Are you sitting comfortably? It’s time for a story.

Once upon a time, a young girl went to a party.  And because she hadn’t been to a proper party before, the sort with boys and alcohol and no parents, she felt a bit nervous.  So she took along a new friend, who made her feel more confident, and she had a good time.  You’re popular because you’re with me, her friend explained, and she swore that she’d never go out alone in case that were true.

And the years went by, and she grew up, or at least older.  She fell in love and got married, and her friend was right there with her at the wedding, bubbling congratulations and joy.   And later that evening, curled up on the couch with her new husband discussing the day, she couldn’t resist letting her friend join in.  Through thick and thin, bad exams and good job promotions, she turned to her friend for comfort and support, to help celebrate and share the pleasure.  When she had children, and could no longer go out in the evenings, her friend came to her house instead.

But as time went on, her friend changed.  Or perhaps it had always been this way, and it was only when her life changed and she could no longer accommodate such a constant companion that it became clear.  Who knows. But one way or another, the friendship turned sour.  The friend who had once crooned compliments into her ear now whispered poison; look at you.  You’re fat. You’re lazy.  You’re boring and suburban and dull.  Where did my fun-loving girlfriend go?  You used to be cool when you were younger.  Now what’s happened to you?  It’s because you married him, it’s because you had children, it’s because you and I don’t go out any more.

She was terrified that her husband would notice how her friend was treating her.  Because if he noticed, he’d demand that she gave up the friendship, and she was too scared. She – fat, lazy, suburban she, she who was wasting her education and snapping at her children and doing nothing particularly well – to lose the one true friend she had, the one friend who was there, every evening, to soothe her cares away?   And if that friend demanded too much sometimes, kept her up late so she staggered red-eyed and headache-ridden into work the next day, well, that was just how it was.  It was worth it, not to lose the love and support she gained.

So she tried harder.  She tried harder to make the friendship work.  She tried limiting how often they saw one another, she tried only getting together with her friend in certain locations.  And because she didn’t want her husband getting jealous, she started seeing her friend in secret.  Just another thing to feel guilty about.  Another reason not to ask for help.

I knew it! crowed her friend.  You need me more than you need them.  You can’t do without me, baby.  Nobody else would have you now, you know that.  And she believed it, because who else was left to tell her otherwise?

But And by now, she knew that she needed help.  But who could she tell?  She didn’t want to tell her husband that she had been seeing her friend so often, for so long, behind his back.  Her parents would be disappointed.  Her other friends either wouldn’t believe how nasty the friendship had become, or urged her to just cut down on contact.  Nobody else would understand how stupid she’d been to get herself in this situation, and nobody else had a friendship like this.  It was all her fault, and she couldn’t ask for help because she should be able to fix this on her own.  If she tried harder.

Besides, she was in love.

 

There isn’t an end to this story.  There is no climax and resolution, appended by a pleasing happily-ever-after anecdote.  I stopped drinking, and I started listening to the stories of others and talking to them about mine, and that has – so far – broken the spell.  I can’t say that I’ll never drink again (I am, like a lot of others, very sobered by One Crafty Mother’s recent relapse)  but I can tell you that I will never again mistake it for love.  And by far the most powerful tool I have is the storytelling.

Abuse thrives on silence and on shame.  And it doesn’t matter whether you take the phrase ‘alcohol abuse’ to mean that you are abusing alcohol, or that alcohol is abusing you – the script is the same and so is the cure.  The cure – or the treatment, in a disease model – is to talk, and to listen, and to embrace the ideas that you are not alone and you are not unique.  Just because somebody else is ‘worse than you’ doesn’t mean you’re okay, nor does it mean that you won’t find yourself in those situations down the track.  But also, just because you think your behaviour is different, or worse, than others, doesn’t make that true either.  The chances are good that everything you have done, every step you’ve taken on this journey, mirrors the steps of others.  If alcoholism is the disease of terminal uniqueness, the best medicine is community.

Almost a thousand people read this blog yesterday.  Not all of those people will be sober or wanting to be, but some of you are.  Will you share your story in the comments?  It helped me, when I was trying to work up the courage to break it off, to read about all the people who were like me, who had done just that, and who were living their lives free from alcohol abuse and happier than they’d ever been.

