Earlier this morning, I received a follow-up phone call from someone who works at the alcohol advisory service I visited just after I quit drinking in April 2011. Hearing her voice ask me how I was evoked multiple emotions: a real mixture of sadness, delight and quite a bit of pride.
When I look back on the person I was in the late spring of 2011 I hardly recognise her as me. I recall the only occasion when I visited the alcohol advisory place, shuffling into the driveway with my head hung low, terrified that someone might recognise me. I remember the consultation with the support officer who met me with a friendly smile, sat me down on a chair opposite hers in a dark and dusty room and asked me to grade my feelings on a scale of one to ten for a variety of statements: I like myself. I have strong relationships with my family. I am happy. I sometimes think about suicide. (The suicide one was high, the self-esteem ones terribly low).
The walls were decorated with scruffy posters stuck on with Blu-tack and displaying phone numbers and other details of a variety of help centres for drug and alcohol problems. When she asked me what had led me to contacting them I burst into tears and couldn’t speak for several minutes.
I never went back after that, despite agreeing to go along to one of the SMART recovery meetings offered at the centre on a regular basis. Whether my decision was based on stubbornness, a bit of denial or merely because I found it too upsetting being there, I couldn’t say – probably a mixture of all three. But I forged on with my decision to not drink alcohol regardless, and here I am now, a completely different person.
I told the person who called me today about the fact that I have set up Soberistas.com, and when she proceeded to quiz me on the scores I would award myself now for various aspects of my life and the state of my emotions, I gave her straight 10’s. It was a great feeling, like I had graduated from university with flying colours.
However, inside I am all too aware of how very differently things might have panned out for me, if it were not for a number of factors. So, to what do I owe my transformation from the alcohol-dependent person I was back in 2011, to the happy and full-of-life person I am today?
I’m very lucky to have a wonderful family and friends who have stuck by me despite everything. Knowing that such a safety net exists has always cushioned me in my darker moments, and perhaps without it, I may have crumbled and given into cravings. I am by nature an incredibly determined and obstinate person – I set out to beat alcohol and it would have taken a lot to sway me from this course once I had set the wheels in motion to fight it. The books I read offered me a completely new perspective on alcohol addiction, and they helped me to regain a sense of power in my situation.
Through visiting a cognitive behavioural therapist I learnt that I am not like a leaf blown around in the wind, ending up wherever fate may choose, but a woman with the intelligence, strength and ability to direct her own path in life.
But most of all, the thing that has helped me to reach where I am today, is Soberistas. Discovering that I’m not the only person (by a long chalk!) who has difficulty in moderating her alcohol consumption, and that some of the awful situations I regularly found myself in when I drank alcohol have happened to lots of other people too, and that the world holds an incredible number of people who are kind and tolerant and full of understanding, has made the last year an amazing journey for me. I really love the Soberistas community and I just wanted to share with you all that today’s phone call brought home for me;
When you quit drinking alcohol, you will change. Let go of the fear that you’ll struggle to be YOU once you have lost your prop – you won’t be the person you were as a drinker anymore, it’s true, but that’s a GOOD THING! Without alcohol messing up your emotions and relationships and perspective on life, you’ll be free to be the person you REALLY are, underneath all of the booze-induced rubbish. Imagine you are clearing a bramble bush to make way for beautiful flowers to push their way up, and allow the true YOU to emerge.
Good things happen to good people, just as soon as you give them a chance to.