Speaking Out

14 Sep

I have been thinking a lot about how I explain to people why I stopped drinking. I feel a responsibility to be honest within reason, to say a version of ‘I was drinking too much and it was making my life terrible and I realised I had to cut it out altogether or it was going to get even more out of control.’

On my bolder days, I want to wave my hands and say ‘Hey! Look at me! The one you think has her life sorted? Well I am an alcoholic! Does that change your image of what that word means to you?’

When socialising, I feel I should wear my sobriety on my sleeve to show that yes, you can go out and dance your socks off and laugh like a drain and be happily sober in your 20s.

I want to say to people- ‘if you’re worried about your drinking, that probably means you should stop.’ And I want to say to some of my dearest friends ‘you’re normalising completely abnormal drinking habits. Just because you’ve surrounded yourself with people who drink like you do, doesn’t mean it’s ok.’

I want to walk round the local ‘hangover’ cafes on a Sunday morning with a placard saying ‘It’s not how much, it’s how it makes you feel…’

I’ve mentioned on here before that one of the biggest agonies of my drinking was my outer/inner life conflict. I looked like I had an amazing life. Some friends told me they looked up to my career success, my regular marathon running, my passion for life. But they had NO IDEA what was going on inside, the horrible things that were happening due to the drink. One of them said recently that she hadn’t seen me drink for ages and that she wished she had my self discipline. She said this to me in a public forum (Facebook), so I couldn’t declare my story, but it got me thinking a lot about just how I’m going to be more honest about my experiences. A Woman Without Wine wrote a great post today about her drinking, and how it wouldn’t be classed as typically alcoholic. It really struck a chord with me, not only because I recognised myself in her words, but because it made me wonder about what we’re all doing here in this sober blogging world, how we’re spreading the message of a new kind of alcoholism that Women Like Us can relate to (and men of course, but my sober blogging pals are largely women)… And how we can recover.

It’s really powerful, this act of reading and writing we all engage in. It’s helping, in its own small way, the image of alcoholism move on. It’s saved me.

If I hadn’t started noodling around on the internet, I would have never found this sea of words which captured my experiences exactly. I would have gone on thinking that the problem was me, not the drink. And whilst we’re not blameless in our drinking, removing myself from the idea that having alcohol issues is some sort of moral failure was life changing for me. As was the idea that despite my nice life, I *could* still be an alcoholic.

As I’m getting a little more confident in my sobriety, I’m exploring how I can be more open about my drinking with those close to me at first, to test the waters. I’ve told several good friends about my real reasons for stopping drinking but to get them to believe me, I’ve had to tell them all the gory details. Being a secret drinker shot me in the foot in that respect, because no-one really could see I had a problem. But I can’t take that approach with everyone, can I?

My worry about how I articulate my sobriety all comes down to 2 things. Ego, and stigma. I don’t really want people to know what a mess I was. That I struggled with addiction. That I was living a lie. I want people to see me as strong. But, if people are ever to understand addiction, to see the true face of alcoholism which walks past them on the street every day, stings next to them in the line for their overpriced latte, sits next to them at literary readings and races marathon, how will they know if more of us don’t speak out? I for one knew nothing about addiction before I fell victim to it. I had NEVER met anyone my age who didn’t drink, unless for religious reasons. I thought alcoholics were weak willed, that I’D never let things get out of control like that..

It’s late, I can’t sleep and I’ve got myself whipped up into a bit of a frenzy about this, but it’s an interesting area, no? How the stigma of alcoholism stops people from speaking out and feeds the stigma? A classic viscous circle.

Maybe all I can do for now to protect myself is be open with those who matter to me, offer a friendly sober ear for those who might be struggling and be honest about how stopping drinking has changed my life for the better. Something to think on. Better than counting sheep anyway…

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23 Responses to “Speaking Out”

  1. Ruby September 14, 2014 at 12:51 am #

    I’m at the beginning of this process and getting most of my support online and through blogs such as your own. It’s been very helpful to see how alcohol affects all types of people. But i only speak out a little and only online. I know I’m eventually going to have to find more support closer to home which is going to bring up the stigma AND the ego.

    • FitFatFood September 14, 2014 at 9:05 am #

      But the good news is Ruby, you don’t have to in your ready 🙂 Anonymity is a brilliant safety blanket in these first few moths.

      Keep going, you’re doing great x

  2. A Woman Without Wine September 14, 2014 at 1:39 am #

    I love your writing as much as I love to write. Thanks for the mention and thank you for your lovely comment. It’s so great to know there are woman out there like me who get it x

    • FitFatFood September 14, 2014 at 9:02 am #

      And thanks for the inspiration to write it 🙂

  3. ainsobriety September 14, 2014 at 3:23 am #

    I could have written this post. I always think that when I read what you write. We must be long lost twins.
    I’ve had the same experiences. having to force people to believe I had a problem. Being much more honest about drinking alone and at home that I ever was before, but maybe not quite telling them the whole truth!

