Self Portrait Saturday: Guest Post - Joanne
On October 3 I posted about my Mental Health and Emotional Stability and how I was starting a project involving Self Portraits and stores. Today I would like to share a personal story from Joanne author of F.O.O.L Fun Out of Life.
Alcohol: The slippery slope
If you have to ask yourself 'do I have a drink problem?'... then chances are you already suspect that your relationship with alcohol is not healthy emotionally or physically.
I never thought I had a problem with drinking, I thought I was a hard social drinker at worst until I looked back and realised that it was something that I had been struggling with most of my adult life. I had it all, a career of over 12 years working for the government, a loving husband (though looking back, that relationship only existed because he accepted my life style) and my own house. Oh how easy it is to loose it all and for it all to unravel before your very eyes.
Technically I was a binge drinker. I would drink on Friday & Saturday night (like a lot of young people do) but in retrospect I always found it hard to face people and life without a drink. In my twenties my job became more demanding, It didn't help that the place I worked had a big drinking culture and the pub at lunch was a normal feature. After I married (I remember that I even had a hangover on my wedding day!) we moved away from my family and friends and that is when using alcohol really started to interfere with day to day life. I was not in love with my husband and home sick for my family so having a large glass of red in the evening made things seem bearable.
It wasn't long before a large glass turned in to a bottle and often more. I would lunge from one hangover to the next, drinking wine every day. I woke up one day and realised that I only had 1 day a week where I felt 'normal' and that was on a Wednesday (far enough from the weekend to recover and not close enough to Friday when the whole weekend drinking cycle started again). I have never felt more out of control in my life, but the very feeling of chaos made me reach for another drink! It was a daily struggle and alcohol had the power. The first thing to buckle under the weight of a large Shiraz was my marriage (and with it my house). My husband simply had enough and divorced me on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, so I moved in to a one bedroom flat on my own. My employers were getting fed up of me too, when I was there it was obvious that I was either hungover or drunk. I would often take alcohol disguised in soft drink bottles so I could drink when I got to work. By this time, I was drinking to feel 'normal' and not at all to have fun.
That is when the binge drinking became my way of life. I would spend up to 2 weeks non stop drinking, morning, noon and night. I would have vodka for breakfast and would stagger to the local shop for booze. I would buy as much as I could carry in the state I was in, not knowing what time of day or night it was. Wakedrinksleeprepeat. These sessions would almost always end up with me admitted in A&E with alcoholic poisoning. The NHS would dry me out and the guilt I felt was overwhelming. I would go for about a month dry before just deciding that I could have 'a couple of drinks' at the weekend (stupid decision, but that didn't stop me) and I was back again. I think (it is a conservative estimate) that I was probably in hospital about 12 times over a 2 year period. Eventually I had exhausted all my excuses at work and they retired me on ill health grounds. Not having to go to work made things even worse as I had no excuse not to drink myself into even more of a stupor. I think this period of my life was a constant for about 2 years. I damaged relationships with my friends and my family and I am not proud of that.
I am not sure when enough became enough, but I know that my doctor had a hand in making me realise that this had to stop. Together we explored the reasons why I was on selfdestruct. I tried an AA meeting or two but they weren't for me (The whole AA culture is a whole new story!) culminating in the self discovery that what I was actually suffering from was anxiety. I had always been a nervy child and this had carried on in to my early adult life. I realized that when life got too much I would self medicate with alcohol. It was like a huge light bulb moment and my lovely GP started me on some medication. It was then that my lovely new partner (and now husband) took an incredible leap of faith and bought me an Akita who I called 'Max' and I started walking a lot with him. The combination of medication and long walks gave me time to think about what I wanted out of my life and I discovered that alcohol had no part in my future plans. I wanted a life and knew that I had to face it sober.
I won't pretend it was easy, but it was a hell of a lot easier than a constant cycle of self abuse and for the first time in my life I felt in control. Becoming an alcoholic (or alcohol dependent) is not something that happens over night, it is a slow drip that creeps up on you. If any of this has rung true for you I would urge you to face it head on and talk to your doctor. I have now been free from alcohol for 8 years and life (whilst not always perfect) is a whole lot better! I have a husband and 3 gorgeous Akitas and things are looking pretty good. If you would like to talk to someone in complete confidence then please feel free to email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.