What better time to have a little rant than a Saturday morning? Well, here’s something that really gets my goat… This article appeared in my newsfeed on LinkedIn today:
Whilst I am SO excited that the tide is turning on alcohol, this lethal yet utterly pointless drug that causes untold harm to MILLIONS upon MILLIONS, we really do need to get a goddamn grip and change how we talk about this. This article does indeed highlight the many benefits of ditching the booze but look at the fucking title!! Before we even go to read the damn thing, we’ve been told that life (or even a teeny, tiny month) without booze is something to SURVIVE. Something to struggle through, something that’s difficult and something to battle as we’re going without.
Let me tell you something and do bear with me as I’m so wound up I have smoke coming out of my ears. Listen close, friends.
I spent nearly 15 years of my life trapped in addiction, in a destructive cycle of alcohol abuse so severe that, had I not got out of it, I have no doubt I’d be six feet under by now. Each day was a struggle and a hardship to suffer through. Crouching each morning in the shower because my legs could barely keep me upright was a feat of survival. As was simple things like answering the phone, walking to the bathroom and trying to function at all. I struggled to have conversations because I was so fucked. Some days I couldn’t leave the house and when I did it was to get more wine despite the fact that I was close to collapsing in the street because I was so weak and shaking so hard. Yet I dragged myself to the shops. It was a living nightmare. One particularly bleak time I was so wobbly I had to stop, clutching the bag containing two more bottles of wine to my chest and wondering how I’d be able to walk the remaining 50 yards to my front door. That time I honestly thought I’d have to open one bottle right there, in full view of passing cars, buses and people in the street, and take a swig. Not because of the enjoyable taste of Sauvignon Blanc but because my heart felt like it was packing in and my legs were buckling at the knees and I was trying to SURVIVE.
When I drank, I’d go to bed fully clothed when my husband was away with work. Why? Because I knew in my heart that, going the way I was, I wasn’t long for this world and during my very lowest, most desperate and distraught points of this slavery, I figured it’d be slightly less terrible for my young son to find me dead in the morning with clothes on than discovering his mother dead and naked. I was nothing if not a considerate drunk. That, my friends, is survival. Knowing you’re going to die and having made your peace with it whilst you do your best to make your departure less traumatic for those poor souls who love you.
Crouching in the shower is survival. Avoiding morning coffee (my FAVOURITE thing!) because it makes you even dizzier is survival. Isolating is survival. Retreating from those who love and care about you because they might force you to give up the poison that’s killing you is survival. Choosing drinking alone and avoiding spending time with the people who mean the world to you is survival. Forcing yourself to believe that what you saw in your mother’s eyes, when she last asked about your drinking, wasn’t sorrow is survival. Ignoring your loved ones’ heartbreak is survival. Fighting each day to get home in the afternoon so you can drink again is survival.
I used to secretly fantasise that something terrible would happen. I used to secretly wish it would. Not so bad I’d die, but bad enough that I’d be exposed and forced out of this hell. That I’d crash my car in the morning and be made to do a breathalyser, because you can be sure I was still way over the limit. Or that I’d collapse in the street and be taken to hospital, then they’d discover my organs were failing due to alcohol abuse and I’d be MADE to come off the booze. Everyone would make me and I’d have no say in the matter and in too bad a way to argue, lying there in a hospital bed with tubes going in and out of me. Having my loved ones see how bad it was, this hell I’d been so trapped and alone in, and forced into rehab.
That’s not a life, that’s survival. Life with alcohol was a matter of survival in treacherous conditions on a knife’s edge.
It strikes me as crazy now, but I suspect there are so many people just like me who are so scared of getting sober. Because despite all of the above, what scared me even more than dying was living sober. OK, so I’m an alcoholic and I accept it’s different for those of you who can “enjoy” alcohol and control your intake, but I can only account for my own experience with it. This is the saddest part and it was true for me: most alcoholics would rather die than get sober. AND THEY DO. I had accepted it was killing me. I knew where I was headed and I’d made my peace with it because the alternative – getting sober – seemed so impossible, unobtainable and… ……worse. I thought, genuinely, that getting sober would be worse than the pitiful existence I found myself in.
This is the madness of it and what makes me so angry now. Coming up to two years sober, is my life a matter of survival? Is being sober all about having a way to survive without alcohol?
Why didn’t I know what I know now? How could I – because I’m not stupid and nor are you – have been so completely hoodwinked and fooled into thinking sobriety was the hard part you’d have to SURVIVE? I can’t even begin to tell you how angry it makes me! I want to go back in time and give that hopeless, drunk Anna a big hug and show her the truth. I want to show her she’s been lied to and deceived by booze. I want to show her the life that’s waiting for her. But no one told me it’d be like this. At best, I thought life might improve in some ways but would ultimately be a pretty drab and colourless existence.
Living sober isn’t about survival. Living sober is freedom. It’s LIVING.
