SIX WEEKS TO SOBER
Over the Summer I have been as busy as ever, with great outcomes for more middle aged women who have come through the Sanctuary. I feel very fortunate to have met these women and even more inspired to continue with my quest to make sure that sooner rather than later we can collectively begin to de-stigmatize this problem and make it clear that none of us set out to be slaves to the Pinot Noir! To do that we have to start a very big conversation, and it will only be through the efforts of women who have become liberated from wine time to begin discussing a problem that they once had, and to make it acceptable to be a non drinker. There is nothing unattractive about being in control, happy and well.
I have drunk happy, sad and started to drink myself round the bend after over 20 years of a nightly bottle, or two. It started probably, in my mind, before I even took the first sip. As a child of a strict, religious and probably quite controlling upbringing I knew that my ‘escape’ at 18 would be marked with getting really pissed. And it was, and as I found the escape into being someone who was witty, funny and fell over a lot I thought I had found the panacea for all my ills – for all my insecurities – hah, just get pissed; for feeling like the odd one out – a quick few pints and I was as well integrated into any party as the rest; for learning to be an adult – well I had no idea how to do that one, so I just sank another.. and another.. and another. Good time party girl, could drink any man under the table. And under that table I remained, thinking every night I can’t rise above until I’ve had a bottle of wine.
Stupid thing was that I spent nearly 20 years looking for myself, for peace, for happiness and I never found it at the bottom of the bottle. I saw the adverts that showed women like me being glamorous, funny and letting go (but just a bit) of their inhibitions – so why did I always end up like some vomity Worzel Gummidge. Laughing as I fell and threw up into a Wheelie Bin – that was fun and glamorous wasn’t it??
So why was I so sad inside, counting the units every night to try and make sure I drove to work under the limit, how on earth did I hold down quite a successful career and bring up 3 children I’ll never understand. But underneath it all, every day, like some mercenary parasite was the little voice “it’ll all be ok after that bottle” and was it? No, I was just drowning out the little voice, the stress and the sadness.
Do I consider myself an alcoholic – not sure really. I spent the first years of my career working with street drinkers and chronic alcoholics who drank themselves to death, I wasn’t like them was I? My choice of anaesthetic was Shiraz not Denim After-Shave (and yes I did work with a man who drank that – he smelled lovely but had a serious case of Korsakov’s Wet Brain). I think for me, it was the intent that went with it all – that it wasn’t for the taste, the enjoying times with friends, it was to drown all those feelings I couldn’t deal with.
Even through some major and traumatic losses in my life, one as a direct cause of my drinking I still turned to the bottle because it was the only way I knew how to cope with hard and difficult feelings. Wine turned from being my good-time friend to my tormentor – the feelings of self hate, the shame I felt – “if only people knew how awful and weak you really are” would be the little voice inside that got louder with each drink. And I thought I could stop, maybe cut down but I didn’t know how, and each time I tried and failed I felt like I would never be free of it. Like a charming con-man who becomes a tormentor, so became wine’s hold on me.
And I did manage some sober times, like some marathon runner waiting for the relief of the finish line – I would hold off drinking for a month, or two, I even managed three after doing the Alan Carr one-day workshop – but as I got to the end of the ‘sober marathon’ I would spend the next few weeks catching up in style.
So why did it have to stop? Because I got to over 40 and realised that there was no way beyond without doing so, because some days I drove to work knowing I was too near to the drink-driving limit (and hungover to boot) to be safe, because I was sick of it all. But I couldn’t see the life without my wine, I live in a society where all things associated with relaxing are also inextricably entangled with a good skin-full of the most expensive and beautifully bottled poison. Because I had to, because if I wanted to start to live I had to face life in real.
Enter Sarah (ta,da) – real, warm and beautifully honest woman. She might tell you the hard stuff, but that’s just what I needed.
Did you know that it takes 6 weeks to even clear this stuff from your system, and that that 6 weeks is a roller coaster of emotions (you know, the ones that have been stuffed down for so many years). But Sarah’s approach is calm, assured and loving, and she shows you how to start being kind to yourself – dammit I might even start to think about learning to love myself! Maybe that’s what I needed after all.
But what I also needed was a guide through the storm, I knew that my very clever neurology had created such a strong link between feeling sad and lonely and ‘curing’ it with a swift and large glass of the very best red. I suspect that even after the re-wiring job currently underway, I will always have that neurological link in my brain and for me wine will not be something that works for me in any setting, and I’m increasingly less sad about that fact, whereas at first I could not imagine ever ‘enjoying’ sober merely tolerating it (you may recall I had a particular hang up about being the odd one out).