My name is Allie.  I’m 36.  I’m an alcoholic.  I’m three months sober.  Pleased to meet you.

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “Are you sitting comfortably? It’s time for a story.

  1. just a quick word. i don’t blog because i’m too scared to. mostly, because of work. not ready for that. i am so incredibly grateful to you and all who do blog because it has made all the difference. i cannot thank you enough for doing what you do. excellent writing!

  2. I stumbled across your blog via a friend the other day and have to say I love it! I am more than 13 years sober and life has been an incredible journey without my ex friend, it gets easier, life still has it’s ups and downs but the downs are much easier to deal with without a hangover and of course having the full knowledge of what happened last night always helps 😉
    Just keep going one day at a time.

  3. Alcohol has been my friend since I was 13 years old. I’m almost 44 now. Where I grew up, alcohol was a friend to every teenager I knew; I was not an anomoly. I thought I was normal, and I suppose I was “normal” in the sense that I was doing what everyone else was doing. Our friendship was “normal” throughout my 20s, as well. However, when I entered my 30s, our relationship became abnormal and much more intense. I began drinking a bottle of wine *for* dinner – who needs food when there’s wine? I became very thin and received a lot of compliments. I began an alcohol-fueled, tumultuous relationship with my neighbor, which ended poorly and resulted in more drinking to ease my depression. In the midst of my spiraling downward, I somehow met and ensnared my now-husband who whisked me off to another state and gained me entrance to a new group of friends who didn’t drink every night. I was confused and intrigued by them. Rather than being positively influenced by these new friends, I seemed to feel the need to drink for them. What made matters much worse was the fact that since the move, I was working out of a home office. Home. By myself. All day. I think you can imagine what transpired. But nobody, as far as I know, ever knew I had a problem. I was/am exactly like so many women whose stories I have read on so many sober blogs. We carry on with everyday life, go to yoga and the grocery store, and seem perfectly fine. It’s eerie and yet comforting to know that there are women like me living with an insidious demon within ourselves. So, I became pregnant in my late 30s and thankfully abstained during my pregnancy and nursing period. Although, I drank right up until I took my pregnancy test, despite having a hunch that I was indeed pregnant. I shudder to think that I may have hurt my son while he was just a bunch of furiously multiplying cells laying the groundwork for who he is to become. I became a SAHM nearly 5 years ago and as my son has grown up, I’ve found myself with wide, scary expanses of time spreading out endlessly in front of me. Rather than finding something productive and worthwhile to do (I am not a self-starter), I began to ease my boredom by visiting with my old friend. But it wasn’t the same. She didn’t lift me up anymore. She just left me muddle-headed, headache-y, nauseated, and short-tempered. She began controlling my days. I would structure my life around her. In January of this year, I said eff this noise. I signed up for the 100 day challenge, completed it, and then attempted moderation. I imposed so many rules, which I stuck to for the most part, but all I could think about were the rules. I felt obsessed. So I signed up for a second round of the 100 day challenge, of which I am on day 12. Again. But I feel a new resolve this time around. I’ve shown myself that moderation really won’t work for me. Either I am drinking, or I’m not. And I’m not. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

    • Well done! I had the opportunity to set up a home business a year or so back, and one of the big reasons why I didn’t was fear of exactly that. Alone? During the day? With no externally imposed deadlines and things? This is why I love other stories, thank you for sharing.

    • I’ve started lurking on sober blogs because just by reading them I feel support. I also had a normal relationship with “Al” in my 20’s but in my 30’s I started working really stressful, draining jobs and I used it to dull my frustrations and anxieties and it slowly crept up on me. Over the course of a couple years, I went from a couple drinks on a Friday night to drinks every night, and a bunch more on the weekends. Tried to quit but couldn’t or wouldn’t – looking back, telling myself to quit during that time was like telling an obese person to go on a diet in the middle of the holiday season – setting up to fail. But now for my health and sanity I’ve decided to switch careers and am slowly “retraining” myself to drink like a normal person again. I’ve had two weeks now of “normal” and it feels great!

      • That is awesome that you are retraining yourself! I’m envious! I thought I could retrain myself, but either I’m not able to, or it just wasn’t the right time to try. It’s much easier (and saner) for me to simply not make drinking an option.