I wake up and I’m struck by the absence of dread and anxiety. I didn’t do anything last night that I can’t remember. There are no conversations that are a blank to me. I did nothing I have to be ashamed of. I wake up with a clear head and my heart is beating steadily and strongly, my breathing deep and peaceful, not shallow and frantic as my heart is beating out of my chest like it used to. I’m not sweating or shaking. I get out of bed and my legs can carry me, I’m not having to lean on the bed to steady myself or carefully taking small steps and shuffle, all the while I’m leaning on the bed until I’ve got around it and reach the doorframe which I grab to keep steady next. My morning coffee tastes EPIC and I can stand up in the shower. I’m healthy and strong and when I go for a run I sometimes fail to hold back the wide grin I can’t suppress when I get overcome with joy and gratitude at the wonderful feeling of strength as my feet pound the ground in steady strides. I can pursue things I’m good at, enjoy and feel passionate about, as opposed to finding the path of least resistance by working a job I could do in my sleep just so I can keep on drinking. I can deliver on promises and I’m present in every moment.
Even such a simple thing as walking down the stairs – once a terrifying ordeal on shaky and jerky legs. I even RUN down, sometimes taking two steps in one BECAUSE I FUCKING CAN GODDAMNIT!
Shame and anxiety don’t live here anymore. Sometimes that’s strange and I am absolutely aware of their absence, which hits me every morning. Sometimes it makes me cry of joy. Waking up and realising I’m free. They’re not here. It’s still strange but it’s the most incredible happiness I experience in those moments. Like I’m a little lost there for a moment, like “hey, where did everybody go?“. And then it hits me: I’m free.
Life without alcohol isn’t something I survive – it’s the most amazing existence filled with joy and gratitude and excitement. Suddenly I have oceans of time! I never understood how time consuming drinking was. From the moment I got home from work until I got to bed, I did nothing but drink. No seeing friends, no going out, no running, no nothing. Now I’m studying, running regularly, seeing friends, spending time with my loved ones and writing and lots of other things and still I have quiet moments just like this one.
But even for those who don’t have a problem with alcohol, removing it will only ever mean reward. It’s a poison, for God’s sake! Even if you’re one of those strange creatures who drink in moderation, you’re bound to see obvious perks of a sober life immediately. You’ll save a bit of money, you’ll feel better overall and you’ll also look better. But back to that shitty title of the article above, the one that wants you to believe it’s hard to survive without alcohol – what in your life will be worse once you remove the booze?
See, this is one of the things that kept me trapped for so long. I honestly thought everything would get really shitty and dull. When I stopped, we had three PRIME drinking occasions already booked and so in my mind I’d sort of decided that I’d be allowed to drink for those, because how do you SURVIVE the following sober???
- A weekend in Paris for Hubby’s birthday.
- A Foo Fighters concert in Gothenburg with a bunch of my friends.
- A holiday to Lipari.
Surely impossible. That’s what I thought and, as I said, I’d kind of resigned myself to how I’d HAVE TO drink for those at least. Not that I ever thought I’d be able to live without alcohol, but on the off chance that I might make it, I’d be giving myself a hall pass for those three things.
But then something magical happened…..
I saw Paris! I actually experienced Paris. Bouncing up early and strolling through this beautiful city with Hubby. I wasn’t consumed with where to get alcohol, ensuring there’d be enough (and there’s NEVER enough because I’m an alcoholic!) or end up in black-out and missing the whole break. Instead I enjoyed every moment, took it all in and loved every second.
Foo Fighters are fucking AMAZING live! I was totally present in the moment and utterly loved it. Sang along and felt alive. Had I been drinking it would have been stressful because fetching more drinks at an arena concert is a ball ache. Plus I would have left half way through because once the Beast gets its claws into me everything else around in me is just in the way, including the talented Dave Grohl. And my Hubby. And the friends in Sweden I so rarely see. ALL of it. I would have missed that brilliant concert. Instead I didn’t – I was there. REALLY there.
And don’t fucking get me started on the island of Lipari….. Getting on a flight isn’t traumatic because I’m not overcome with fear and anxiety due to a severe hangover. Nothing is a struggle and getting there was just fun in itself! Landing in Sicily and travelling across the island with a singing taxi driver who loudly sang ‘No Woman No Cry‘ at top of his lungs yet spoke not a word of English. We sang along. Heading over on a little ferry and arriving on this beautiful little Aeolian island off Sicily. So picturesque and so…. Italian! Strolling through the little streets and along the little harbour without a care in the world and without having to be stressed and/or feeling shit due to booze with my gorgeous husband. And have you ever tasted really great food without spoiling the taste with ethanol?! OK, so I’m a pasta fanatic, but even so. Jeez, it was something else.
Yes, I “survived” all of those. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Getting through those things drinking would have been a case of trying to survive them. Experiencing those things sober was just living. It was a matter of living my best life, actually. And that’s the lie of alcohol vs sobriety. And I get so wound up every time I see a stupid title like the one above. Sobriety isn’t something to survive. Sobriety is living life just the way it is.
We really do need to change how we talk about this.
Well, that’s me done – think that’s enough of a furious rant on this fine Saturday morning!
Today I’m not going to drink. Because…. why in God’s name would I??