Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Living Sober

 Why not make it public? I've not been drunk, nor has a drop of alcohol passed through my body in 121 days. This is an achievement and while I'm not quite ready to sing the song of sobriety from the rooftops, I am feeling better about myself, my health, my bank balance and my future.

Ironically it started with a trip to the Doctor to get myself some valium to float me through the holiday period without my kids. They were to be away for Christmas and my heart, head, ego hurt to know I wouldn't be with them. People would ask of my plans for the holidays and I would inwardly cringe when the inevitable pity look came, probably due to my tendency for oversharing and longing to roll in my self made self pity. 

Doctor Kev is six feet tall and full of muscles. Probably a little top heavy, but who am I to judge? He has a God poster on his wall and a sympathetic gaze and before I had finished my first sentence I'm ugly crying and reaching for his tissues. He's encouraging, but direct. I have a drinking problem and if I do something about it I will feel better. It's that simple and that complicated all at once. I leave his office with a script for Naltrexone and 30 Valium (thank you Dr Kev and God Bless), a weight off my shoulders but a dread rising in my throat that I've just committed to stop drinking. He gives me the number of a lady who is a sober helper and I text her immediately and organise a time to meet in a few days time. 

I drink that night, hoping it will numb the pain or even lift me out of it, just for old times sake. It doesn't. I argue with a friend, my anxiety is a rock in my stomach and I spend too much money on gin and tonics, smoke cigarettes and hate myself. A regular occurrence, but the others have blurred into one another over time and now I'm left with this - a shitty last night of drinking. 

Now for some extra truth telling - the drinking problem itself. We can probably go back 26 years to my first drinks - oblivion, excitement, emergence of a different me (one that was much less inhibited and 'straight') - I drank to get drunk from my very first drink. So, for 10 years that was normal - binge drinking on the weekend. It was fun, frivolous, easy. It was easy. Until it wasn't.

I got pregnant at 26 and managed to stay relatively sober for a year or two. Friday nights were still for drinking too much, even if it was at home watching a movie with my partner. Weekends were for relaxing and recovering. Another baby at 31, sobriety for maybe a year. Still drinking, but not often drunk. Still depressed but blaming a lack of sleep and the remnants of grief for that.

For the next 5 years I drank more. More wine, whiskey, beer and gin. Most nights. I broke my hand in 2015 and added codeine to the mix - what a joyful collaboration that produced. Hazy, distant, repetitive evenings, feelings squashed deep inside of me, trying to swallow them with every glass, poison them into submission. 

Then in 2017, somehow I managed to grasp a hold onto something that I'd been shutting out for a long time and I came out. As a lesbian. Despite having a male partner and two gorgeous kids. Despite having worked at this 'normal' and reputable life for 14 years. I fell in love with a beautiful woman, moved into my own house, shared care of the kids 50/50 and started my new life. That from the very first day involved drinking. I mean - I could do what I wanted now, I was free to be me! 

That was almost four years ago. The relationship didn't work out, but the lesbianism has stayed.  I don't regret it, but I regret the hurt it caused. I drank the guilt, the loneliness, the shame away. I drank every day, because I could. It was my companion, my netflix and chill, my collaborator. My friend, the whiskey bottle, the wine glass, the cold beer. I woke up every morning angry with myself, hating myself because I'd done it again. Couldn't just have one, could never just have one. Weak. Sad. Pathetic. Repeat.

The idea of stopping was non existent to me. I just hoped one day I could have enough self control to tone it down, drink like a 'normal person'. It turns out - I'm not normal. Don't want to be. Don't need to be.

Becoming sober. Thank god for the valium. I go through about 20 tablets in the first 10 days, under the Doctor's orders, just don't drink. I go to an AA meeting, then another and another. I like when people clap me for my days of sobriety, I wish my friends would do the same. I start smoking weed again, because I'll be fucked if I can make a positive change in my life without counteracting it with something negative. One thing at a time. It helps me sleep, which is a blessing because once the valium is finished I am an insomniac - I just can't get to sleep. I hate it, being left alone in the quiet with just my head. Gradually though, I start to remember who I am. I have a good brain. It just needs a little time, and a little retraining. I meditate, a little. Exercise, a little. Write, a little. I don't drink. I stop wanting to, but am left with another hole and a fucktonne of emotions that have been hiding under the booze for so long. Untangling these is gonna take some work.

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