You start off thinking, “I’m going to stop drinking”. And a big part of you doesn’t really believe that you will succeed. You imagine the nights out, socialising with a glass of something non-alcoholic in your hand, one eye on the clock and deep, deep boredom setting in. You consider the endless evenings of sanity, clarity and awareness, with nowhere to run in order to escape the churnings of your mind. And you wonder, seriously, can I do this? Will this ever become my ‘normal’?
You imagine yourself stagnating, standing still, this life now so predictable. This is the point where things grind to a halt and you bid the old you a fond farewell. Into the abyss you go, stepping into a life that isn’t really yours. And you dread becoming a lesser version of you, a shadow of your former self.
In reality this is not how it is. What happens during the trajectory of a bad relationship with alcohol is something akin to an elastic band stretching one way, and then snapping back again. I see myself as being genuine and true up until my mid-teens when the drinking and drugs crept in. Then, very slowly, I changed and became something I wasn’t – lots of things I wasn’t, in actual fact: loud, flirty, irresponsible, thoughtless, selfish, prone to kneejerk reactions, insecure, lacking in self-confidence, attention seeking, depressed, pessimistic, occasionally suicidal. The elastic band kept on stretching out, pulling me further and further away from who I really was. It reached its maximum length, and that was it…that was the stage at which I could go no further.
The band started to retreat, gradually erasing all the changes that had occurred to me as a person. As it approached its original shape, I recognised more and more about myself that I remembered as a child. The things I used to do, the stuff I liked that brought me pleasure – wildlife, music, cooking and writing – all took their place in my life again. The ‘me’ who I had become at full capacity of the elastic band began to diminish, growing ever more distant and insignificant, a person who I no longer regarded as the true me whatsoever.
Alcohol takes such a central role in the lives of those people who depend on it to escape their realities that when it’s gone, the vacuum it leaves behind can be immense. But we shouldn’t consider letting alcohol go as marking the beginning of turning into somebody new, lesser, an altered state. It’s just the start of the journey home, back to whom we once were before we entered a warped world of negativity and discontent.