Making Connections – Sober

One of the reasons why alcohol can appeal to us is because it’s a social lubricant. It has the power to transform a shy, awkward wallflower into a wild, life-and-soul-of-the-party type – although for lots of people it unfortunately then has a habit of pushing things too far in that direction, drawing them into doing things they later regret. I used alcohol for social confidence, and over the years it became that I required more and more of it to get the same, initial hit. And when I consumed increasing amounts, I acted in an increasingly out-of-character manner of which I was deeply embarrassed and often ashamed the next morning.

But, a sense of connection is what so many of us are craving when we reach for a glass of something alcoholic at a social event, and it’s this crutch that can be so difficult to let go of when we decide we really would like to become alcohol-free. Is it possible then to achieve this connection when we are teetotal?

My answer to this question would be yes. Yes, you can obtain a sense of belonging, a feeling of unity with others, when you are stone cold sober – and the trick to doing so lies in self-confidence, patience and a solid belief in the knowledge that if you can’t control your alcohol consumption, people will far prefer you as you are naturally to when you are completely out of your mind.

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It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that alcohol makes us wittier, sexier, more attractive and interesting, but in reality this is a fallacy created in our own drunken minds. To the sober onlooker, people who are inebriated are quite boring, and they look a bit of a mess. These days, I enjoy far more the company of those who don’t drink to excess, and if I am forced to spend time with people who are heavily under the influence then I’m desperate to escape their company as soon as possible! The truth is that people who are not drunk are way more interesting, sensitive and funnier – although you do need to ensure that you’re spending time with people who you actually like (it’s fairly common when you quit the booze to realise that many of those you’ve always socialised with as a drinker are, in reality people whom you don’t care for all that much at all when sober).

With time, patience and no more drinking, a person’s self-confidence can be restored remarkably quickly following sustained and heavy alcohol misuse. And with that confidence, and a more positive reaction from friends and family, it is soon the case that one enters into a virtuous circle: a good response to the non-drinking version of you reinforces your suspicion that you’re better off not drinking, and the longer you continue to be alcohol-free, the more of a positive response you receive from the people in your life.

What it boils down to is this: connectedness is all very well and good, but if YOU are the sort of person who becomes drunk each and every time you consume alcohol, you are not connecting with anyone; rather you are distancing yourself more and more from the people you love and who love you. If you are someone without a reliable off-switch (like me) then it is absolutely true that you will be loved far more and by many more people as an alcohol-free person. Try it and see for yourself.

Soberistas York Meet Up, March 15th 2014

Today was the second Soberistas meet-up and it was, again, an amazing experience to spend time with so many fantastic and brave people who really do feel like old friends. Thank you to Linda, Binki and Nicky for their brilliant organizational skills and the lovely goody bags we all received, and to Katey for the beautiful orange bracelets she made for those who attended. Thanks also to Andrew Langford, CEO of the British Liver Trust, for travelling all the way up to York from London to share with us his great expertise, and to Sarah Turner, my brilliant co-author of the Sober Revolution, for her inspirational speech about women empowering themselves in the fight against booze.

Below is a little extract from my own speech for those who couldn’t make it today (and a photo of the goody bag with bracelet!).

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I was thinking about how to summarise what Soberistas means to me and the two words that sprang to mind were HOPE and SOLIDARITY. 

Hope is the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life, or in the world at large. Hope is what keeps us forging on in life when everything seems black. When we lose hope, we are left with despair.

Hope is what makes it worthwhile fighting the fight, even when it seems we are getting nowhere fast.

Hope is why we put ourselves through hell during the initial weeks and months of sobriety, because we believe things will eventually get easier.

Solidarity means a community of feelings, purposes, of responsibilities and interests. Solidarity is blessed relief, of knowing that you aren’t alone no matter what madness you are experiencing; that someone is on your side during the darkest moments.

Solidarity allows us to win a battle which, if fought alone we would more than likely lose. Solidarity allows us to find laughter amidst the depths of despair, and helps us rediscover hope when we think we might have lost it forever.

