Many people think that if you stop drinking alcohol that you must have hit what is called 'rock bottom' which is a turn of phrase that conjures up images of the dirty, homeless and intoxicated individual, slumped on a park bench drinking a cheap bottle of extra-strength cider — the stereotype alcoholic. That's a fallacy; not everyone reaches rock bottom, and the point where people feel that their drinking has become a problem is a different experience for everyone. Many people don't classify themselves as an alcoholic, but instead, prefer to use terms like binge-drinker, alcohol dependent and grey-area-drinker. The point is still the same, we all have a problem with drink.
I hit rock bottom, pulled myself out and then hit it again, several times. It took me a long time to say goodbye to my constant companion, my best friend, my love - drink. My relationships faltered because of it, and I lost friends, my family still loved me, but I know I was hard work. I have a lot of making up to do.
For a long time I resisted ridding myself of my false friend, wine made everything go away, even the joyous moments in life, not just the bad. With talking therapy, I tried to cut down and realising this was going to be impossible; I embarked on a transformational journey and one that took about six months before I was ready to embrace sobriety.
I went through a period of bereavement, I know that that's a strong statement, but it is the best way I can think to describe it. I prepared to lose something that I had turned to in the good times and the bad for twenty years. I needed to be ready, focused and committed to never picking up a glass of wine again. I was sure of that.
So I did it. I gave up just after my forty-fifth birthday and am now 243 days sober and loving it — the best thing I have done since the birth of my two sons. My life is enriched, my relationships stronger, I am happier, much less anxious and fully present in the moment. I'm not saying that suddenly life became all peachy, pink and fluffy. It is difficult, and you will be triggered. The voice on your shoulder that says "Why not, have a glass, you have proved you don't have a drinking problem. You're fine now". Many people refer to this voice in your head as the 'Wine-Witch'; 'Gin-Goblin'; or 'Beer-Monster' and the like. You have to fight those cravings; they are toxic lies that we tell ourselves, so don't listen to them, or instead, acknowledge them, and resist and move on. You will find that they will eventually pass and get quieter.
Sometimes the most challenging part of staying sober isn't just taking alcohol out of your life, which is hard enough but learning to start living again, discovering who you are and how to process all the emotional baggage you have been avoiding by drinking. Feeling confident in sobriety doesn't happen overnight; it takes time, work and patience. I take it one day at a time. #odaat is a popular choice of hashtag for people in recovery because we are tackling each day, situation, problem and even celebrations this way. That's because it works. So take it easy, don't be hard on yourself, if you stumble or fall. Pick yourself up and say, it's okay because I choose sobriety and all the wonderful opportunities it has to offer.