Reminding Myself

Yesterday I found myself wanting a glass or two of wine. I pictured myself unwinding mid-afternoon,  toasting the weekend to come. I could see myself laughing and joking with people in the pub, while watching the start of the Premiership football season this afternoon. I remembered long, lazy Sunday roast dinners, drinking some wine and relaxing on the sofa to yet more football. I was not actually tempted to rush out and buy a bottle of wine, I was just yearning, remembering the good times.

There must be a reason why my home group is on a Friday night; I suspect it has more to do with it being the start of the weekend rather than availability of hire of the hall.

As I listened to people sharing back the positives that sobriety has brought them, my own memories and realisations came back. Every weekend I would inevitably end up sleeping on the sofa, having passed out and my husband being unable wake or move me. Mornings and even full days were spent trying to recall my escapades of the previous day, whilst drinking vast quantities of Coca Cola in a bid to rid myself of the hangover, before starting again. Arguments and screaming matches with my husband were frequent occurrences, occasionally resulting in visits from the police, worried that I was a victim of domestic abuse and frequently resulting in threats of leaving. I had no plans for the future and felt my life was going no where.

And now? Sobriety has brought me enjoyment of life. I spend more time with my son, playing with him or taking him out. I have enrolled on an Open University course in a bid to further my education and feel more fulfilled. My husband and I are yet to have an argument and we spend time talking together, like grown ups. Gone are the mornings wasting in bed feeling sorry for myself and making (and absolutely meaning) promises to control my drinking, only to break them hours later. I can meet up with family for a morning, no longer worrying whether I will be too hungover to make it or making plans to escape so I could start drinking.

Sobriety has given me so much; it’s just occasionally I need a little reminder of just what it has given me.


So Long, Wine O’Clock

When I first got sober, a mere five months ago, one of my most immediate concerns was how would I reward myself at the end of the day? As my alcholoism took grip, the first glass of wine became more appealling. I began to see it less of a reward once my son was in bed and more of a need.

Towards the end of my drinking, “Wine O’Clock” got earlier. My husband and I would clock watch for lunch-time. Once our son was safely deposited at nursery after lunch, I would open a bottle of wine and my husband would have already started on his lager. By mid-afternoon I was often already a bottle of wine down. Plastering on make up, fixing a smile (which most likely appeared more like a manic grin), spraying myself with body spray and sucking on a few extra strong mints before collecting my son from nursery all became the norm. I (perhaps naively) assumed no one noticed. I have since been told (by people who only know me for nursery drop off/pick up) that I look healthier and happier.

I found the lunch time drinking sessions easy to drop. Instead I spent my time rediscovering my love for reading. I worked out my plans for the future as I suddenly realised that my son would be at school full time from September. As someone who cannot currently work, I realised I need something to fill my time. I think I have found what I want to do and once it is confirmed, that will be a post for another time.

However, my self-declared “Wine O’Clock” time (and indeed that as voiced on social media such as Twitter which seems to be anything between 5 pm to 7 pm or once your child is asleep depending on who you ask) was another story. Perhaps I found (or still find) it hard because I am on social media so much.

Our son was used to staying out late with us or just staying up late because we simply couldn’t be bothered to read a story to him and so bedtime quickly became a battle and I would catch myself thinking “At least I can have some wine”. Remembering that, actually, that glass of wine is no longer an option was difficult so I quickly became a chain smoker, I replaced wine with Coca-Cola and chocolate and sweets. A consequence of living a sober life is that I have piled on weight; I have put on about 2.5 stone whereas most people seem to lose weight. As such, my confidence took a battering for a while; my clothes no longer and I once again found myself becoming isolated, simply because I didn’t like how I looked. Treating myself to a bit of a shopping spree definitely helped! Having that shopping spree without the frequent stops for a glass of wine, was yet another new experience.

Over the last week or so, my son has once again started acting out at bedtime. The thoughts of wine, followed by swift dismissals have made another appearance. My dreams are filled with relapses, my coming to each morning finds me asking my husband for reassurance that I didn’t drink due to how vivid they are.

My sponsor told me that Dr Bob, one of the founders of AA, had the obsession over alcohol for the first two and half years of his sobriety. Whilst I hope that will not be the case for me, until that disappears, I shall use the tools I have and try not to worry too much about my weight, since I don’t need to just yet.


The Shift

I don’t know when I started to drink alcoholically. I know that, aside from getting drunk on White Lightning cider at my 13th birthday sleepover (which I hated), I first started drinking later than many of my peers at 17 years old, I drank normally. I could go to the pub for just one drink on a Friday lunchtime. What I don’t know, what I cannot pinpoint is when the shift happened, when the blackouts started and hangovers started to creep in.