        I wish you continued success and urge you to keep lurking if you feel that you might be slipping back into old patterns. There’s no shame in starting over!

    • Dear Sober Second Half, you just described my story (emotionally speaking) better than I ever have. Thanks for sharing it! I have two years and change sober, but I never quite put some pieces of the puzzle together the way you have at 12 days sober. Loved this post, and best of luck on the 100 day challenge!

      • You’re welcome and thank you :- ) I hope I can someday say I’m “two years and change sober.”

    • Go to my blog to read the story. Started drinking in my teens before 20 I drank too much too often. I got a job married mortgage kids all that drinking rose and rose. I changed job as they were the problem … I drank again. By 40 I knew I needed to do something. A year of madness stopping starting controlling. The final breakdown the nurse the rehab the “first drink does the damage” talk. The tears the new friends the building a person I never learnt to be when others did the just for today the first week month year!! Now a decade. Still learning still sober still grateful

  4. Oh hello. I’m much the same as many of you. 45 mother, working, juggling etc. etc. And been drinking heavily since I was 15 – apart from pregnancy and breastfeeding. Have done the usual trying to control/cut down etc. My story is almost identical to yours. Boxes of wine, hidden bottles. Different bottle stores. etc. Sober today for 35 days and feeling ok. I can’t drink. I can’t go back to that life. Love your blog.
    (I have a feeling we may live in the same place btw – putting two and two together from that other place. Email me know if you want to get in touch.)

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I loved how you described alcohol abuse as potentially a mutually abusive relationship. I’ve always said I abuse(d) alcohol but I also used to say it was killing me so the relationship analogy seems appropriate for me.
    My story…I’m 24 and I’ve been sober for 107 days (I used a calculator, I don’t count). I’ve been drinking problematically since my teens. Between 18 and 22 I had so many admissions to hospital for alcohol related accidents that I stopped hearing their suggestions to get help for my drinking. I didn’t think they actually meant it.
    A stressful situation sent me further down the rabbit hole than I thought possible. I became alcohol dependent and in 2012 I ended up in resus as a result of alcohol withdrawals. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life but I was so ashamed of having a drinking problem that I wouldn’t allow them to ring my mum. (I wrote about that experience here http://dont-want-to-exist.com/2014/05/12/too-young-to-be-a-drunk/ )
    In summer 2012 I went away to detox then rehab. I still didn’t believe I was an alcoholic or even intend to give up drinking completely but I had to say I did to get access to the programme. I definitely didn’t want to be dependent but I was 22 years old and it seemed ludicrous to give up drinking forever. After four and a half months in rehab I actually wanted to be sober. I was enjoying life without alcohol and continued to enjoy it for a year after I left but then the niggling doubts came in. It didn’t seem fair that I had to give up alcohol entirely. Was it really necessary to be abstinent? Surely with my new skills I could manage moderation.
    In January this year I decided I could handle moderation, after a year and a half of sobriety. The first day went well. I only had two drinks on the plane (aided by the flight attendants only coming round occasionally). Day two I got thrown out of the Whisky a Go Go…moderation wasn’t going too well. After a week of destruction I admitted defeat and found an AA meeting. It wasn’t exactly on my itinerary but it helped. I sobered up for the rest of the holiday and for a couple of months when I got back but I had another (very messy) slip. After that I was even more determined not to drink. I had too much to lose and I knew what it was like to lose or damage almost everything because of drink (relationships, time, health, university etc).
    Many people seem to think young people can’t have an alcohol problem. I thought that too. It is a dangerous attitude to have. Young people are throwing away their lives, destroying their health and putting their wellbeing at risk. It isn’t worth it. The world doesn’t end when you put down the drink.

  6. I had that same friend. When my mother passed away two years ago, my friend was with me and helped me forget my grief. Dad was disappearing, due to dementia – and my friend stayed close by. Dad passed away nine months after mom did, and I started seeing my friend even more. It’s too bad I chose to have that friend with me at a work-related event, from which I decided to drive home. I’m paying for that friendship now. But I’ve learned a lesson – and I’ve been avoiding that friend, because being friends has cost me too much. The forgetfulness wasn’t really forgetfulness, it was merely postponing the grief. Somewhere, some time ago, I read that alcohol isn’t a solvent, it’s a preservative. You still get to deal with the shit, sooner or later.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s