Time for Reflection

This week I’ve spent a lot of time doing radio interviews, as The Sober Revolution and Your 6 Week Plan have both hit the book shops. This little publicity trail has led to me repeating my story over and over again, about how I ran into trouble with the bottle, why I finally made the decision to quit, and why I felt as though this has had to be a choice for life. People are interested in, and keen to understand, why there are some of us who experience a difficult relationship with alcohol while they seem to be able to take it or leave it.

There are a number of different opinions out there with regards to this, ranging from the ‘alcoholism as a disease’ model, to Jason Vale’s interpretation which suggests that anyone who regularly drinks alcohol (even in fairly small amounts) is an alcohol addict (and not an alcoholic), albeit one who is in denial.

My perception of my personal struggles with alcohol has altered quite significantly over the last few years too. For a long time I would just as likely have claimed to be an alcoholic as I would have to be an alien. Then I hit some major problems as a result of alcohol; blackouts became increasingly common, I repeatedly made some stupid life choices (mainly to do with the opposite sex, always when I was drunk) which contributed towards my unhappiness, and I couldn’t seem to escape my small world in which I never seemed to get a break. I didn’t apportion any of these things to my drinking habit for a long time, however, and it wasn’t until I woke up in hospital after a binge that I had the clarity to see what a destructive element of my existence alcohol had become.

At that moment I found it necessary to label myself ‘an alcoholic.’ It was probably linked to the fact that my self-esteem was lower than it had ever been and I needed to punish myself for my last night of boozing. I suppose that labelling myself in that way also helped me to not drink in the early days – raising the seriousness of my ‘condition’ from ‘frequent and heavy drinker’ to ‘alcoholic’ made me all the more sure that I must never touch a drop again.

But then, over time, I felt my brain come back to life and my self-confidence began to grow. As I noticed all the good things that were happening to me, now that I’d put down the bottle, I began to wonder about the label ‘alcoholic’ because I realised that I actually had no desire to drink anymore. How I felt had become so far removed from the language of ‘relapse’, ‘disease’ and ‘one day at a time’ that I felt quite irritated by the idea of pigeon-holing myself as I had done a few months earlier.

What happened was that as my self-esteem grew, so did the notion of personal responsibility and wanting a happy and healthy life for myself. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to destroy all that I had in my life as a non-drinker by pouring that first glass of wine (which for me will always lead to the rest of the bottle and beyond). I equated wine with illness, misery and addiction, and none of those things featured in my life anymore.

Gradually, being alcohol-free morphed into being my choice, and so the idea that I was somehow diseased and would be threatened by temptation for the rest of my days was/is totally bizarre. I don’t wish to make it sound an easy thing to resolve an alcohol dependency – it wasn’t and it took a hell of a lot of soul-searching and emotional pain. But now that the hard bit is over, I feel as though I am reaping the rewards of making the choice to stop drinking – which, in my opinion, is a far healthier way of looking at things than sticking the label of ‘alcoholic’ on my head and worrying about booze for the rest of my days.


12 thoughts on “Time for Reflection

  1. Thanks for such a perceptive post, Lucy. I think it is so important for us all to realise that there is no cut off point where God (or whoever) says, ok NOW you’re an alcoholic and you had better do something about it; it’s kinda official. In fact we all have different cut off points, but the main thing people have in common whatever their level of drinking is that the drug interferes with their enjoyment of life, leading to worse; such as your hospitalisation, and in my own drink prompted hospitalisation, spending the rest of my life with a pin holding my leg together and one leg an inch shorter than the other! Oh how we laughed…

  2. Louise says:

    I think it’s useful to see the substance – i.e. Alcohol in our case(s) – as the problem rather than the person, because that suggests some weakness over and above other ‘normal’ people. In my view, anyone has the potential of becoming alcohol dependent; depending on circumstances and the availability of alcohol. My story is not dissimilar to yours, except it’s only been weeks since my last glass of wine, not years. I liked Jason’s social deconstruction approach whereby he lets you really ‘see’ how society views alcohol has been constructed by those that wish for us to drink more (and more). If you believe yourself an alcoholic that has a ‘disease’ that has no cure – you can never be cured. You will always be sick. Yet, surely the problem is not those that decide to choose never to drink again, but rather the labels put on those making that choice. Better to have a glass of wine (of course – never, ever ‘a’ glass…..), than to give a social message that you can’t handle yourself around alcohol. Or that you have lost control. I lost control when I drank – not now that I do not. Well done on your remarkable journey. Louise

  3. Helen says:

    Thanks for the article Lucy . I too gave up alcohol
    eighteen months ago . I also went to AA and did the steps ,
    to be honest I found the AA experience really guilt inducing
    and rather predatory , it was stressful for a non believer because
    of the whole higher power / God stuff . It clearly works for some people ,
    but the disease label is a tricky one. I prefer the soberistas positive approach ,
    love being sober and love my new life . Your blog has helped along with yoga ,
    reading and honesty about who I am .

  4. Thanks for such an encouraging post, I am on day three of my new AF life. After many,many incidents which should have resulted in me giving up I am giving it another go, this time was prompted by paramedics being called to a new year’s party on my behalf, my friends being unable to wake me and worried about my breathing, fortunately they managed to revive me and get me home but I am fed up of always being the one to do this sort of thing. After a couple of days I’m beginning to feel ‘normal’ again. I am not the sort of person that drinks every day, but I do drink often and more often than not end up blacking out. I am a musician and spend a lot of time in venues/surroundings where drink is a huge part of the agenda. I went to AA a couple of years ago and stayed sober for 7 months but cracked when I was on tour. What I find empowering about your approach is that there IS a cure – don’t drink, rather than labeling yourself as someone who suffers from an incurable disease. I am looking forward to the time when I will feel no desire to drink at all, when the CHOICE to not drink will feel like such an easy decision. At the moment I am thinking of Alcohol all the time, it being a Saturday night! I hope I can do this this time, I have been so encouraged by the many stories and useful tips on your site. Here’s to 2014 being a fruitful, fun year of self development and discovery for all!

  5. This is amazingly well-said. It describes perfectly how I think of the healing process–that we do heal, we don’t need to drink anymore for comfort or solace, we learn (yes, learn) to embrace the choice to live a healthy lifestyle, and we are not burdened by that once-disordered state of mind, which I guess you could call the dependent state. Bravo for this, and for writing it! xx

  6. I really like this post. I used to go to AA an call myself an alcoholic, but moved on from it, and my self image has changed. I now view myself as someone who is creative and who takes part in healthy activities and have non of the negative self image that I had before.
    I really like your site and am sure it will help many to put their own drink problems in the past where they belong.

  7. I could very well relate to all of that, apart from the clean time I have. I’m not a huge fan of the disease concept either, but I do admit wholeheartedly that I do have a problem with using and the ends are always bitter. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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