    I find my struggles with depression often open a door to talking about mental health and abusing alcohol.

    I have a high profile, professional job. I was forever working out or on some insane health craze, so I look good. If people only knew how often I was there killing it at spin so hungover I wanted to barf. But they didn’t.

    I too, feel that urge to shout from the rooftops – LOOK!! LIFE IS SO MUCH BETTER WITHOUT THAT WINE!!! YOU DON’T NEED IT TO RELAX OR HAVE FUN!!!

    But, like many things, people need to figure it out for themselves. So I try to listen a little more than I used to, and if I think someone might be looking for support I am quick to offer up at least part of my story.

    I plan to some day get a recovery yoga program going. I am training now, and maybe by the end of 2015 I will have it together. I hope to create a place for people, who might be dealing with food issues, depression, booze, etc. to come together to remember that we are really all in this together. That we are not alone. That people care.

    Your blog reassures me this is true.

    Anne

    • FitFatFood September 14, 2014 at 9:02 am #

      Ahh sober twins 🙂

      Are you in the UK? If so, we should try and meet.

      I can TOTALLY relate to the spinning with a hangover and everyone thinking you’re that paragon of health. Jesssssssus…

      • ainsobriety September 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

        No. I’m in canada. But my sister lives in London and just had a baby, so I will hopefully get over there in the next few months!
        If so, we definitely should meet up.

        It’s interesting how hard we worked to try to convince ourselves were were ok. Once I finally accepted I wasn’t change finally happened.

      • FitFatFood September 14, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

        Do! I’ll take you for tea 🙂

  4. primrose September 14, 2014 at 5:33 am #

    that trade-off between secrecy and honesty has so much power. if we give up our secrets then we can be better understood. but we make ourselves so vulnerable, doing so….and that is so hard.

    it is an awful thing to say but sometimes I wish I had gone further down the booze path, so that choice had been taken out of my hands. if I had had a DUI, and been banned from driving for a year, for example, (obviously without hurting anyone else) then I would have been outed to my community and had no choice over the matter. that would have its own immense pain, and I truly mean no disrespect to anyone reading this who is in that position, but it would have benefits, too.

    I am still at the point of never having told my husband about the drinking which I hid from him. because I do not want him to think less of me. because I am, still, ashamed of what my dependency led me to do. I don’t know whether I ever will tell him. it might be like telling him I had an affair (which I hasten to say is not the case!) just because it makes me feel better, not to improve our relationship in the future. perhaps some things are best left unsaid…perhaps I am just being cowardly.

    I adore ALL the lines which you want to use on your friends. but particularly the first one you want to use on your ‘bolder days’. do you remember the French and Saunders sketches where they sat in their flat leafing through magazines, saying, “and so-and-so. she’s got it ALL!” ? well sometimes I’d like to shout, “oh, yes. I’ve got it ALL. including a alcohol problem.” and what would my friends and acquaintances say to that?!

    I know this comment is getting truly enormous but it was such a great post it made me think of loads of things I wanted to say in response! lastly, then, I agree wholeheartedly that being as open as we can to our closest friends is really important. and that if this secret soberverse world gives people the courage to get sober, it can give them the courage to do that, too. hurrah!! xx

    • FitFatFood September 14, 2014 at 9:01 am #

      What a reply!

      I totally understand the thing with your husband. Revealing something like that sheds a new light on a relationship that doesnt necessarily need to be. It my ex partner knew I’d been drinking the way I did in the final few months of our relationship, he’d have been horrified and even now we’re separated, if I told him, it would validate his bad behaviour towards me somehow…

      Interestingly, if you were in AA and got to the ‘Amends’ bit, I know my lovely sponsor would say that with your husband, there’s no need to dish the dirt and get it off your chest as that may hurt him. She’d recommend ‘Living Amends’ which would involve you being the best loving wife you can be.

      In sobriety we want to look forward, but there’s so much that calls over our shoulders for us to look back.

      x

      • primrose September 15, 2014 at 6:40 am #

        I so appreciated the understanding you give me here and for the thought. thank you. please thank your sponsor for me, too!! xx

      • FitFatFood September 15, 2014 at 7:07 am #

        I’d love you to meet her one day Prim. As Carrie can vouch, she’s just the loveliest thing ever. She’s new school AA which suits me just fine 🙂

  5. Annie September 14, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    When I did my 60 days earlier this year, I found that some people were quite negative about my not drinking, so I became a bit apologetic about it. This time, I intend to be more honest about it, but as I’m only 2 weeks in, no one has noticed yet! Your post is brave and true – like you! Annie x

    • FitFatFood September 14, 2014 at 8:54 am #

      Thanks Annie.