Soberistas was to me, right from its inception, about hope and solidarity. My main goal when creating the website was to ensure that whoever joined this community would instantly recognise that the problem we here today have all known, is not only theirs. The fact that there are now almost 25,000 Soberistas (who have joined in the 15 and a half months since we first launched) is evidence of how very common this problem is, and is an incredible example of the power of solidarity.

Life is great without booze, if you are a person who cannot drink safely. The terrible consequences of excessive alcohol consumption should be reason enough to kick it out of our life for good, but somehow it’s not always that easy…

But on Soberistas we can share our concerns about how to cope with a social event minus the wine prop, reassure each other that we are not terrible people for having developed a damaging dependency on a widely-marketed and addictive substance that virtually everyone in Western society consumes regularly and without concern.

We can advise on what alternatives to drink, how to beat cravings, how to spend our free evenings. We can laugh together about the stupid things we have done when drunk, in a way that someone who has never suffered the pain of dependency would ever be able to do.

And because we read about the success stories on Soberistas each day – three months AF, six months AF, and now people who are celebrating their first year AF – largely as a result of the support and wisdom they’ve found on Soberistas, it provides us all with hope that a happy and healthy AF life is possible.

Rolling the Dice and Landing in New York City

When I was 28 I flew to New York City with my daughter, then 4 years old, for a short break. I was newly divorced, had just finished my first degree in American History and had absolutely no idea who I was or where my life was going. As the cab approached Manhattan from JFK Airport and I saw the skyline for the first time, grey and imposing against the freezing January sun, I cried. No place on earth has ever affected me in the way that New York did during those four days that I spent trudging around in sub-zero temperatures with my little girl on my shoulders, bundled up in a pink coat and white furry Russian hat.

We did the usual tourist stuff; Statue of Liberty, Empire State, Chrysler Building and Greenwich Village, and we also visited the Bronx Zoo (I think we were the only ones silly enough to brave the cold that day, and virtually had the whole place to ourselves), after which we missed the bus back to Manhattan and had to sit for an hour by the roadside on the edge of the Bronx, feeling more than a little apprehensive about our surroundings, if I’m brutally honest.

The Bronx Zoo – a wonderful sanctuary of nature, in the middle of an urban jungle

New York City felt like home to me, as soon as I arrived. I had no qualms about getting up and out of the hotel on 5th Avenue as soon as the sun came up (major jetlag), bundled up in hats and big coats to ward off the cold, mingling amongst rushing commuters as they made their way to the office and we made ours to a cosy diner we discovered that served great coffee and mammoth croissants. (I gave up asking for a four-year-old-girl-sized portion of anything after the first day – such a thing didn’t exist and so we bought one of everything and shared).

The New Yorkers we met loved my little girl and fussed her no end. We visited a shoe shop close by the Empire State and bought her some Timberland boots and thick socks in order to fight the winter cold a little more zealously than we had originally managed with a pair of totally inadequate wellington boots. The three men who staffed the shop were, upon first impressions, a bunch of rude boys, collectively weighing in at around 1400 lbs and dressed in football shirts and massive, baggy jeans. They thought my daughter was the cutest thing they had ever seen, however, and tended to her every need with all the care and attention of her own grandma. The friendliness they displayed was reflected all over the city, in every shop and restaurant and public space we went. It was a magical few days, and just as I had cried when I arrived, I shed a few tears on the plane home as well, high above the Atlantic Ocean whilst my little girl slept peacefully next to me.

I am a different person now to the risk-taker I was back then. I wonder if, in some way, how I used to be was connected to my heavy drinking; the characteristics displayed by a person who is willing to risk their health and the security of their world by constantly getting drunk and exposing themselves to dangerous situations, are perhaps the same characteristics that led me to flying to NYC on a whim with my little daughter, or to doing a skydive a couple of years later. During those years, I also packed in a secure job in order to start a business (thankfully it didn’t flop), and then later sold that business to go back to university to do a law degree (again, the risk paid off and I got a 2:1 – thank god). Prior to my daughter being born, I decided, again whimsically, to switch my university degree course (the first one) from Sheffield Hallam to East London University, to enable me to move in with my boyfriend of the time and his mates in Archway, North London. Then I fell in love, in much of a hurry, with my eldest daughter’s father and moved back up to Sheffield to be with him, had a baby and got married.

