I stopped drinking on 1st May, 2015. It’s been five years since I put down the wine and cider bottles for good. Not just thinking it, not just sober curious, but doing it! Truth is, ladies and gentlemen, when I’d been on my inner journey of change – something which often happens to us in our middle years – I’d written a list of the ten things I loved doing. They were all free, except for one: “stop/cut down my drinking”. How would I benefit from stopping drinking? And what was my drinking costing me?
It was May 2002, a month after I’d been made redundant from my last permanent job. After that, I contracted. The spiritual side of me rose up to re-invigorate my life, but spirit, lashed with booze, often ends up on rocky shores and dark times. I was trying to become more and more perfect to hide the real, denied imperfection of my drinking. And my drinking wasn’t much I thought. I only drank 5 nights a week. A 1/2 bottle of wine on Wednesday and Thursday and a full bottle on Friday and Saturday nights. Only 4 bottles of wine a week. I deserved to drink, didn’t I? The truth is, alcohol was destroying my mind and leading to the onset of alcoholic psychosis (my father and younger brother had both had paranoid schizophrenia.)
Drinking also made me a rather neglectful mum, let’s be honest. Physically present, mentally absent: either asleep at 9 pm (long days and long commutes), or worrying about stuff outside the home. Not there: a ghost, really. My drinking did a lot of harm to my son when he most needed affirmation. Yes, too much alcohol affects our families too, sometimes gravely. We can’t see it, or own it, until we have some traction on our sobriety, after a year or so.
Why did I choose 1st May? It was the day after a horrendous hangover, which had me feeling like I was floating around the top of the ceiling. Scarily out of control, and I had to drive 70 miles to see hubby in the caravan. I’d had two expensive cocktails in The Shard in London with one friend and a bottle of cider and a meal with other friends. Far too much for someone of 62….
Also, it was the sixth anniversary of Eric’s funeral, my younger brother. I didn’t even consider May Day, I just wanted something connected to my family roots. So 1st May it was.
The first year was terrifying: a poor relationship with hubby became very bad (we’d bonded over booze). He thought I was insane, he was angry, on the defensive and called me the ‘alcohol czar’. There was some initial disbelief from my son, who then became more supportive. I walked away from all my drinking buddies – they were losing interest anyway, as home life was just too dramatic.
I didn’t make it past three weeks, the cravings were so intense – so I decided to drink at the weekends only: a small bottle of cider (330ml) on Saturday and Sundays, with the evening meal. I got some criticism from my sober buddies for doing this: this wasn’t abstinence. I didn’t care. I was walking this path in my way, not following rigid rules – it was a reduction of 90% in my drinking and I was learning discipline and self-respect! Eight months later, I quit entirely.
Oh, and I found and joined hellosundaymorning, the Aussie fore-runner of BOOM, set up by Chris Raine, who inspired Winged Victory and also Laura Willoughby, who founded Club Soda in the UK. Daily blogging and support was and is the foundation stone to my success. Sharing my story and my experience is part of my service to the world. As we turn inwards to our deeper reality, so outward service is a necessary gift to ourselves and others, I truly believe that.
I also had two years of ground-breaking “Open Dialogue” mental health therapy, fortunately provided free of charge via our wonderful NHS. They helped me unpick deep wounds from childhood, revealing early trauma and then dissociation. Booze was wonderful for keeping me dissociated, which in turn kept me from feeling hurt again. But feel I had to, in order to develop clear and safe BOUNDARIES: the cornerstone of a meaningful life.
That was the toughest, learning to feel and name my feelings. At times, I wanted to run away screaming. It took a long, long, long time for relationships to heal: so much hurt and mistrust. But in 2018, we took a decision to move west (close to where my father was born), after our son was brutally attacked one night. Out of heartache, we got closer and much more supportive of one another. The house sold in twelve days: a Godsend.
And just recently, my hubby decided to quit drinking too. I am astonished and so very relieved. He is too! I hope our habits rub off on our son, in time.
Now, every day is peaceful and when issues arise, I’m able to deal with what life throws at me. My spiritual practice is the foundation stone of my sober serenity, along with compassion and writing. I don’t compare, nor wish to compete with anyone else.
I am honest with others outside BOOM and Club Soda about addiction and its impacts. My openness enables others to be candid about their disappointments and struggles: people tell me they can be themselves with me, and that is a great honour. Authentic presence and friendships, all I ever yearned for.
Five years in, I experience the Divine: omnipresent in the universe and in us. It doesn’t require being a member of any institution or organisation. Colour, gender, physical/mental health and income level is irrelevant to this female/male energy. Free to join, but requiring wholeheartedness. Anything done half-heartedly won’t work. It is your Soul who will guide you home, along with the rest of us here.
Now, I am present and AF – Absolutely Flowing…….
This post was shared with the Boozemusings Community by Annette Allen, an active member of BOOM Community Rethink the Drink and the author of An Ethiopian Odyssey The wonderful images in this post taken by Jonathan Warner, a dear friend.
You are touched by greatness
Let your mind know it;
You are caressed by love
Let your heart show it;
You are lifted up by mercy
Your cries are heard and answered.
You are surrounded by abundance
Nothing is too much to ask for;
You are focused on clarity
Nothing stands in your way;
You are the peace you seek
Simply wake up and be it.
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