wall and closed my eyes again.

So of course then I fell asleep again and was running late.  What makes running late even more super fun is when you discover that your cat, still traumatised from last week’s move, has decided to skip her litter tray in favour of evacuating the contents of her bowels halfway up the stairs.  The only, only remote tiny glimmer of cheer I could raise while scrubbing it out was that it’d have been far worse with a hangover.

Anyway.  Went downstairs.  Realised no time for coffee.  Told cat it was about time she was introduced to the great outdoors.  Went to pack lunch, realised that all tupperware is still packed.  Had a search for tupperware, because it’s really good lentil soup; failed.  Realised that now I had no time for make up.  Gave it all up as a bad bet and went to work.  Inhaled enormous white chocolate muffin.

Work was predictably awful all morning, culminating in the above meeting.  It maybe doesn’t sound that bad, but there were definitely moments where I could hear my voice shaking, so, you know.

So I thought to myself, I shall practice my Sober Self-care Skills!  Which I like to capitalise, because they’re as new as they are alliterative.  I took a lunch break, I bought a staggeringly expensive scented candle ($50!  For something I’m literally going to set fire to!), I thought about warm lentil soup for dinner and a hot bath with the heater in the corner and my candle flickering.

And then I remembered that tonight is my book group. I haven’t been to one since I got sober.  It’s full of very nice, but mildly intimating women, all of whom are slightly more well heeled than me, they all send their children to the local private school and arrange horse riding lessons, they all vote Right where I vote Left, and I always feel a little tiny bit out of place.

I haven’t yet turned down one social event because of being sober, and I wanted to keep that record.  And I really like the book we’re discussing, which is – rather delightfully – a Jilly Cooper novel.  And while it’s very much a nice wine and cheese sort of civilised affair, we did actually discuss a sober book earlier in the year (Jill Stark, High Sobriety.  Underwhelming, in mine) so it’s not going to involve pressure to drink – one of the other women actually gave up for 100 days herself after reading that book.  But, still. Tonight I kind of feel like I need a cocoon.

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Sorry about the post flood

Can you believe it, my new house has no internet for two more weeks? I’ve been blogging with no way to publish, so I’ve just finally hit publish on three posts I wrote over the Easter weekend. Now to catch up with you all!

Alcoholics can moderate their drinking

Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this. Don’t write me outraged comments just yet.

Caroline Knapp, talking about hitting bottom, discusses the ‘leap’ that many active alcoholics take, a period of time that marks the distinction between mid- and late- stage alcoholism. The leap is the switch that gets flicked where someone who has been struggling to stay functional, and to keep dancing on the invisible line between a secret problem and an obvious one, sometimes takes. It can happen in response to a trauma (in Knapp’s case, it was losing both parents to different cancers within a year) or just because the drinker gets sick of hiding the problem, and on some level wants to force the issue. From there, the drinker is going to do one of two things: hit bottom and get help, or hit bottom and die.

So far, none of this is unusual. I think that even those of us who aren’t there yet, who haven’t moved into that phase, are familiar with the Fuck-it’s; those nights where, for whatever reason, we decide that we don’t care tonight. We will just drink the way we want to, no holds-barred, to get obliterated. The last time I did this, a week before I quit, LH and I were trialling a no-drinking-during-the-.week phase, and I was juggling a stressful time at work as well as my disabled mother’s latest health and finances crisis, and I came home on a Monday night, declared that I didn’t care tonight, I needed wine, and I drank steadily and heavily all evening, ignoring LH and his eyes on me.

In fact, it’s pretty normal for people with a drinking problem, who live with partners or family, to say that they looked forward to nights on their own because they could drink more without worrying about how it looked. Or to drink before an evening out, so as to be able to drink slowly once there. Or to limit oneself to two glasses at a party, knowing that there is a bottle waiting at home once there are no eyes to see.

We associate all of these behaviours with secret drinking, a sure sign of a problem itself. Even if we aren’t hiding wine casks in the rafters of our house, like an old colleague of mine did, it’s all behaviour designed to minimise the amount that other people see us drink, to keep our secret: we know that we don’t drink like other people.

It is also a form of moderation. Us drinkers, we practice moderation all the time. We watch the clock until the hands finally scrape past five pm. We count our drinks at dinner, and count other peoples drinks, to try and keep pace. We offer to drive when we know we can’t trust ourselves to stay acceptable otherwise.

oh, I never really tried moderation properly, maybe if I put more effort into it or even the closer-to-reality I know I can’t moderate; I tried and failed both ignore something huge. And that something is that nobody, nobody, succeeds in moderating their intake more successfully than an alcoholic. Not enough effort? Some days, it takes all of our effort. And we succeed, right up until we don’t. And that’s when Knapp’s leap occurs, when we finally stop moderating and swan dive down to the rocky, dark, terrifying bottom.

Of course alcoholics can moderate. It’s all we ever do. But moderating; which let’s face it, means for an addict that we are exerting willpower every minute of every day to resist the urge to obliterate, sucks.

So you can leap. Or you can stop.