Perhaps I didn’t take the time to know myself sufficiently to find out what it was that would have made me happy in life. Pouring alcohol down my neck each time I was happy, or sad, or stressed, or celebrating – I never got in touch with the real me, and consequently every life decision I made was based on something of a guess, like rolling a dice and just going with an arbitrary outcome, trusting my life to some passing fancy. In many ways, I am grateful for the way that I was (not the boozy bit, but the associated decisions that I made in my life). For every negative I encountered as a result of drinking too much, I am lucky enough to have found myself in numerous situations that were amazing, fantastic life experiences; experiences that I would not have encountered if it weren’t for the fact that I was a bit of a risk-taker. And, of course, being the way I was resulted in my wonderful first daughter being born.

Having said that, I wouldn’t go back there today – I was lucky that the chances I took didn’t backfire and bite me on the arse, and ultimately, they were about short term gratification and not ensuring a secure future for me or my daughter. I am a very different kettle of fish today; the way that I act and the decisions I take are based upon the consideration of what is best for all of us, me and my family (now doubled in size), and the implications – financial, emotional and personal – are debated before committing to anything of any importance. In order to ensure any longevity of happiness, I believe that is the only way to live.

Of all the crazy stuff I got up to in my wayward, drink-fuelled days, however, visiting New York City remains one of my most treasured memories.

You only get one go at this life

I love mornings!

It’s still dark outside. I have been up for nearly two hours, stirring to the sounds of the baby kicking against the wooden slats of her bed and gurgling to herself. I love lifting her out of her cot first thing in the morning, seeing the flicker of recognition on her little pink face as she makes out my features in the green, half-light of her bedroom, gently illuminated by the coloured nightlight on the set of drawers in the corner.

She sat in her bouncy chair in the kitchen whilst I made her milk, smiling at me every time I looked her way and wriggling her tiny feet excitedly at the prospect of receiving her warmed bottle. Now she is back in her cot asleep, whilst Betty the dog is lying on her beanbag snuggled up close to the radiator, content because she has some company once again. I feel fully awake, the clock showing half past seven, the curtains still shut against the pitch black of outside. And I don’t feel tired at all.

Since I gave up drinking, I never struggle to wake up in a morning (a good job as 6 am is now considered a lie in for the baby!). In the last two years, I have been ill once with a bad cold but generally I feel fitter than I have ever felt in my life, with more energy than I know what to do with. I never crave a huge portion of carbs for breakfast either, which I regularly did when I drank alcohol; I remember quite frequently cooking up a greasy fry-up before work in order to soak up the hangover that I was pretending I didn’t have. That in itself is bizarre now, when a bowl of cereal, some juice and maybe a banana form the basis of my morning meal each day. The idea of gorging on a plate of greasy food laden with saturated fat turns my stomach! At work I would down endless cups of coffee, cans of Red Bull or Coke, just to try and stay alert, never considering that all those artificial means to prop myself awake would be totally unnecessary if only I stopped poisoning my body with alcohol each night.

I fell in to such a blatant trap in my younger years, but could never recognise it until I became teetotal; drinking to feel more confident, to have fun, to ward off the loneliness, to cope with stress, only to suffer the associated anxieties, depression, tiredness, mood swings, lack of confidence and depleted energy levels. And then to rejuvenate my weary body and mind, what did I do? Pour more of the poison down my neck, feeling better for it initially (but only initially) because I was satisfying my cravings for a drug that I was addicted to.

