My heart hurts for everyone who is drinking too much and feels they cannot stop. It hurts for the people who’ve had a breakdown in familial relationships due to alcohol. My heart hurts for the parents who’ve realized their mistakes and are trying to change by going alcohol-free, and it hurts for the children whose wounds still run deep. My heart hurts for the people who’ve lost their lives due to losing an insidious battle against alcohol addiction and it hurts for the families that were left behind.
My heart hurts for those of us who have stopped drinking but continue to beat themselves up for choices that we’ve made when we were drinking, not acknowledging half the time that the bravest choice that we’ve ever made, is to face that addiction head on and beat it down. My heart hurts for the children in many of us that went through a lot of trauma, only to allow ourselves to further become victims to alcohol.
My heart hurts but…
I am also ANGRY!
I’m angry that the world tells us that it’s okay to drink too much. I’m angry that in this culture we are more widely accepted if we do drink. I am angry that even though a lot of our friends and family know that we have issues with alcohol, they still want us to drink with them and be ok.
As they fear that we’ll be no fun…
As they fear that we’re not ourselves anymore…
As they fear that we’ll change ..
And they question …
Did you really need to stop drinking?
It angers me that I was embarrassed when I reached out for help. It angers me that in acknowledging my drinking problem, I have been labelled ‘alcohol dependent’ in a patient file that will always exist. It angers me that the existence of that patient file makes me feel like I’m defected. Like I’m someone to be labelled, as if there is something fundamentally wrong with a person who sought solace in alcohol, and became addicted.
I am not made wrong!
I am not defective!
There is nothing wrong with wanting to relax, or to escape or to want oblivion when the world gets too much. In fact, wanting escape is part of the human condition. We chose to drink to deal with the human condition but what seems to work for most people, didn’t work out for us – which is why we are here. It doesn’t make us less than our fellow humans, it just means that we have to find new ways to deal with the human condition. There’s no weakness or wrongness in acknowledging that alcohol is not working for us and in reaching out and trying to deal with things in a new way. In fact, I think it’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever done.
Something that is really pushed for nursing students is the concept of holistic health care. The concept contains five aspects of health inclusive of physical, emotional/mental, spiritual, social and cultural health. I was thinking about this in regards to alcohol for me personally. My physical health was really quite bad due to drinking and abusing prescription pills, my emotional health was palliating, my spirituality was dead, and I was either a social recluse or humiliated myself in social events due to my alcohol consumption and lack of inhibition as a result. The drinking culture here in Australia is bad, so I definitely fit right in there.
Anyway that’s really not my point. My point is that for me personally again, I have to look at alcohol, and find out where and why it has damaged me physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially and not so much culturally but I will have to make peace with the fact that I won’t fit into the drinking culture of many of my friends and family. To find the solution to my problem I have to look first at the effect of alcohol on all five aspects of my holistic health.
How did alcohol abuse affect the five aspects of my holistic health?
Physical health– When I was drinking I gained loads of weight, still have a little bit left to lose, my liver levels were up and I didn’t care about my physical health. I drank sometimes because I injured my back when I was drunk as a teenager and alcohol would ease the pain where medication wouldn’t.
Emotional/mental health– Alcohol did the most damage to this aspect of my overall health. I am emotionally stunted and have little resilience when it comes to big emotions. These big emotions often come out of little things and I struggle to cope with them. At an estimate, I feel like my emotional state is that of the 15-year-old I was when I began to consume alcohol in copious amounts. I drank to run away and escape from emotions that I tried to suppress when I was a child. I let emotions build on top of emotions on top of emotions until I had learnt to disconnect from my emotions completely. I find trying to reach emotional health to be the hardest part of sobriety.
Spiritual health– I won’t go too far into this. I was brought up in a Christian home and therefore had a lot of guilt over drinking. I felt like my spirituality was dead.
