The holiday was good and I’m glad I went. To go away for three weeks and not take a drink is a hurdle I’ve accomplished.
I wasn’t sure if I was ready for such a hurdle, but I would never know until I tried and evidently, I was.
It does not mean that I can be complacent – I can never be complacent – but, I view it as some sort of test I’ve passed. If I can do it once, perhaps I can do it again. The next time an opportunity to travel comes along, maybe I can enjoy a little of the anticipation. Part of the enjoyment of a holiday begins long before you step your toes in the turquoise, crystal water irradiating as if scattered with diamonds. For me it begins the moment I’ve given my Visa numbers to a complete stranger and checked that my passport is in date (hopefully, I’ve done the latter first). The anticipation, the planning, taking down the suitcase from the attic and filling it with swimsuits, sarongs and other unsuitable attire for an Irish climate – there is a frisson of excitement in the air and routine has temporarily been suspended.
The fear that I saw myself lying on a sunbed, shaded from the sun under a striped yellow and white parasol saying; “I’ll have the same” as the waiter hands a glass of chilled, white wine to the woman sitting beside me, stole some of the pleasure I normally get before a holiday. Maybe next time, I can enjoy the anticipation of the holiday without the fear of relapse.
One thing I’ve noticed since I ceased to drink; I have to always be on my guard. That doesn’t mean I can’t relax, but it does mean I need my antenna to be sharp. For example, if I order tonic water most people presume I said “gin and tonic”, just like when I order water with no ice or lemon, it invariably comes with both. Why? Because people are programmed; tonic means gin and tonic, water means with ice and lemon. If the water comes with ice and lemon, it won’t do me much harm, but if the tonic comes with gin, it would. Another example is a social event, where the minute I walk in the door, I am handed a glass of something alcoholic. If I’m distracted, I may take a sip before I realise what I’ve done.
The conversation descended into me accusing her of being insincere and only caring about being seen with the right people
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t attend Alcoholics Anonymous or other support groups, but neither do I shut them out. I envy people who get so much out of AA. I could do with support now and then. One evening I met someone whom I hadn’t seen in a long while and I like her. But for some reason, I flipped. It was at a funeral and funerals sometimes bring out emotions in me that I’m not comfortable with. I saw her out of the corner of my eye but did not want to talk to her (nor to anyone at that time). I continued to walk pretending not to hear her, but she was insistent. She said we must meet up and have lunch. She mentioned a place which is on the expensive side and immediately said, “it’s my treat”. I said it didn’t matter who paid.
The conversation descended into me accusing her of being insincere and only caring about being seen with the right people (are there such people?) and that I, unlike her, was a sincere and genuine person who could be trusted to keep my word. Could the floor please open up and swallow me? I can honestly say I have no idea what came over me? I walked back to my car angry and embarrassed. How could I have lost it so completely?
This outburst of mine had nothing to do with her but was coming from some deep-seated feeling that attending the funeral had resurfaced. I was still pretty shocked at my outburst when I got home and it was coming up to six o’clock. I desperately wanted a drink to drown out the hurt and humiliation I was feeling. I went to where the bottles of wine are kept and looked at them. I stared at the label on one of the bottles and just as I was about to reach for it, my brain started to function again.
What was I doing?
Was there something else I could do?
I found a number of Alcoholics Anonymous, a number I discovered later ordinarily wouldn’t be manned at that time, and a kind voice answered. I told him what had happened and how not having a drink required more willpower than I had right now. He listened and told me I was great. This wasn’t the impression I had of myself at that moment nor I’m guessing, the opinion of the “friend” I accosted. He continued to say that going into rehab and remaining sober for eight months were achievements I should be proud of. When I eventually hung up, although still embarrassed and feeling foolish, I didn’t have a drink. It was hard. But I did it. I didn’t get the name of this gentleman, but if you’re reading this – thank you.
In case you’re wondering, I do keep alcohol in the house. For some, in recovery, that would not work and I understand, but for me, it’s not a problem. Not having a drink is not dependent on the availability of alcohol but rather on my desire and my decision not to drink. I live close enough to shops (as regular readers know) that if I want alcohol badly enough, I can get it in five minutes. So no, bottles of wine don’t have to be stored in a cupboard under lock and key which is what my brother-in-law asked when I told him I was going into rehab.
The thought of tasting something that tastes almost like the real thing sends shivers down my spine. Why are people uncomfortable just because I’m not drinking?