The answer is so easy; remove the drug, remove the need for the drug. Just as in quitting smoking, where the desire for a disgusting, smelly, toxic cigarette dissipates once the habit has been kicked, the cravings for alcohol just vanish as soon as you shift your perception about drinking it. I remember saying to someone years ago that I never wanted to become an alcoholic because then I would have to stop drinking forever, which would be the most awful thing. Clearly I was already addicted to the stuff otherwise the notion of living without it wouldn’t have worried me in the slightest. Time just cemented my addiction until I reached a point where alcohol would have killed me, one way or another, if I had continued to drink as I was doing in the last couple of years prior to quitting.

I wrote a lot when I first stopped drinking, just to help me organise my thoughts regarding alcohol and how I had reached such a low point in my life. I felt very sad to begin with at the thought that I was giving up my beloved wine. I remember writing one thing though, that still sticks in my mind; that to die prematurely through drinking would, as well as being tragic to those left behind, be such a monumentally stupid reason to die. That seems even clearer to me now with almost two years of sobriety behind me; to live life in a permanent stupor, hungover or drunk, depressed, anxious and grumpy, only to die before time because alcohol has poisoned the body, is just the biggest waste of a life. I wish that everyone who is living their life through the tainted lens of binge drinking could recognise what I, and others who have managed to give up drinking, can see so clearly; life is so precious and so short, that we should be able to remember and appreciate every day of it. To lose even one day through being bedridden due to a hangover, or to lose an evening because of loss of memory, is just such a waste.

I know that if I had been drinking last night, I would have resented every minute that I spent with the baby so early this morning, cursing the fact that I had not been able to sleep the morning away. Instead, I cherished every second.

MindBodyGreen

Please take a minute to look at MindBodyGreen, a fantastic website full of healthy lifestyle articles – one of which is written by me! I’m really chuffed to have a piece of writing featured on MindBodyGreen – please take a look by following the link below. I hope you like it!

Lucy x

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6500/How-to-Be-Sober-and-Happy.html

 

Go Ape!

I can count the times in my life when I have been truly terrified on one hand. There were the births of both my daughters; I hold my hand up and admit that, despite voraciously soaking up as much knowledge about hypnobirthing, water births and earth mothers chilling with a brew minutes after popping their little one out, I was utterly terrified about the whole experience from about six months pregnant onwards. The actual events did nothing to put my fears in to perspective, I may add.

There was the time when I found myself in a tricky situation with a violent ex boyfriend, who decided that he wasn’t too chuffed about me dumping him and took it upon himself to break in to the house I was staying in and telling me, with the aid of a hammer, what he thought of me.

Then there was the skydive that I did a few years ago when, despite me fooling myself and anyone who would listen that I was a crazy, extreme sports fanatic who just couldn’t get enough adrenaline into her bloodstream, I was actually convinced that I was going to die when I jumped out of that miniscule bi-plane, and spent the few weeks leading up to the big day utterly terrified and unable to sleep.

Don’t be fooled by the smile – I thought I was living my final moments.

And the last time was Sunday, my birthday, which I spent with my bloke and my eldest daughter, both of whom are (I have come to realise) much braver than me. We went to Go Ape! which is a circuit high in some treetops in Buxton, Derbyshire, made up of rope ladders, cargo nets, bungee jumps and zip wires, for visitors to make their way around whilst testing their strength of mind and character. I booked it because I wanted to have an exciting experience for my 37th birthday which didn’t revolve around sitting in a pub with a load of people getting drunk, and I’m so glad that I did. Although when I booked, I had forgotten the fact that I suffer a little from vertigo.

An hour in, we reached a bridge of rope swings, hung between two trees about eighty feet in the air. My other half stepped across first, swinging wildly but pulling himself valiantly from one swing to the next until he reached the safety of the facing platform. My daughter went next, froze on the first plank of wood that wobbled violently in front of her, before harnessing her courage and managing to cross in just a few minutes. Then it was my turn – extreme sports extraordinaire…As I put my foot on to the first swinging log and grabbed on to the adjoining ropes that held it to the cable above, I made the mistake of looking beyond my feet and to the ground, way below me. My stomach went in to my mouth, my legs turned to jelly and I froze. Completely. Then I began to make strange wailing sounds that have never been emitted from my mouth prior to that point. It took me twenty minutes to cross just six feet of rope bridge, with the aid of my very supportive and lovely family, who did not burst out laughing, but encouraged me every step of the way whilst I cried like a baby and tried not to throw up my breakfast.

