Yesterday I flew up to Sydney to appear on the SBS program, Insight. The segment was titled ‘Wine O’Clock’ — about women who drink. Specifically, it was around women in their forties and older whose drinking (in our society) appears to be on the rise. It was an interesting experience, listening to women with varying drinking habits, from a few drinks a night to full blown alcoholics — such as myself. At one point, the host, Jenny, asked one of the ladies if they thought about alcohol, during the day, before they started drinking. I was instantly reminded of the relief I felt as my recovery moved past the early stages and became less painful, when I realised my head was filled less and less with the conversations I used to have with myself about alcohol.
Mornings were usually the same. Wake up with my head throbbing, unable to open my eyes, desperately trying to recollect the night before. What had I done? Who had I called? Had there been an argument? Had I broken anything (including myself)? Had I slept in the same bed as my partner or was he in the spare room? Questions came flooding into my mind as the anxiety built in my churning gut, before I could even contemplate facing daylight. Once my eyes were open, I waited for my head to catch up and then into the shower. That’s where the conversations started. Every morning, while the water poured over my head, I would berate myself for yet again, fucking up. Even if the evening before had been non-eventful, I had still fucked up. I’d had a drink, or perhaps even 18. I’d been so drunk that I’d passed out and was now struggling to remember kissing my sleeping children goodnight or getting myself into my pyjamas, if I’d even bothered.
Pounding head and the sharpness of the water falling over me, while I argued and promised and cried, criticising myself for not being stronger. ‘You’re fucking disgusting. You’re a shitty mother. Your children deserve way better than you. You’re ugly. You’re fat. You’d be better off dead.’ That was the usual gist of the morning conversations in my shower. Eyes closed, tears pouring down my face, the sound of the water running, preventing anyone from hearing my pain. It felt like hours that I’d stand there, tearing myself to shreds, knowing that inevitably, I’d have to turn off that water and step into the reality of the day. Promises were made under the purity of fresh water, only to be broken over and over again. Each day bringing with it a new set of arguments, a new mass of scorching self-accusations and an even deeper, darker desperation. I’d do my daily routine, usually feeling hideous both physically and mentally and as the day went on, the next conversation would start. ‘I’m not going to drink tonight. Look at what happened last night. Remember how fucking awful you felt this morning? You can do this’. As the hours went by, and the night before grew less and less vivid, the conversations again changed. ‘Okay, so maybe tonight I’ll just have one bottle (as if that was okay!). I’ll definitely not drink more than 2 bottles and I’ll go to bed before 10pm. If I start drinking about 5, I should have finished by then and it’ll be too late to go to the bottle shop for more. If I’m in bed by 10pm, I shouldn’t feel sick in the morning. That way I won’t be driving to school hungover… Yes, I’ll just do that’.
Insanity. Complete and utter fucking insanity. By the end of my drinking, this was my daily routine. Starting the day filled with regret, shame and contempt for this person I had become, followed by hours of negotiating with my inner demon, rationalising the reasons for repeating the same thing, night after night after night. In the rooms of AA, they talk about the insanity of alcoholism and addiction. This is it. How could any sane person, living free from addiction, possibly think this was normal and repeat it daily, FOR YEARS?
The entirety of my days were filled with these conversations. Not an hour would go by where I wasn’t either living in regret, censuring myself or revelling in the task of buying and consuming the poison that was slowly but surely, destroying my life. Looking back now, with just under 1000 days sober (yes, I count them), I realise just how freeing sobriety is, if in no other way but this. The hours in my day are now mine, to do with as I please, to expend on thoughts, feelings and actions which bring with them positivity, inspiration and a movement in the direction of a life that is authentic and clear. My time in hell is over — but I am ever mindful that the darkness is only one fuck up away. Being surrounded by people whose stories are not unlike my own only reinforces that. One day at a time, always.
If you are struggling with alcohol or drug issues, please contact your GP or reach out to the wonderful people at Alcoholic’s Anonymous Australia or Narcotics Anonymous Australia and please remember, you are not alone.