***Submitted by Tara, who blogs at The Act of Returning to Normal
It's taken me 107 days to reach 30 days in a row without alcohol. One hundred and seven days ago I thought I would never drink again, but it took several months to get to that place. For a year prior, I tried everything I could to control my drinking, to prevent the frequent hangovers at work and the almost weekly shouting matches with my husband (the contents of those fights are lost to the blackouts). I drank daily, even on the days I swore I would take a night off. On infrequent days when I was actually able to resist the pull, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction, while at the same time, couldn't avoid the prickly feeling at the back of my consciousness that normal people would not even register a booze-free day.
My fall into alcoholism was swift in comparison to some - a mere three years ago, I still had an "off" switch, so although I drank to deal with stress and frustration, I rarely drank to excess. This progressed to nightly drinking and finally to drinking during the day. My primary memory was the hope that "today I wouldn't get too wasted."
My hopes were crushed nearly every time.
Then 107 days ago I hit bottom. As a reward for quitting smoking, I decided I would not try to control my drinking. After all, I reasoned, smoking was far more likely to kill me than drinking. I thought that once I dealt with that, quitting or controlling my drinking would follow easily. It was a Thursday night. My husband I and drank a bottle of grappa, after wine with dinner, and possibly cocktails before. It was late. We fought. I don't remember anything that happened after that, although, for some reason, he was upstairs and I was in the kitchen making tea. It was as if I'd awakened from sleep walking. I felt so much pain and hopelessness. I hit myself on my legs in an attempt to deal with the pain and frustration. Then, something made me look at a knife on the counter. It seemed the perfect solution to my pain. I wanted so desperately to take the psychic pain and frustration and make it physical. With that thought in mind, I cut my wrist. Twice. The knife was dull.
When I saw the blood, I panicked. There was so much blood I thought I would die. After soaking through multiple towels, I taped the cuts and snuck up to bed with an ice pack. I laid awake all night in fear of what I'd done. I truly thought I might die, and suddenly saw all that I would lose. The pain I would cause to my family. of course, in true alcoholic fashion, I told no one. The next day I felt truly ashamed and terror stricken. I'd long been afraid of what I might do while drunk, but never in my worst nightmares was such wholesale self-destruction considered. I went to the doctor to get stitches and swore I would never again pick up another drink.
I lasted a week.
It's not that the shame disappeared in such a short time, rather, the beast convinced me that I'd learned my lesson and would return to casual and very moderate drinking. As I'm sure you can guess, this moderation lasted a few weeks before I was back in the saddle. Out of control. After a month, I finally got down on my knees and admitted I couldn't do it alone. A return to normality simply could never include drinking. I finally had to admit that I was an alcoholic and powerless to control my drinking. I expected to feel shame and this admission, instead, I felt peace and love.
It has been an up and down road, but over the past few months, I have received so many gifts. It's early days, but my head is clearing. I feel like I can see my daughters for the first time in a long time. I feel boundless hope (sometimes). I feel community and support, both online and offline. Slowly, but surely, possibilities are opening up, because I can see the landscape around me. The most important gift has been the removal of near constant shame and self-loathing. I can look in the mirror with clear eyes and an open spirit.
This is priceless to me.