There were many fun elements too, I must add, mainly the zip wires and ‘Tarzan jumps’ – all in all it was a brilliant day out. Facing the fear when you are terrified is a fantastic way to feel alive, and to remind yourself that pretty much anything is possible if you are prepared to meet that terror head on and take it by the horns. There is nothing as satisfying as proving to yourself that whatever life throws at you, you can tackle it by just putting your mind in to ‘brave mode’.

Anita’s Diary (pre-sobriety)

I found my old diary, hidden at the back of my wardrobe and away from prying eyes. I wanted to post a few entries because I’m sure that people will be able to relate to the anxiety and frustration that comes with drinking too much.

Goodbye wine, hello happiness!

6 August 2011

Okay, Im not beating myself up any more, the last year has been truly awful so its no surprise that I’ve been a mess. I have tried to moderate my drinking but often it doesn’t happen. I have put loads of weight back on and this alone makes me feel crap. So, I have made a decision, I am going to stop drinking FOREVER, I don’t know when yet, it will be after my sister has been over from Oz. I am reading books about it and thinking about it generally. At this point in my life I feel that stopping alcohol could really help me with lots of things. I would have a better chance at being the organised mum that I really want to be and I would lose weight too and get really fit. I went out for my last boozy girls night out last night, it was fun but I feel awful this morning, really awful.

7 August 2011

Just to say, I had another boozy day yesterday. We went to my eldest daughter’s friends birthday party, it was nice but it was just a bunch of adults getting pissed basically (me included), even at the time I felt slightly uncomfortable and irresponsible. I don’t want to do this anymore, this morning I feel so guilty about it. I also have that post booze anxiety feeling which is horrible and I can’t sleep. I fell asleep on the sofa, which I hate and was woken up by my son screaming at 2am. I think it is good to be aware how drinking makes me feel and write it down, especially in the run up to stopping altogether.

9 August 2011

Well, I drank a bottle of prosecco last night for absolutely no reason. That’s what I do, I have one big night out and then I just can’t stop for a few days afterwards so I feel really shit today. I’ve had loads of stuff to do with my son’s statement for school and it’s been impossible to focus. The main reason I’m writing tonight though is I’ve just totally lost it with my middle child, I slapped her hand really hard and screamed at her, now I feel so terrible about it. She has been really difficult lately but I should NEVER react like that. I know it’s because of drinking, I really have to stop and soon.. I haven’t had a drink today and thats where the irritability comes from too.

It is hard reading all this again, I feel transported back to that time, the negativity of it all still hits me, but what is amazing is that I feel I have been released from the horrible trap I was in. Thank god I saw the light, I don’t have to do it to myself anymore and neither do you. I am happier and fitter than I have been in years. I chose my 40th year to make a positive change in my life and its the best thing I ever did. If I can do it anyone can.

The Circle of Life

I don’t know whether the thoughts I have been having latterly about life are as a result of a) having a baby recently, b) giving up drinking recently or c) growing older recently (I understand that we are all growing older from the day we are born and therefore this can’t be a thing you do recently, or something that you used to do – it is something that you do, always. But I mean growing older in a different sense; I mean growing in wisdom).

I wrote in an earlier post (Robert the Geranium Plant) that in my view, you don’t grow as a person when you regularly get wasted, drinking to obliterate happiness and sadness and emptiness and joyfulness and loneliness. You only develop your character when you face everything that life hurls at you, head on. You can’t protect yourself by hiding behind the flimsy shield of booze; in doing so, you are essentially freezing your emotional maturity, and the day will come when life will demand a level of sensibility of you, and you just won’t be able to cut the mustard.

