*** Submitted by Gappy. She's chosen today to share her story not only here but on her own blog, Single Parenthood: Tales from the Frontline. It's a brave and powerful thing to do; please let her know if you identify. (I sure do -- Robin)
Up until quite recently, it never occurred to me that I was an alcoholic. I still balk at the term now - not out of any sense of denial, I know full well that I cannot drink moderately or safely - but simply because to say it seems so dramatic. It makes me think of the people I see on the benches in town on my way to work sometimes, drinking Special Brew at 9.00 in the morning. I sometimes find myself fantasising idly about joining them, about throwing all of my many balls straight up in the air and not even bothering to try to catch them again. I am drawn to it like one is to the edge of a cliff or the bank of a deep river. It's terrifying yet strangely magnetic.
They say that alcoholism is progressive, and I don't doubt it, but I cannot remember a time when I drank normally. I cannot pinpoint where I might have 'crossed the line' because I have always drunk to excess. Even as a young teenager I would always be the one passing out in unsuitable places while my friends agonised over what to do with me. From that point on my alcoholism has gone through phases. There have been periods when I have been either drunk or hungover almost all the time. I have experienced black-outs, drunk spirits in the morning, and woken up shaking with the cold sweats. I also spent about six years trying desperately to moderate with varying degrees of torturous success. It was always going to be doomed to failure eventually. True moderate drinkers just are. They don't have to try with all their mental might. These days I make the only reasonable choice left to me, which is to be sober. See? Mine's a lime and soda.
Except when it's a gin and tonic.
You see, this was supposed to be a post all about my sobriety. About how sobriety was a righteous choice that I had made. About how I was done with self sabotage and self pity. It was going to be a post that said fuck the backstory, because whether to drink or not is a simple choice to be made forever in the here and now - that said how I was never again going to repeat another pathetic story from my childhood because I alone was responsible for my actions - not some demon from my distant past. It was going to be a post about how my sobriety was rooted in the fertile soil of my own power, and about how - for me - there could be no higher power than that.
Except that last night I drank again. A group of us went out for a friend’s birthday and I could not resist the peer pressure to have a drink. I could not bring myself to spill when my friends asked me why I was not having a cocktail. I attempted a feeble, 'Oh you know, I'm not really drinking at the moment...' only to have it waved away by friends who wanted to see me have a great time. Friends who I have managed to hide so much of myself from. Friends who wanted to go to a club to get drunk and dance and flirt, and who wanted me to join in. So I broke a promise to myself and I did.
And nobody died. We drank cocktails and danced and flirted. It was fun. The only person in the whole world who knew what I was risking was me. But today I feel frightened and shocked. I feel turned inside out because I thought I had being sober pretty much sewn up. I had been completely teetotalling for six months. I thought I was learning to trust myself, dammit. 'You takes your responsibility, you makes your choices' had become my personal motto, and I still wholeheartedly believe that. I did make a choice last night, but it was the choice to drink. The choice to jeopardise my good life - and by the same token, my children’s good lives. Today it is unthinkable.
So now what? The fact that the night passed without incident is precisely what makes this relapse so very dangerous. How easy it is now for the devil on my shoulder to whisper seductively: "See? What's the problem? You're fine to have a few drinks every now and then. Real alcoholics drink until they pass out every time they pick up. You can control it now." I can't. I don't want to go into lurid details about my own personal rock bottoms but I know that I can't control my drinking - that I've never been able to control it. I know that I will always be an alcoholic and that the only way I can win is to not feed my body and brain with the substance to which they are addicted.
So this is what I'm going to do: I'm going to get up, dust myself off and keep going in the same sober direction. I'm going to formulate a comprehensive plan as to how I'm going to deal with the next situation in which there is social pressure to drink (if anyone's got any tips I would be most grateful) and I'm going to takes my responsibility and makes my (better) choices. In the end what else is there?
Mine's a lime and soda.