In a private conversation with a friend who reads this blog the other day, I learned that I was making this sobriety thing look easy. It was meant as a compliment.
Goodness knows, very few things in life feel as easy as they look from the outside, but I am aware that I’ve been posting relentlessly optimistic, cheerleading posts for a while now. It helps that my life is completely amazing at the moment; I’m studying something I love, I moved into my dream house in April, last year’s financial worries have dimmed somewhat, and I’m not sure how much of that is directly attributable to sobriety or not, but it all adds up to amazing.
But this is what I want to say: You guys are reading the success story because the failures never made it to air.
Here is a thing that I wrote to some close friends, back in 2005, nine years ago:
I think this is a problem. But because I fall in that huge in-between area between ‘a glass of wine at a party’ and ‘guzzling mouthwash’ the doubts remain.
And I’m really scared.
I’ve been to events where I stay stone cold sober – but only rarely, I’m so used to being tipsy when I’m being sociable that it feels really weird not to be.
Mostly, I just get tipsy. I don’t end up an embarrassing blubbering drunk or anything. But I’m not going out and staying completely sober.
But then the two of us also have a routine of sharing a bottle of wine two or three nights a week. And when there’s wine in the fridge I have a glass or two of an evening just generally.
And when Lovely Husband’s not here – which of course is half the time – I still have a glass or two of wine of an evening. And sometimes it’s not a glass of two. It’s the best part of a bottle. Every now and then, it’s a bottle. I tell myself that if I was out I’d be drinking a similar amount. Which is true, but doesn’t make the quantities less.
I have a problem, don’t I? I’m saying that when we socialise, I drink. When we have a ‘date’ evening at home, I drink. And when I’m at home alone with nothing better to do – I drink.
I’m functional. I don’t miss work, I don’t damage relationships, I don’t spend money I don’t have, I don’t do any of the things that scream ‘alcoholic’.
I’m not going to go to an AA meeting. I don’t think this is something I can’t control, and it’s not something I feel so helpless about that I need to make a complete break from. But I needed to say this to you guys, even if I can’t yet say it to the people I love. And I need to find a way of breaking the dependence. I need to make sure I’m driving home so I can’t drink sometimes. I need to stop myself drinking at home alone.
I just needed to write that all down.
What strikes me, reading that back, is not the quantities I’m talking about – it’s the fear. And I did nothing at all about it.
Here is me again, in 2011.
I’m sober at the moment. But I’m sober because I’m pregnant. And even that might not have been enough to do it, but a very handy side-effect of pregnancy, for me, is a total aversion to alcohol.
Being sober is what’s given me the courage to post; I didn’t feel I could post if I didn’t know that I wouldn’t drink that evening. And on any given day, I didn’t know that. Well, I guess I did know; I was pretty much always going to drink. Sometimes I would manage a night alcohol-free, but then I’d tell myself that it proved that I could drink responsibly, and drink the next night.
It’s very telling what I miss, at the moment. I don’t miss being able to have a small glass of wine at dinner. I miss drinking glass after glass of wine over an evening. I’m scared that I’ll just go back to it as soon as it tastes good again. I’m very high functioning, and I mostly drink at home, but I know that if I continue, there’ll be a point where the consequences catch up with me.
My plan, when I posted that, was to use the pregnancy as a chance to break the habit and any physical addiction, and then stay sober. In fact, I had been so out of control in the year before that pregnancy that I looked upon it as a chance at rescue. I knew I needed to stop, I knew I’d be able to stop when I got pregnant, I was impatient for the pregnancy to happen because I needed the cut-off point. I didn’t think I could quit ‘on my own’.
And then I had Little Girl, and my drinking went straight back to where it had been, and worse.
Those are only the quotes that I have in writing, and that I could find easily. There is the collection of alcoholic memoirs, which date back to at least 2009 and attest to the fact that I have known, for a long time, that there is something wrong. There is also an initial attempt at a sobriety blog at the end of 2010, which lasted three days before I drank and then deleted it. There is my attempt at Dry July, also in 2010, which lasted two days. There’s the long, terrified email that I sent to a sober friend, back in 2012 when I was very, very drunk, basically pleading for her to tell me what to do to make it stop.
I’ve posted before that I knew I was an alcoholic before I quit, and that the realisation wasn’t a blinding moment of salvation, but rather an another excuse to drink (‘I’m an alcoholic! Of course I can’t stay sober!”). I don’t know that I’ve ever posted about all the times that I looked into my life, felt terror, and reached for the wine glass.
Sobriety is easy. There’s nothing easier in the world than living without alcohol.
But quitting was so fucking hard that it took me almost a decade to do it.