Anyway, today my thoughts turned to the circle of life. As I fed my baby, I realised that this precious life in my arms, the responsibility that I have for her life, isn’t simply for the living, breathing physical being that I was holding. It is for everything that should be hers during the next seventy or eighty years, or for however long she will live for on this earth. The life that sleeps in a cot as I write this, is an education, a graduation, a first kiss, friendships, nights out with friends, nights in alone, tears of happiness and of sadness, grieving, celebrations, a marriage, giving birth, wondering what to wear, being on a diet, feeling fantastic, having a bad hair day, walking a dog, flying a kite, achieving goals, fulfilling a dream, enjoying a good book, learning a language, passing a driving test, getting a parking ticket, grazing a knee, doing the shopping, falling in love, breaking up, getting a promotion, developing a crush. That is the weight of the responsibility of having a child – the life that you create is the decades on this earth, living in its entirety.

Later, as I pushed the pram through the park, Lily gazing upwards at the leaves wafting on the trees, I passed a trio of old ladies drinking tea outside the café. And when I looked at them, I saw their lives. I didn’t see old ladies, at a standstill in time; grey and wrinkled, forever stuck in a state of decrepitude as if they had been born that way and would always be that way. I saw a fluctuating motion of lives being lived, a recognition that we are all in infancy, and childhood, youth and middle-age, grey and dying. We cannot be characterised by age, when we are all moving through life in one perpetual process of growing older. Those ladies were not frozen in time, their proximity to the end static, with their deaths arriving like a sudden shock, a bolt out of the blue that nobody saw coming. Those ladies represented life.

At one time they were celebrating their weddings, holding their newborn babies, choosing a dress for a special occasion, getting frustrated in a traffic jam, soothing a poorly child, dropping the children off at school, passing exams, going for a job interview, losing a loved one, making a cake, going to work. The ladies drinking tea were once the baby in someone’s arms, the only difference between them and Lily being that they have had their time already.

So, there I was, pondering these thoughts and ambling along, and thinking that in all the time I drank alcohol, I never thought things like this. And I asked myself, am I experiencing this moment of clarity as a result of a) having a baby recently, b) giving up drinking recently or c) growing older recently?

Probably a combination of all three.

Nb. Monday 17th September 2012 is Respect for the Aged day in Japan.

Knocking it on the Head

When I first emerged from the wreck that my alcohol dependency had created, I felt battered and small – my personality had been manipulated and shaped by addiction and shame for so long that I no longer knew who I was. I’m not sure if, in the first few weeks, I truly believed that I would never drink again. There was an element of self doubt that teased my newly sober self with the thought that I couldn’t do it, that over time I would forget the horror of my last encounter with booze and I would cave in and begin to drink again. But I didn’t drink for a sufficiently long enough period to allow myself the first taste of being me without the prop of alcohol, and during that time I recognised and learnt things about myself and my relationship with booze that cemented my commitment to teetotalism. A major step forward was to admit to myself that I had a dependency upon alcohol.

The UK Alcoholics Anonymous website states that whilst they do not offer a formal definition of alcoholism, the majority of their members would agree on the following statement; “…it could be described as a physical compulsion, coupled with a mental obsession. What we mean is that we had a distinct physical desire to consume alcohol beyond our capacity to control it, in defiance of all rules of common sense. We not only had an abnormal craving for alcohol but we frequently yielded to it at the worst possible times. We did not know when (or how) to stop drinking. Often we did not seem to have sense enough to know when not to begin.” This description fits perfectly with my relationship with alcohol, but it took several weeks of being sober for me to recognise that I was an alcohol addict. As soon as I took a sip from my first drink, my mind would begin to whir frenetically, as it attempted to map out the most effective way to consume as much booze as possible before someone intervened and told me I had had too much. This was the reason why drinking alone was always so much more enjoyable for me – there was never a killjoy leaping forward to impose their own restrictive behaviour upon me, when all I wanted to do was get hammered.

