The Bigger Picture

7 Aug

Having got through the real, tangible struggle of Day 7, where I wanted to jack it all in, crack open a bottle of wine and relax, day 8 was an absolute breeze.

Once, again, I woke up feeling fantastic. My bedroom has a beautiful morning light that floods through the windows, and this really helps me appreciate the moment when I wake up knowing I didn’t drink the night before.

It’s astonishing, really, when I think that in the past year, I’ve had probably only very slightly less nights drunk that I have sober. I remember starting my bottle of wine alone habit sometime in May or June 2012, trying to reach out for help a little in July, enjoying the party that was the summer of the Olympics in August, fuelled by drink. I remember running late to meet people to watch the Olympic volleyball because I was buying a “pre” Gin & Tonic in Tesco on my way there. Of course it wasn’t enough, and when we arrived at the venue, everyone else wasn’t drinking their overpriced pints quick enough, which hugely annoyed me.

The day I went to the Olympic stadium, which was one of my highlights of the whole summer, I spent disproportionate amounts of time on my special day waiting at the ridiculous queues for the bar.

October and November were filled with after work drinks, either because I instigated them, or found a way to drink on my own. December was a month where I probably had one or two nights off drinking, if that, because I was on a month long holiday. I remember a night where I knew there were no social drinks ahead of me, and drinking 2 tins of gin and tonic on the floor of a shitty hostel. They just took the edge off.

I think this month long holiday in Australia, where there was an excuse to drink every day, go out every night, and it all to be part of the experience, was the point when I started to really crave alcohol. I’ve never been good at relaxing, holidays, or filling voids of time where I’m not doing something proactive. Because I was on holiday I could drink as much as I wanted, sleep during the day, and never really felt the effects. The 24 hours of travelling home was softened by red wine at regular intervals, and when I arrived home on New Years Eve, I bought myself a bottle for that evening’s celebrations (alone on the sofa), intending to turn over a new leaf for the new year.

Well as you can imagine, that didn’t happen. My relationship was slowly crumbling, and I was hugely bored at home for the week before I started my new job. I started filling that void with some afternoon drinks, maybe a bottle of wine spread throughout the afternoon. My boyfriend at the time was doing Dry January, and was horrified I wasn’t keeping to it with him. He was controlling and had emotionally abused me for a number of years, which was during this period, a reason to rebel and drink, despite his orders not to. This combination of rebellion and pain from the relationship breaking down and ultimately breaking up would be a toxic one, as for months it validated my drinking.

The night before we split up, he came home to find me innocentky sitting at the computer. All was well until an empty bottle of wine fell out of my handbag. “Do you have a problem with drinking??!?” he exclaimed, horrified. I denied it, both to him and myself, but I can’t help but think that this very specific incident and the shame/indignance that it proved was a big factor in me snapping and making the decision that we should break up the following day. The decision was, of course, put to a committee of various friends over drinks. Two days worth of drinks, in fact. And then a couple of months of drinks after the break up.

Although I don’t think anyone I know would say I have a problem with drinking (apart from my ex, who stumbled across the secret drinking), they’d say that because I started making the choice to drink alone, without having to worry about moderation or judgement. The more it was me alone with the bottle, the more I could get away with, enjoy it, justify it as a secret treat.

In isolation, all of the drinking incidents that have led me to the point where I want to stop felt small, but the big picture, is well, big. I think of isolated incidents where the booze has been shameful- Friday nights alone, having got drunk in the office with colleagues, rampaging round looking for food in the communal fridges, loading up my bag with leftover bottles of wine, before having to get a taxi because I’d be too drunk to get home on the tube. Getting so drunk at my good friend’s wedding that I blacked out, was sick all over the hotel bath and had the shame of facing the wedding party the next day. A one off they thought. The next wedding I went to, I got so drunk I shamed myself in front of my family when I got home. I went to a family business weekend away, drank a bottle and ¾ of wine at least, plus beer, and drew enough attention to myself that family friends were asking how the head was the day after, and my sister proclaimed me drunk. At another family event a few weekends ago, I had a large glass of wine in front of me and my brother urged me to “be careful”, based on my previous behaviour. On holiday, the super size gin and tonics drunk slowly with my family weren’t enough, so I snuck out, bought a bottle of red to drink alone on the balcony, and then headed out, entirely alone, to hit Ibiza town. I bought cigarettes to try and make friends in the smoking area whilst there, bought $15 gin and tonics, and felt utterly lonely. I went to parties in Ibiza where all I could think of was our booze budget, and it was never enough.

I dread to think how many units I’ve drunk over the past year, and how many calories consumed. You can see the booze weight on me, and I see my weight as a symptom of the failure of controlling my drinking. Previously, as you’ll see in some of my early posts filled with best intentions of stopping for a period of time, weight loss was a huge motivator for me.

Weight-loss is still an important goal for me in terms of the 100 Day Challenge and quitting drinking, but it’s no longer my motivation for doing it. For the first time, I’ve been really honest with myself about having a real problem with drink, and wanting to change for reasons other than weight loss. I want to feel clearer headed, get my work life back on track, stop jeopardising my fitness goals, stop binge-eating whist drunk, stop being drunk in my flat on a Sunday night and having to hide it from my flatmate, stop calling into work sick because I’m too hungover to move. That has happened about 10 times in the past year I reckon, which is just not on.

Writing all this is hugely helpful to build up the bigger picture of how alcohol has dominated life for the last year or so, as I’m still highly functioning and exercise a lot, which blocks out the reality of what’s really been going on.

So, Day 8, feeling good, terrified of what’s ahead, but truly taking it one day at a time. 

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One Response to “The Bigger Picture”

  1. carrieonsober August 7, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    It’s good to lay out your thoughts and seeing it all in black and white can be just what we need to read back on when the cravings come. Sit tight if they come…they pass, and they get better. It never gets any tougher than it is right now…really the only way is up. And if you need support, just ask. C

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