Social health– When I was drinking I was actually a toxic friend. I know that now. The only times I would call my friends was to ask them to come over and drink with me and then when they said no, I would try and convince them and then call multiple times. I was very selfish, only calling them when I was bored to be honest, and wanted someone to entertain me. I lost a best friend of mine of over ten years shortly before I quit drinking because we were out at a club and I tried to punch his girlfriend for smashing glasses in a temper. I allowed alcohol to ruin a lot of friendships. I was a social recluse because I preferred to drink at home. I told myself that I had social anxiety which is true to an extent, however I really just didn’t know how to socialize anymore without alcohol running through my blood. This has changed now, and in the four months that I’ve been sober, my friendships have grown deeper, turns out some of my friends genuinely love me, it’s a nice feeling and one I don’t really deserve because as I said, I was toxic.
Cultural– Well I fit right in with the Australian drinking culture. I hid behind it really. We have a culture of happy-go-lucky binge drinkers. It’s not healthy, it shouldn’t be acceptable, however, it is what it is. Coming away from the culture was both easy and difficult. I still feel isolated sometimes because I just want to let loose and have a good time and my brain still associates letting loose and having a good time with copious amounts of alcohol. That should change over time though, I just have to be patient with the old brain.
Sectioning off and looking at these areas that alcohol touched my life is really helpful for me. It helps me to see how my life is changing for the better alcohol -free. Life throws circumstances at us that are often wildly out of our control but we can choose how to respond. We can choose to be resilient and sober and respond with a clear head or we can choose to continue the cycle of drink-regret-rinse-repeat and respond out of an alcohol or hangover cloud of confusion.
After just one month sober I found that :
Slow wake-ups beat anxiety ridden 3 am wake-ups every time.
The morning is wonderful when you’re not hungover.
There are plenty of normal things that induce self-loathing- alcohol doesn’t need to add to it.
I can socialise without 10 drinks under my belt.
Going to work without a hangover is more pleasant than going to work with a hangover.
My husband and daughter are much more endearing when I’m sober- I was genuinely concerned about that one.
I used to get constant UTIs- haven’t had one in 4 weeks, I’m assuming because I’m well hydrated.
Apparently, I never needed alcohol to remind myself of all my shortcomings, however the way I do it now is far removed from the way drunk me did it.
Reading is more relaxing than wine.
I can sit in my own company and not ‘need’ a drink.
I can sit with scary emotions and remain sober.
Sober isn’t as scary as I thought it would be.
Apparently, I’m still able to tell my entire life story to strangers without alcohol-
Last one- I like sober Me, 100x more than I like drunk Me.
We were not made to be alone, so please reach out. If you want to stop drinking don’t try and do this alone, especially in the early days. I’m four months sober now and I know it’s still considered early sobriety, but it was of utmost importance to my verrrry early sobriety to stay connected to this community every single day for the first 100 days.
Reach out and people WILL reach back.
I got a phone call today from the addiction treatment center where I was an outpatient. They’re a not-for-profit organization so need good feed back I guess to make sure that they still get funding. Anyway I was asked a few questions regarding how they helped me and whether the services provided to me enabled me to reach my goals. I raved about them naturally but also told the person on the phone that one of the best things that they did for me by way of my psychologist was to point me towards the Fuckit Bucket and subsequently, the BOOM Community.
If I hadn’t of gone to them, I wouldn’t have found BOOM. If I hadn’t of found BOOM then I wouldn’t be 121 days sober. If I wasn’t 121 days sober, I would still be 15kg heavier, and still drinking my weight in alcohol. If I was still drinking my weight in alcohol, I would still be an awful caustic person (and 15kg heavier). If I was still an awful, caustic person, I would still hate myself….. see the flow on effect of alcohol?
I could write on and on and on about how awful my life would be if I hadn’t of found BOOM. Instead, I am 121 days sober, I am learning to love myself, and am putting in the work to heal wounds that alcohol put salt in for many years. I’m also getting to know myself more too-
So thank-you, from the bottom of my heart to every. single. person. Who has ever reached out to me and encouraged me. My next goal is to be 200 days sober, I’m not saying it’ll be a breeze, but it certainly seems more attainable now that I have some sober days under my belt.
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