Just like that, another 6 months has gone by since my last post. I’m pretty sure covid has both sped up and slowed down time in equal measures?
I recently celebrated 5 years sobriety so I thought it was time I rediscovered WordPress and got writing.
As I take time to reflect on where I was to where I am now, I hope that it will either provoke someone who needs it to take a step towards recovery or, help others understand that addiction isn’t something that is chosen. No one aspires to be an addict.
Just over 5 years ago I was in a very dark place. I would wake up each day disappointed, disappointed that I had woken up at all and knowing that I had to go through another day ‘living’ the way I was. By this point in my life, 32, I had become completely dependant on alcohol. I needed it to get out of the house in the morning, I needed it to stop shaking, I needed it to speak to my friends and family on the phone and I needed it to hurt myself.
It’s taken me years to realise that I was using booze as a way of self harming, I hated myself so much that, to get out of my own head I started to pick up drink. I had been doing it since I was a teenager, but just disguising it as fun. I was always the one to black out on a night out, to take it too far and who’s personality totally changed after a few drinks (and not for the better!) I thought it was normal not to remember nights out, to become abusive after a drink and to wake up wanting to die – not like my friends who woke up and just craved a bacon sarnie.
But the illness is progressive and over the course of 10+ years (although it felt like no time at all) it began to destroy me (sounds dramatic but that’s how it was). The nights out became more frequent, I would rotate who I went out with because no one would want to go out drinking a few nights in a row. I would suggest 1 drink to reluctant friends and offer to buy the wine so I didn’t have to drink alone. Then slowly my friends didn’t want to go out with me anymore, because I was a liability and I didnt want to go out with them either because I preferred drinking alone, I could drink at my own pace and however much I wanted with no one to stop me.
I have never been able to have 1 drink. I have never been able to stop after the first one. When I take a drink it’s like a switch goes off inside me and I crave more and more until I am completely numb and black out. I honestly thought everyone was like this, I thought everyone wanted to get so drunk they passed out- it’s not until I came into recovery that I realised how wrong I was.
There are so many theories on what ‘makes’ an addict. Is it nature or nurture? Is there an experience or incident, something that happens to an individual that is so destructive they feel no other option but to use (alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling). My experience and what I feel to be true is that addicts are born that way, we are wired differently. But maybe, if I hadn’t experienced certain things I wouldn’t have felt the need to numb, so maybe I activated my addiction? It’s also widely accepted, and my experience that some are genetically predisposed to addiction – but not all of those people activate it.
It’s a genuinely interesting topic that could be discussed for pages and pages – but I think I would lose your interest and I would probably lose my own. So, moving on…
It’s not everyone’s experience that they need to hit a ‘rock bottom’ to move into recovery and seek help, but it was mine. My rock bottom is something I remember vividly – I was sitting in my bathroom at 7am trying to ‘get ready’ for work. I was slouched next to the toilet, drinking red wine out of the bottle but vomiting up anything I drank. My body was rejecting the alcohol but my mind told me I had to have it – I couldn’t physically or mentally function without it. That was my moment of clarity – that I couldn’t live like this anymore. It then took me another few months of the same cycle until I went to rehab – and only then, once it was highlighted to me that it was part of my healthcare package at work.
I would never have known that if it weren’t for someone pointing it out to me when I needed it the most – it’s strange how the universe works like that. Shame would have prevented me from finding the help I needed and seeking the help that was available to me. That’s one of the reasons I am so open about my addiction now, to help stop the stigma so often attached to it, to help raise understanding of what is the only illness your mind tricks you into believing you don’t have.
5 years after rehab and I don’t even recognise the person I am writing about back then. I’ve stayed sober through a combination of the treatment and group therapy I underwent in rehab and for many months after, a 12 step programme I stay close to and try to weave into my everyday life and my wonderful friends and family who I was very close to losing but who cheer me on every step of the way in my recovery.
Someone asked me recently on a date, “What do you dream for your life?” I think they were specifically referring to kids and marriage. But my answer was really simple, “nothing. I have everything I have ever wanted and I love my life”. I then had to excuse myself, go to the loo and cry big tears as I realised that was 100% true. I have everything I didn’t realise I wanted. I wake up every day with peace of mind, I like myself today, I don’t hold on to past traumas or experiences, I experience a freedom that I can’t describe not needing to drink. That’s not to say it’s all sunshine and rainbows in recovery, it absolutely isn’t. But I am able to deal with the bumps of life now, I am able to deal with them, process them, move on and learn from them.
I am proud to be in recovery today, I am proud of what I have learnt along the journey and don’t feel any shame or resentment about being an alcoholic. If anyone is reading this and is worried about a substance/behaviour in their life I’ve included some websites & contact info that might help you make that first step. You wont regret it – I have never heard anyone say they regret the day they came into recovery.
Recovery hasn’t given me my life back, it allowed me to build a new one where nothing, yet everything has changed.