I’ve had a birthday, the first since I stopped drinking. Another test I’ve passed. I feel I’m beginning to get used to not drinking. I’m still afraid to say, “I don’t drink” when asked: “what would you like to drink?” Instead, I just say water is fine. It is rare that the person offering the drink will immediately ask, “still or sparkling”? No, more often they will say, “oh, are you driving? But you can leave the car here and collect it tomorrow morning.”
Oh, why didn’t I think of that?
Or there will be an awkward pause and they suddenly remember the non-alcoholic bottle of wine stored at the back of a cupboard.
“You must try this. I’m told it tastes almost like the real thing.” The thought of tasting something that tastes almost like the real thing sends shivers down my spine. Why are people uncomfortable just because I’m not drinking? It is a valid question. Yet, they are. I was like that. I loved when someone loved drinking as much as I did. It made me feel normal.
So, I roll out the usual excuses; getting up early, giving up alcohol for Lent, on antibiotics (as if that ever stopped me), I’m pregnant – ha that’ll shut them up (that window closed a long time ago).
If I were to say, “I don’t drink”, I fear it’s making a statement, one which I’m not comfortable with yet.
My ongoing family situation hasn’t abated and, at times, can be intense and emotions run high. Not by me, I am glad to say, but by others. I leave the room as remaining there isn’t going to help. These types of situations really test me, especially as they tend to occur in the evening – the hardest time for me.
“Why not just take a drink” is the voice in my head, “you’ll feel better.”
Time has elapsed and the parties involved are calmer now. It’s a pity they couldn’t stay calm at the time. How do arguments and raised voices make things better? They don’t. But I struggled again. The funny thing is the same argument is being hashed out again and again; the same insults lashed back and forth and surprise, surprise they expect a different outcome. Why? It didn’t happen the last two thousand times, why would it change now? Was it Einstein who said: “insanity was doing the same thing and expecting a different result?”. Reading the above makes me sound like I know everything, well, here’s the thing, I know nothing and the older I get the more I realise that. But I’ve learnt to keep quiet when all around me is crumbling.
I was out with a friend, one who knows I was in rehab, and she, perusing the menu, asked: “Will you have a glass of wine?” I turned and looked at her without saying a word. She repeated the question. This time I responded, “Mary, I can’t have a glass of wine.” She looked surprised and then finally, the penny dropped.
A strange thing has occurred when the song is over. Nothing has changed except my dopamine levels. They have surged. I feel great yet nothing was ingested
Another time at a neighbour’s house celebrating his birthday, (he too is aware of my situation) he proffered the bottle of wine and when I requested water, he said, “are you sure, it’s not like you have far to go”. Then he remembered and he was embarrassed. No need. I was not tempted. Temptation when/if it comes will be when I’m vulnerable, a time when, like the above incident, will hit me with a sledgehammer. Not when I’m enjoying myself spending a convivial evening with friends eating delicious food and where I know wine will be flowing throughout the course of the evening. I am prepared for this.
When something bad happens or I get bad news, I pause and say to myself: “this has happened, now how do I deal with it?” To quote Marcus Aurelius; “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment”. Simplistic it may be, but it is also practical. If I can’t change what happened, then I have to find a way to accept it and move on. The solution will not be found in a bottle of wine.
They say music is therapeutic and that is certainly so in my case. I love music; all genres of music. What I listen to depends on my mood or the time of day. Whenever I’m driving and a song I love comes on the radio, I crank up the volume and start singing along at the top of my voice. The fact that I can’t sing doesn’t stop me. A strange thing has occurred when the song is over. Nothing has changed except my dopamine levels. They have surged. I feel great yet nothing was ingested. For me the power of music cannot be overestimated. When hit with bad news, it can be hard to think of playing music and the effort to do so (even with modern technology) can be challenging.
It’s easier to find the corkscrew but the consequences of that are far more damaging than listening to Mick Jagger singing Start me Up.
- Part 1: I am not an alcoholic
- Part 2: I told myself I’d stop at three
- Part 3: Someone drank hand sanitiser
- Part 4: I’ve stopped drinking nine bottles
- Part 5: A man told me I wasn’t honest
- Part 6: Will you regret taking this drink?
- Part 7: My eye is stuck on the wine
- Part 8: Could the floor swallow me?
- Part 9: Should I try AA again?
- Part 10: Combating life’s little horrors
- Part 11: Go on, you deserve it
- Part 12: Why I choose to write anonymously