I am just over three months sober, and apparently a much nicer person to live with. I haven’t yet lost the three stone I was hoping to (!!!) but I look into the mirror and feel generally OK with the woman smiling back at me. What worked with the Harrogate Sanctuary approach was on many levels, but the sane voice of calm through my storm of getting sober was the biggest thing. The daily emails helped me to start to unravel what damage alcohol had done to a fragile self-esteem, and understand what drove me to seek solace in a bottle of red. The knowing I could text Sarah, when the ‘off-licence’ voice was shouting strong. The way I was heard and valued even during my silly strops abut not being ‘allowed’ to drink.
I’m still early in this journey, and I have really appreciated the way that Sarah ‘never goes away’ (her own words!) and has responded to my panicked emails about feeling like giving it all up for a swift night of obliteration. One thing I have truly learned is that physically getting sober is just the start, because all that time I was drinking I was failing to grow up. So the work starts……..to grow up (I believe it is called ‘emotional sobriety’ in the AF world!). I’ve found underneath that I do have some problems with being able to cope with bad emotions, but rather than running away, I’m facing up to them and learning to learn to live with and understand them.
I’m so happy that I decided to do this, it hasn’t been easy, and I know there are many things I need to learn to deal with and to live with being happy and alcohol-free. But it is so worth it, to wake up every day without regretting what I did or said. People keep telling me I’m looking so well… the three stone can wait because I’ve got my life to live and I’ll say in honesty I was not living for a long time.
I have been worried about and 'meaning' to stop drinking for over ten years. I have long felt it is something that has a control over me but at the same time I have held tight to a vision in my head of me without wine – a much healthier, happier person - but I just couldn’t get there on my own no matter how hard I tried. I started this process with Sarah thinking that she might be able to help, but I didn’t appreciate how powerful and quick the results would be. I thought I would stay off alcohol for 6 weeks, because I had promised her that I would, but that it would be a constant struggle and that I would secretly be waiting for the end of the 6 weeks so I could start drinking again. I can only describe what I actually feel now as a weight that has been lifted from my shoulders. The penny has finally dropped – I don’t have to drink, I don’t want to drink, and I believe that will never drink again. Most importantly I won't miss it at all, not for a second. I have socialised more than ever since I became sober and life has been so much better than ever before. I feel alive, happy, healthy and real; there is no more remorse and there is no more regret. This method of help is perfect for women who don’t want to treated like ‘addicts’, but who need understanding, help and support to put down that bottle of wine and see it for what it is. I really feel as if I have been handed a passport to freedom. It has changed my life, perhaps even saved it and I thank god for the day I picked up the phone to ask Sarah for help.
You are the first person who really understood.
You are always on my team even when I sometimes struggled to keep alcohol free.
You always gave me such encouragement when I was faltering.
You acknowledged that it was 'probably' one of the most difficult things I was going to do, never belittling my efforts.
You are an inspiration!
If I had been drinking, as I would definitely have been doing on a Friday night after a fraught week in a new job -
I would not have-
had the energy or been 'bothered' to answer your email,
been able to comfort an old school friend on the recent loss of her mother,
had the inclination to cook a Thai curry in preparation for friends who are coming to lunch on Sunday.
I would have
been slumped in front of the TV - my mind in ga-ga land. I remind myself each morning that if I have had a bad night's sleep, think how much worse I would have felt if I had also had a bottle [or more] of wine as well..... I can cope with just being tired, but not with a paranoid hangover!
I have been trying to give up alcohol for coming up a year, I initially started with a week here and there back in 2012 and I also did the full 31 days of dry January (obviously rewarded myself with alcohol following this). I managed up to 3 weeks in 2013 but would always go back to my old habits, which by April of this year was well into 140 units a week, sometimes even up to 200 depending on what I was doing on a weekend. I was miserable, scared for my health, God only knows how I managed work and my family and each day I was consumed with guilt and remorse.