Family members first started voicing concerns a couple of years ago, although I suspect now they were worried for a long time before. I justified my drinking to myself and to anyone who listen by saying “Well look at my social media feeds, every parent drinks after a stressful day”. What I steadfastly ignored is that just one drink would be enough for most people. My inability to leave an opened (heck, even unopened) bottle of wine in the fridge spoke volumes. My behaviour spoke volumes; sneaking empty wine bottles into neighbours recyclying bins or stuffing them into general waste so that no one would could tell I drank 15 bottles of wine a week, just at home, not counting the several each week in the pub, begging my husband to go to the shop once more for yet another bottle of wine. None that is normal behaviour and yet I was oblivious to it.

Certainly I know that I was becoming dependent on alcohol before I fell pregnant. My pregnancy test was done while I had a hangover from hell, although I registered that mother nature should have paid a visit the previous day. Whilst I didn’t completely stop drinking, I did have just one glass of wine a week. When I was breastfeeding I wouldn’t drink unless I had managed to pump enough to get through one feed.

And yet somehow, it got me again. Once that phase of my life was over, I went right back into old habits. My ego told me it was OK. It was normal as a mum to drink after a day at home with a small child. I made my own rules; no drinking while the son was awake, no more than one glass if the husband was drinking. I changed the rules. One was OK when the son was awake. Then one glass became one bottle. So I switched to gin. So called “Mother’s Ruin”, how apt! I could drink gin normally, sip it slowly like you are supposed to. But I’d crave wine, knowing it could and would give me the oblivion I sought. Soon, I slipped back onto the wine.

I don’t know when the shift happened. Was it when I met my husband? After all, we enabled each other to drink. Was it later? Was it before? Was it becoming a parent that truly caused the shift? Was it leaving home, with all of the freedom and responsibility that brings, ill equipped for it that I was? And really, does it matter when the shift happened?

The Beginning

If someone had sat me down six months ago and told me they thought I was an alcoholic, I would have laughed. Nervously. Yes, I had a problem with drinking but no, I was not an alcoholic. I am married, I am a mum, my son has never been late for school, he is always well dressed, he doesn’t go without stuff, I have had a half decent job, I have never been fired, I never drank in the morning. The reasons I was not an alcoholic were plentiful.

Yet, five months ago I walked into my first A.A meeting and realised that actually, I am an alcoholic. And I was ashamed yet relieved.

A few days before, I picked my son up from school as normal. I took him to our local carvery where we met my husband and we gave our son a meal there, as a treat. A few hours passed, during which we both drank before we left to get home and put our son to bed. Except on the short walk home, we were stopped by police on horseback. A van was called, we were escorted home and after much protestation and a threat of our son going into care for the night, our son was collected by sister.

Once the police had gone and my sister had taken our son to her house, I did the only thing I knew what to do and sent the husband to the shop for yet more alcohol and we both drank until oblivion. 

The following day we both had to speak with social services before getting permission to have our son returned to our care. We also spoke to my sister. Or rather, she came to see us despite my telling her not to. I don’t think I have ever been so embarrassed or ashamed as I did then. It’s not exactly a morale boosting experience to have your sister, who is eight years younger than you, let rip. She then came with me to collect my son from school, we visited the park and she went on her merry way.

It was a Friday and for no other reason than that, the husband replenished our alcohol supply. We drank at home but only once we knew our son was so asleep. We drank, again, until oblivion, blotting out the shame of the previous day and morning.

Saturday and by 3 pm the cycle had begun again. I started on spritzers until our son’s bedtime and despite my very best intentions, three bottles of wine by 9 pm. Sunday was the same cycle, albeit a much slower pace. I was proud that I’d only had two bottles of wine. That was 10 March 2014 and my last drink.

On Monday I knew things had to change. I realised this sort of a cycle (minus the police and social services involvement) had been going on for too long. I recalled a family member voicing concerns about my habitual drinking at Christmas. I remembered the arguments between the husband and I, always when drunk. I could be nasty and bitter and hateful. The police were investigating whether to charge me with neglect. I needed to learn how to control my drinking and know when to stop and I needed to learn that quickly, before any possible court date. No way was I going to prison or getting a conviction for being drunk in charge of a minor. 

On Tuesday night I walked into my first Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting. I cried throughout that meeting, I barely heard a word and yet somehow, I knew I needed to be there.