      I think I’ve been taking the firmer approach because I found that the more apologetic approach left a little space for people to convince me to have a drink.

      You’re doing brilliantly x x x

  6. byebyebeer September 14, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    I was seriously just thinking about this while laying in bed this morning. I was thinking about a woman I knew years ago that never drank, and now I wondered if it was due to a problem. And I thought what a shame that would have been, if in fact she had, that she couldn’t just say “oh I don’t drink because it got out of hand for me personally and I’m much happier now without.” And that’s what I’m going to say because it’s true. I’ve said it before to some and in general I am not secretive about sobriety, but it also doesn’t come up much. I don’t want to preach either, but I feel a certain obligation because, yes, I drank secretively too. I don’t want shame to keep the solution in the dark. Thanks so much for this.

    • FitFatFood September 14, 2014 at 9:29 am #

      Every time I meet a non drinker now, I have that thought.

      I’m testing out what I say and to whom. A colleague came out for my birthday recently and got a bit drunk. She text me the next day full of shame and when we spoke about it at work I said to her “That’s why I stopped drinking, I felt The Fear you describe so intensely I had to stop” and she got it.

      I was listening to The Bubble Hour on The Anonymous People recently and it feels like a hot topic at the moment. I think speaking out can be a big or small action. It can be public declaration or it can be as small and simple as planting a seed in someone else’s mind that there is another way out 🙂

  7. lucy2610 September 14, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    FFF I think I experienced the answer for me this week-end 🙂 It is about reframing us as being in long term recovery and not using words like alcoholic and addict. One of my stumbling blocks with AA was the name and alcoholic by way of introduction. Saying ‘hi my name is Lucy and I am in long term recovery. For me that means I have not had a drink since 21st September 2013 and have been sober for 12 months’ feels oh so much more me 🙂 xx

  8. Liam September 14, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    I get this thing about Stigma. Somehow it seems like when you tell someone new who asks why you quit drinking?, I get this feeling of shame or weakness that I could not handle my alchcol, instead it was handling me. So I say things like “It was causing me health problems and affecting my sleep” which are both true, but still I feel like there is more of the story to tell, but it is a little too personal for the average conversation.

    I have to remind myself no matter what that person may think, that I am not weak, and that in fact I am quite strong as I am at 98 days of not drinking. I need to feel proud I have come this far and not ashamed that I have a problem or that I recognized that booze was taking me down a dark path, instead I want to focus on the brighter path that lies ahead of me. It is a critical mind set.

    • FitFatFood September 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      Brilliant Liam, well done om 98 days. And I agree, that focus on the brighter path is what keeps us sober longer term…

  9. soberjournalist September 15, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    This is really interesting and I very much agree with your musings. Like you, it depends on what mood I’m in as to what I say – increasingly I find that I’m proud of being a bit different to everyone else. This pride definitely helps me do my own thing a bit more and not care what people think or if they’ve noticed that I’m not drinking. I do tell people the truth if they really want to know. Although often they seem disappointed – my story clearly isn’t wild enough!

  10. nomorepurpletongue September 15, 2014 at 11:38 pm #

    I’ve been lurking on this blog for quite a while… Today is Day 29 of my liberation from alcohol. So much of what you’ve all said resonates with me – the first few days I was terrified to think of my life without alcohol but knew in my heart that it had become a very unhealthy relationship. I’m so loving waking up in the morning without any ‘static’ in my brain: the little voice that got louder and louder asking how many drinks did I have yesterday? Do I remember going to bed? Did I slur my words? Did I embarrass myself? I have told some close friends about my decision to stop drinking on my own terms and have gotten everything from loving support to curiosity to “YOU? STOP DRINKING??” I read somewhere that it’s pretty sad that in Western culture, if you tell someone you’re quitting smoking everyone cheers you on. But – tell them you’ve stopped drinking and they look at you as if there’s something wrong with you.

    Sorry – a little off topic, but I am still trying to figure out a ‘stock explanation’ for my newfound abstinence which will satisfy curiosity and protect my dignity and privacy. Usually I say that it was negatively affecting my mood and screwing with my sleep. That works pretty well for me right now.

    Thanks for all the wisdom you’ve shared – I’ll continue following, reading, commenting, and supporting!

    • FitFatFood September 16, 2014 at 7:27 am #

      So great to hear from you, and its always good to have a little work out of your own stuff in the comments 🙂

      You’re doing brilliantly and all this soul searching will really pay off a few months down the road.

      Keep on keeping on 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Same Story Over & Over &… | FitFatFood- Blogging to Stay Sober - December 28, 2014

    […] in some sort of secrecy. So I’ve been experimenting with the story I tell. Since I posted this, I’ve been getting a little bolder with what I say to people about why I stopped drinking. If […]

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