I’ve always had a problem with alcohol, although I haven’t seen it that way until recently. I thought that because I could go for long periods of time without having any — years sometimes — that meant I didn’t have a problem. Never mind that there were a whole lot of times in between when I couldn’t not have a glass of wine, which led to two glasses, which led to three, which sometimes led to four. Almost always, by myself.
I’ve drank for a lot of reasons. Reasons that are worth exploring and writing about and sharing. A full exploration is beyond the scope of this post, but I’ll talk about a few of them here.
In my early university days I had excruciating writing block. Wine helped ease the shouting of the critical voices in my head and get the papers written. A lot of wine. For a period of time I was pulling up to the liquor store at 10 am when it opened to get my supplies for the day.
And still, back then, this wasn’t a “problem” that I wanted to take seriously. What I wanted more than anything else was to get a university degree. I thought I was a nobody and that getting my degree would prove I was a somebody. If I had to drink bottles of wine during the day to do that, then so be it.
Tensions seemed to ease a little bit after I graduated. (After. Many. Years. My writing block was so terrible that I stopped and started courses many times. It cost me a lot of time and a lot of money.) I had difficulty coping, yes, a great deal of difficulty. But I could comply with living “dry” on a remote First Nations reserve where I accepted a teaching job.
A few years later, I was at it again. Another teaching job at a different reserve hadn’t worked out. And I had a very large financial burden that I’d incurred while taking a year off working to finish a Master’s degree. When the teaching job failed, I’d moved to a new community and lived temporarily with a very kind and generous friend who’d offered to help. But it was clear to me that sleeping on her living room floor in her home where she’d also taken in her in-laws who were having a tough time wasn’t tenable for the long term.
And so I was paying rent for an apartment and buying groceries and trying to cover my debt with only the few days of supply teaching I could secure. And I was wrestling with myself, from within, as always. And, as always, during this time, I had very limited personal support — a chronic theme given my family situation and resultant difficulties forming friendships.
By then I had taken up running, which was an excellent stress reliever. But not enough. I was way beyond stressed and way beyond anxious. I now know that I had PTSD and dissociation then, as I had had, undiagnosed, since childhood. I would meet with my running group and pick up a 6-pack on the way home. Then I’d down that by myself at home, alone.
Later, in other places in other jobs, I had a pattern of drinking wine alone in the evenings after work, sometimes more, sometimes less. I drank to alleviate anxiety, to deal with flashbacks (although I didn’t recognize them for what they were at the time), to feel glamorous, to not feel as lonely, to not feel as unworthy. More often than not, I drank too much. Often, I’d drink almost a full bottle and be hung over the next day at work. Sometimes I did this two or three times a week, for months at a time.
And again, sometimes I didn’t drink much at all, if any. Like when I lived with a boyfriend who was an alcoholic in recovery and I “wanted to be supportive of him”. I didn’t drink at all. Or when I lived with roommates. I didn’t want them to think badly of me and so I curbed my drinking.
I have a problem with alcohol. Over this past Christmas I drank a bit with friends and mostly alone. I enjoyed having a glass or a couple of glasses of wine in the evening, by myself. But the past few days, I’ve been jonesing for wine, at times, fixating on it.
And that’s not good. That’s not okay with me.
I don’t want my precious life energy to be spent on fighting cravings for wine — far too much of my energy has been spent on that already. I intend to use my energy, my energy, to focus on being whole, on moving forward one tiny step at a time. On staying still when necessary in order to achieve moving forward in the long haul. I’m in therapy now and I’m dealing with my dissociation and flashbacks and I’m dealing with my childhood history and I’m feeling a tiny bit more worthy every day. Worthy enough to stop drinking alcohol if I think it will give me a better life. And I do.
And there is a whole tribe of people out there now doing the same thing. With the advent of internet and blogging it’s far easier to find resources and support for recovery — any kind of recovery — than ever before. And I think I’ve found my tribe.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently about alcoholism, by bloggers and authors who’ve been very frank about their struggles. And I see myself in their writing. Writers like Ann Dowsett Johnston (Drink: The Intimate Relationship between Women and Alcohol) and bloggers, like Laura McKowen (www.LauraMcKowen.com) and Holly Miller of Hip Sobriety (www.hipsobriety.com).
And I’m stopping now. I’m quitting while I’m ahead. I’m quitting while I still can.