It took me a little while to decide if I should contact Sarah as I really didn’t want to give up the notion of drinking for ever. Then after a particularly heavy weekend and consuming copious amounts of alcohol I decided that if I wanted to live a better way of life – or indeed live at all I needed to get help and give up for good. I have in the past considered AA and am still not adverse to the notion of it, however it never fit into my lifestyle and alongside the type of work I do I never felt that it was the right thing for me. I never discussed my drinking with my GP as I didn’t want it going down on my notes so for too long I never sought help. So the decision to contact Sarah was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Sarah’s service is unique in that it is tailored to your own needs and drinking patterns, The counselling starts with Sarah taking some details of your drinking patterns and history and then you will be offered an initial meeting. This allows for you both to meet and get to know each other and the service that she offers. You are not expected to bare you soul or talk about anything that you do not feel comfortable with, however Sarah is so effective at making you feel at ease that you build up such a firm working relationship that if needed you will feel safe in talking with her issues that may be upsetting
You will contact Sarah each and every day for 6 weeks and you will meet up on a regular basis. The daily contact allows you to express, or vent how you are doing and where you are in your recovery, plus you take ownership of your drinking – something that I had never done. On the bad days Sarah will intervene and offer increased support. I am just coming to the end of my 6 weeks and cannot express how grateful I am to Sarah and the service that she offers and thank God that I found her service. I am almost 6 weeks sober, I feel strong, stable and in such a better place. I feel more confident and more importantly I can now vision a future without alcohol – something that I could not do before. I would strongly advise other women to seek help, and if you do not want to go to the other more standard alcohol agencies out there then please contact the Harrogate Sanctuary for some advice. Sarah is so honest and open and will answer all of your questions and fears.
Good luck to you all and your journey to sobriety.
As a middle class, middle aged Physcologist there was no where to turn as far as I was concerned with a 15 year drinking career under my belt, one would have thought that I would been able to access appropriate care.
This was not the case, but eventually found the professional help that showed a different way. This was a positive approach, which left the negative and disease model of dependent drinking back in the last century. I was shown that there was no need to berate myself with hopelessness and the belief that I had an incurable disease.
Even though to the outsider looking in, I had everything, the fact of the matter was my drinking was a concern, and I knew, left to fester, that it would begin to take its toll, and I would suffer consequences.
What I have learned over the last two months of sobriety, is to above all else, to place value on myself, to not feel guilty about self-indulgence and not to self-harm with wine. That out of 24 hours in a day, there was only ever one hour where I affected a buzz or relief from a problem, that only lead to another 23 hours of abject misery and regret, and time wasted dwelling on the growing habitual drinking.
I have been able to unburden by writing my thoughts down, on a daily basis, for then they are out and are tangible rather than internalizing and then quite forgetting why I had self-medicated in the first place.
I will always have problems and issues to face, they will never go away, but I do not need to make them any worse with drinking, inevitably that is what used to happen, blowing them out of all proportion. Non-drinkers deal with ‘stuff’, and so shall I.
My thought process is clear and sharp, my precious intuition is restored.
I am no longer drinking on old painful memories. They are done, nothing will change that, I have no desire to keep hurting myself with them. Being able to off load, I have concentrated on wellness, have been given good advice on nutrition and how the alcohol had depleted my reserves, what to do if cravings surfaced, it all of course made sense once I had thrown away the cloak of denial and defensiveness. I got honest.
Now I know what it feel like to be totally AF, not an ex drinker or ex alcoholic just a woman who has dealt with a potentially life threatening illness and moved on, with no reason to ever re-visit the subject, my future is exciting and adventurous, with spontaneity restored, and life being lived, I have no time to waste!
Sorry if I sound a little smug, but I just can’t help feeling very pleased with myself :) 3 months sober and counting, is why! After heavy boozing for years and trying every tactic to cut down – Antabuse, AA, counseling, 3 months off… I knew I didn’t want to turn 50 and still be consumed with self-loathing every day, because I kept failing to control my drinking. I signed up with Harrogate Sanctuary on 6th May for 6 weeks continuous support. This included daily contact at any time of day, either by email or phone/text. It was a very personal and private kind of care. I didn’t have to do anything but keep in daily contact and not lie about my drinking. Yes, I did want to drink during the pull of the psychological withdrawal, but worked this through with Sarah in the moment. Yes, I did want immediate results and to understand why I was feeling depressed and not happy, but worked this through with Sarah in the moment. I’ve been running solo now for over two months and the techniques I learned with Sarah have kept me strong. Sarah still keeps in contact and I know she’s there for me if I need her. For those of you who are struggling to stop or cut down, I recommend Harrogate Sanctuary as a way of getting support as well as understanding the process you are going through - as you go through it. I entered my 50th decade proud and pleased and I haven’t had that self-loathing feeling for 3 months and counting. It’s a much better life to be living.