Ending up in Accident & Emergency after blacking out on a solo bender, still wearing my office clothes and clutching my briefcase, can hardly be considered normal behavior for a middle-aged woman. But it was just the jolt I needed to realize that my drinking had gotten seriously out of hand. It was then that I knew I had hit my personal rock bottom.
Most people like to assume an alcoholic is someone you see sleeping rough, lurching around mouthing obscenities, and clutching a can of the strongest, cheapest beer like life itself depended upon it.
I didn’t seem like an archetypal drunk. I was in my forties, a mother of three who was running her own business. But that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how old I was or what I did for a living or that I had kids.
I had a problem.
Like most alcoholics, I was in denial about my drinking. One scary example: I didn’t think there was anything wrong with drinking and driving — I mean literally doing both at the same time. During one of my more deranged moments, I was driving along the motorway, swigging from a bottle of alcoholic lemonade. However, I was being clever, so I thought, because I had stuffed the bottle inside a large leather glove — if the police were to drive by, they wouldn’t think anything of it! Now that is what is called “stinking thinking” in the world of rehab.
Neither did I think twice about strapping my kids into the family car and heading out onto the roads with my blood alcohol level well over the legal limit. Also, didn’t everyone have bottles of booze hidden around their home — be it behind the sofa or at the bottom of the laundry basket?
So why was I drinking so much? Actually, that doesn’t really matter. When all is said and done, no one is uncorking bottle after bottle of wine or vodka or whatever your drink of choice might be and forcing you to drink them, are they? No, that’s all you.
How much is too much? That depends on how honest you’re prepared to be. I was a binge drinker to begin with. I never knew when to stop when I was on a binge. Only when I could no longer stand or was about to throw up would I stop drinking. It was never about the taste for me – expensive bottles of wine were a complete waste of money. I would look for the cheapest stuff available with the highest alcohol content.
After humiliating myself at the hospital, I knew I had to take my life into my own hands. I was lucky enough to find an affordable treatment center and the moment I entered into rehab, I gave in to the whole process. I accepted the fact I was an alcoholic, and it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.
I knuckled down and did everything I was told to do. But believe me, there’s no silver bullet. You’re not given a special non-drinking tablet that stops you from craving alcohol. No, that is something you have to work at yourself, one step at a time.
Now I’m proud to say I’ve been sober for 10 years.
For me, giving up drinking was the easy part. What was a lot harder was facing reality without that ever-present crutch of alcohol to rely upon. It’s not easy, but it’s a path that’s worth sticking to. Magical things happen when you’re sober. You realize that you have a second chance at everything and that life is pretty amazing. You can set right all the unpleasant things you said and did.
Today my life isn’t free of problems. It’s just normal. However, when confronted with an issue these days, I deal with it and get on with life and learn from the experience. I went through a breast cancer diagnosis, the ensuing treatment, and the loss of my beloved father without touching a drink.
If I do it, I believe you can too.