The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

This post, from ‘There’s more to me than this’, talks about how incredibly useful wine boxes (known as casks here in Australia) are to the problem drinker.  They were so useful to me that I wrote the following comment, which I’m sharing here because even as I typed it, I felt disbelief that this was my life I was describing:

Box wine was my huge signal that there was a problem, as well. The […] thing I liked about it was that it wasn’t just easier to hide the levels from myself, but from my husband. So I’d get to Day 3 or so, realise that it was now noticeably a lot lighter, stay up past his bedtime and finish it – but leave it in the fridge, trusting that he wouldn’t need to pick it up to access something behind it the next morning – and then go and buy a replacement one after work the next day. Sometimes I’d replace it when it was only half empty, so that he’d think the same box was just staying half-empty for longer, and then sub the first box back in. If we emptied one together (one that had been officially in the fridge for three weeks, but was in reality three boxes) I would decide to cook a casserole that called for white wine in the recipe the next day, so I had a decent excuse to go and grab another one.


Between that tactic, and the fact that I only ever refilled my glass if he was out of the room, he is STILL convinced that at my worst I drank about two large glasses of wine a night, a bit more on the weekend.

It’s so odd to type it out! It just became such a matter-of-fact thing to do. Like I wasn’t scheming to get wine and HIDING CHEAP CASKS IN MY HOUSE and lying to my husband, I was just…you know. Doing what I needed to do, no big deal, carry on, nothing to see here.

It’s a funny thing, living with a drinking problem.  It requires an awful lot of disassociation to sustain.  I mean, obviously the above is abnormal.  OBVIOUSLY!  And yet, on a day to day basis, I was just getting on with it.  Thinking about when I could replace a cask, because I didn’t like taking the girls through the liquor store but I rarely had the opportunity to go there with the car without them in tow.  Waiting until LH went for a shower, or upstairs to check the girls, and quickly nipping back to the fridge to top my glass up so he didn’t notice I wasn’t making one glass last for two hours.  The first time I read Drunk Mum I was fascinated, horrified, thankful that I wasn’t like that, and also frightened.  The second time I read it, I wondered if it really was possible to sneak a hipflask of vodka into a suitcase and not have your partner notice.  Because things shift, day by day, one lie at a time, and each one feels insignificant. 

Motivational speeches about achievement use analogies like climbing a mountain.  One painful step at a time, concentrating on the next, and it’s only at the end that you look down and realise how high you are.  But not all journeys are the right ones, and steps on a journey you don’t want to take, to somewhere you don’t want to be, happen one at a time too.  The difference is that your mind employs every trick it can to prevent you from noticing where you’re going.  So you concentrate on the step, sure.  But also, you look at the road ahead, and you reassure yourself that it’s very long.  There’s a thousand miles left.  You only took one step.  One step is nothing.  You look at the scenery.  Oh, hey, that’s a pretty flower!  You’re just looking at nature, out here, enjoying the air.  Not going on a journey, not really.  You might turn around and go home soon, once you’ve just seen what’s up this next path.  It’s only a few steps, and the steps don’t matter, what matters is that you’re not ready to stop walking yet.  The less you want to get to your destination, the less you allow yourself to notice the steps you’re taking on the journey.  Is it getting harder to breathe up here, or is it just you being paranoid?

And one day, you stop and you look around and you’re so, so much further down the path than you thought you were.  How did a stroll turn into a hike?  How the hell did you get here? 

How did I get there?  How did I turn into somebody who kept a mental list of which store I’d last bought my cask from, so as not to go back within the month?  How did I tell myself, whilst hiding wine in an ottoman, that I wasn’t that bad, pretty normal really?  I drank wine after my baby was in bed, knowing that the chances were high that she’d wake at least once for milk while there was still alcohol in my system.  I drank alone, past midnight, knowing that the next day I’d be unlikely to finish an important task because of the resulting hangover.  I drank although my weight crept inexorably up, I drank although I was buying clothes from charity shops.  Right near the end, when my daughter started school and I organised my working day to finish in time to pick her up, I drank at 4pm, with my daughter and her friend playing upstairs, and I cleaned my teeth at 5 before the friend’s mother came to collect her.

Step by step, that’s how I got there.  Step by step, looking anywhere but at where I was going, thinking about anything but what I was doing.  

Here’s another thing about climbing a mountain, though.

It’s easier on the way back.


10 thoughts on “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

  1. This is a very powerful post! It’s crazy how hard we work to keep up appearances. The thing that most amazes me about this sober blogging community I’ve just discovered is how many accomplished, high functioning drinkers are out there. It’s reassuring, actually. I used to look at myself in the mirror and say, dear god, I’m losing my mind, then put on my suit and go to work and pretend everything was fine. Sad.

  2. Great blog. The ‘winebox’ thing resonated with me – I used to buy one at the weekend to save having to carry the equivalent in bottles, and it would get sipped all weekend. At the end of the box I would take out the inner foil and squeeze it to the size of a tennis ball in order to get the last glass out. What a saddo. xxx

  3. This is a wonderful post….I love the way you write, so clearly, concise.
    So honestly.
    Yes, that single step…so much more understanding of the power and impact that one step can have, and I am so grateful.
    I am certainly glad to be on this journey with you!

  4. I like this analogy of taking little steps down a path and not realising how far you’ve gone down it. So true. I was thinking about this yesterday, in connection with that lovely poem, the road not taken, that jen posted ( I was thinking about how I knew what lay at the end of the road that I was on, how I kept taking steps along that road despite the fact that I knew full well what lay at the end (I have seen it). Madness. Bleughhh.
    Anyway, Binki, I squished the bags up too. Oh yes. xxx

  5. I love reading your posts. I am on day 67 and I can totally relate. I too was the sneaker and dragged my kids into the liquor store and used to say “hey another lollipop for you!”. They would say, do we have to go to the liquor store, again???. You are doing great and thanks for continuing to share your journey.

  6. Took those baby steps too, toward despair. Now those steps go in the opposite direction, toward life. I’m at 292 days and my step is getting longer and faster and more determined to stay on the right path. Great post.

  7. The dissociation, or denial, is really amazing. I was in a much worse place than you for much longer, but wasn’t able to see it because of the little steps and lies it took to get there. This post really resonates with me; thanks for sharing!

  8. beautiful post, thank you! and picking up (in a good way!) on another brilliant post from MTM. how powerful we are when we put our sober heads together.

    and also I think what you have written shows how much energy we used to put into drinking. and we (or I) used to think I was so powerless ‘against’ booze… whereas actually it was my determination at work all the time. and when we realise that we can use the mirror image of that determination to *stop* drinking – we can be INVINCIBLE. xx

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