What does it take to flick the switch of alcohol dependency, to really grasp the idea of sobriety by beginning to live a life in which reliance on a mind-altering substance is no longer an integral part?
For twenty years I did not want to stop drinking. For approximately fifteen years of those two decades I was utterly in denial with regards to whether I had ‘a drink problem’ or not, and happily quaffed bottle upon bottle of white wine, red wine, beer and spirits (when everything else in the house ran dry), the notion that I was nurturing my addiction each time I popped a cork light years from my mind.
Drinking was never about such a dirty word as ‘addiction’ – it was sociable, convivial, glamorous, relaxing, a treat, an emotional painkiller, my friend, a closely-guarded secret and a reward for every individual event and activity that I decided warranted further consumption of it.
In the years leading up to my last dance with that old friend and adversary, Pinot Grigio, I toyed with the idea that maybe things were not all well as far as my relationship with alcohol was concerned. In the middle of the night lying in bed unable to sleep, a morbid fear took hold that inside my body were cancerous tumours, silently budding. Tick tock, tick tock, my time on Earth was slowly running out.
Over time, wine ceased to be my friend – gone were the evenings filled with carefree laughter and tipsiness; silly and relaxed gradually came to be replaced by crazy and comatose. The good times stopped rolling, and when mornings perpetually consist of panicked attempts to piece together the night before coupled with apologising with fake breeziness to those who you have pissed off/hurt/embarrassed yet again whilst inside you are wincing with the shame of it all, you know that something has got to give.
The switch got flicked. Alcohol was no longer an option – the fanciful nature of it, bottles glistening with beads of condensation in the fridge door, popping corks, big old red wine glasses in which the blood-coloured liquid is swilled round and round releasing its perfume to the nostrils, the reassuring snap of the beer bottle top being cracked off with the stylish opener, the empties lined up by the back door, the sign of a good night; it all came to an abrupt halt. I knew, finally, that I would never touch the stuff again.
As anyone who has known me for longer than the two years in which I have been alcohol free would confirm, this shift is nothing short of miraculous. I just didn’t want to stop drinking prior to April 2011 – I had my moments of doubt, of wishing things would be different, that I could make something of myself, get on track, push things forward so that my life became full of movement rather than the static black hole I had fallen into, treading water, sinking in quicksand. But I had no real comprehension that the secret to initiating these longed-for changes in my world was to be found in eliminating alcohol. For many years I maintained the position of the switch.
And then, bam! Enough is enough, can’t take any more, cannot stand one more awful morning feeling like this, absolutely finished with the awful existence of an addict, done with it, goodbye booze.
And that was it; I just knew I would never drink alcohol again.