And so, armed with this newfound awareness, I slowly accepted that I was dependent upon alcohol and therefore I had a responsibility to those around me and to my self, to stop for good. No single factor would have been sufficient in prompting me to get on top of my problematic relationship with booze – rather, elements in my life began to come together like a jigsaw puzzle that once complete, presented something of a eureka moment to me. The years of destructive and shameful behaviour and the associated self-hatred, age and a growing sense of mortality that grew at the same rate as my youthful ignorance of personal responsibility diminished, meeting my fiancé and developing an awareness of who I really was without the façade of drinking – it was all of these things that pushed me in to that place where I had wanted and needed to get for so many years. And now, here I am – nineteen months of sobriety and what feels like a lifetime of self-discovery later, a much calmer, honest, more confident woman who is enjoying a normal existence after twenty one years of self-abuse.

I knew that I had come on leaps and bounds when on holiday last week, as I didn’t miss alcohol one bit; conversely, if someone had put a bottle of Pinot in front of me and told me that I could drink it with none of the associated negativity, without the hangover or the guilt or the damage to my health, I would have happily walked away. (See the photo? That’s a mocktail I’m drinking. Mocktail = stress free drinking!)

Letter to Me, Aged 14

You are full of confidence and assertiveness, passion and motivation. You know exactly who you are and where you are going; there isn’t a doubt in your mind that life is bountiful and it is yours for the taking. You’ve got friends who you value, there always seems to be a boy in the background, and you work reasonably hard at school, although luckily you manage to coast through anyway without too much effort. Life is a breeze.

Next week you are going to get drunk. Your friend’s parents are away on holiday and together, you will raid the spirits supply in the antique, wooden cabinet in the lounge. There will be a couple of boys there and you will all think that you are so grown up and sophisticated, even at the tender age of fourteen. As your body begins to absorb the alcohol, you will feel a surge of adrenaline and a sudden confidence boost. You will flirt a little more than you would’ve done ordinarily, you’ll become boisterous and slightly aggressive towards your friend. She will come to the conclusion that you are someone to be wary of; your sudden mood change will frighten her, and over the course of the next few weeks you will drift apart.

You will begin to socialise with other people who enjoy getting drunk and you will continue to spend your weekends drinking until you knock yourself out. It won’t be a passing fancy, all this booze. Without realising it, you will get sucked in to a trap and it will take over twenty years before you realise what has happened to you, and finally find the strength to escape.

In that time, you will get married and have a baby who you will love more than anything you have ever loved before, and without whom, you would no doubt have sunk lower and lower in to the mire that you will find yourself in. You will get divorced and this will push you over the edge, forcing you through a rickety barrier that was keeping you from falling too far. You won’t understand how your marriage failed, and your ex husband will do nothing to help build a solid foundation on which you can base your separated family upon. He won’t even tell you why he left.

This is the worst time – if only you could see then what I can see now, and put down the bottle. But you really feel as though you need it, that life has become so painful that you can’t get through the night without it, that you can’t stop yourself from falling over the edge completely unless you numb the agony with more and more alcohol. You carry on, unaware that as you pinball between awful situations, it is the booze that is creating the longevity of the pain. You will maintain a certain status quo, most importantly you will keep your daughter’s life on an even keel and, for the most part, you will keep your drinking hidden from her. You will hold down jobs and have your own house, but you will always be hitting way below your potential during these years. You keep your head above water, but only just, and you could have done so much more with your time.

But after several years, thoughts begin to stir in your mind; you will begin to wonder if you are out of control with regards to the alcohol you consume, and you will start to walk down a path that will eventually lead you to sobriety. When you are thirty five, you will meet someone who you wished that you’d met years ago; this man will motivate you to stop drinking and help you  believe that you are far better than you ever thought you were. You will have a beautiful baby girl with him, and this time, you will act differently. Because you have left the booze behind, you’ll have more energy and patience, you will be kinder and more thoughtful. You will throw everything that you can at building a happy life for yourself and your family. You will understand that alcohol robbed you of many things but you won’t feel sorry for yourself because of it. You will use your experiences to try and help other people see what you know to be true; that there is nothing to be gained from drinking, and everything to be had from living your life clean and well, without addiction.