As I muddled through my mid forties it seemed that the way I dealt with every emotion was to get hammered. I was haunted that I was setting my young son Joseph up for a life battling addiction simply by the example I set. At the same time, I noticed that my mental abilities were significantly reduced and I could not rely on my memory. I didn’t even realize that these two concerns were connected !
Squandering my own life was pretty shite, but effecting my then 6 year old son, took the guilt of being dependent on alcohol to another level. Not being a sober parent was causing me to be emotionally ‘absent’ from Joseph as he played inside whilst I drank and smoked myself stupid on the decking. At work I was becoming more and more muddled. My life felt like it was closing in on me. I was paranoid and had isolated myself to hide my shame. Stress, hunger, boredom, fatigue, or simply it being Monday, were reasons to hit the bottle every day for seven years.
My cravings rocked up at 4pm and I’d rush to pick up Joseph so that I could start drinking AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! I was envious of people doing normal things like going for a walk early evening as I would be too unsteady. My days ended at around 8:30. I’d go to sleep drunk in a down-hearted exhausted stupor until 3am when I would wake up tired and panicky. My recycling box was a thing of shame which I had to hide.
A visit to my GP to discuss my suspicions that I had some sort of early on-set dementia revealed that the 3 bottles of wine I had admitted to drinking each week would impact not only my memory but was also putting a huge strain on my liver. I had a liver functioning test and was referred to a specialist organisation dealing in addiction.
I was in the run up to 50 and finally it was time to put my fears aside and find a way to get free, get inspired and be inspiring but how? I started my own research because I now accepted that the 9 bottles of wine I was actually drinking each week were dangerous indeed.
I came across www.hellosundaymorning.org and stepped into a new safe world full of people like me. I could be home in the evening caring for my son while discussing my issues on line. The drip, drip, drip of support enabled me to get an honest grasp of my situation as we set goals, got and importantly gave support to each other and I was able to learn from HSM members in AA and SMART recovery as well as on-line specilaists like Veronica Valli (http://veronicavalli.com/). I gained clarity on the what, why, when and how of my addiction and started to demystify what alcohol was, or wasn’t, doing for me. From there I worked out an approach that worked for me to stop being an addict.
I was starting to take responsibility for my life but it was complicated and overwhelming. I needed to simplify things and so I made some bright line rules which are simply rules where there is no scope for wiggle room. My bright line rules helped keep me on track and were especially powerful when I felt overwhelmed by cravings. The biggest bright line rule was that if I couldn’t find a way to make Hello Sunday Morning work, no matter what, I would have to go to AA. This rule was fundamental to me being able to maintain an overall level of progress. I did have ‘slips’ but I made them a learning experience and was able to use the slips as the next challenge to win through on my journey to sobriety.
I logged on everyday setting small achievable goals that stretched me just a little. It was important to keep up the effort and break through the next barrier but also to think in terms of one day at a time. I had loads of light bulb moments where I gained more clarity. I became familiar with my triggers and how they were linked to different times of the day and week. I realized that I had been lying to myself that my life was incredibly stressful and I simply told myself that to validate my excessive drinking. My belief that I didn’t get hangovers was shattered when a binge while in my early months of trying to stay alcohol free led to 4 days of low mood, lethargy, stroppiness and guilt.
Veronica Valli, who blogged on the subject of sober parenting and recovery (http://veronicavalli.com/2015/08/are-you-a-sober-parent/) advised me to be honest and talk about my issues in an age appropriate way with Joseph. I told him that I stopped drinking because I wanted to be a better parent and he is so proud of me now. Inspiration also came from reading books like Blackout by Sarah Hepola, Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnson, and The Biology of Desire by Marc Lewis which helped fill the evenings that used to be spent drunk.
With my new sober energy, when I got bored with all the soul searching, crave fighting and adapting, I took on new interests like meditation and tapping (emotional freedom technique). I met up with people from HSM Meet Ups and after a year I started to socialize at night again. I am now focused on developing a strong healthy body for later in the year when I compete in Tough Mudder. I do Park Runs and just cool stuff like going to see waterfalls because now I have the interest, the money, and the energy.
I now take part in life not just look at it from the outside. I have transitioned from being dependent on alcohol to someone who is motivated and able to live in the moment. I trust my judgement and my world view has grown. I am braver and more confident. Having practiced ‘gratitude’ my default setting is positive and appreciative. The approach I’ve taken was hard initially, but that effort is rewarded by a change that feels effortless over time and I am very content.
Clare is a founding member of the BOOM Community
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