Taking back control of my life

Last time I posted here I was still gutted and disappointed in myself about going out in Manchester and basically getting wasted. The anxiety I felt the day after was horrendous and I never want to feel that way again. It’s so frustrating knowing that you can drink in moderation but what I didn’t realise is, how important it is to be in the right situation for that to happen. This isn’t about pointing the finger at anyone. It’s about me knowing I can only drink alcohol when I’m in certain environments. There’s no point sending me on a trip away with a group of people that’s only intention is to spend the weekend drinking because it’s inevitable what will happen. I’ll join them, not know when to stop and by the time someone is telling me to be careful and take my time, it’ll be too late and the damage is already done.

So, I got myself back on the wagon for a few weeks to rethink things and I stayed sober for 39 days. I didn’t find it difficult and it didn’t particularly bother me until we went for a meal and I fancied a glass of red wine. Going sober again, even if it was short term did make me realise sobriety isn’t really what I want and I’m convinced drinking in moderation is possible for a lot of people, including myself. I want to be able to drink alcohol in the way it’s intended. I want to be able to join in the celebrations and toast the happy couple without my glass being ‘in disguise’ and full of lemonade. There’s something really nice about being able to have a few ‘proper’ drinks with family and friends.

A lot of my drinking was down to habit and boredom. Even though I have a lot of interests and I love being outdoors, over time my only hobby became drinking and I forgot how to enjoy myself in any other way. I developed a circle of friends who did the same and my life was spent in bars and pubs. The only problem for me was that this way of life had a massive affect on my mental health. I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for a long time but that got much worse over the years, to the point where I had suicidal thoughts and couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. When hungover the anxiety rushed through my body in the most awful way. I couldn’t stand the physical symptoms and was unbelievably paranoid. I struggled to stay focused and all my thinking was negative. I needed a reset and staying sober seemed like the only answer.

I don’t believe I’ve ever craved alcohol but that all depends on what you define as craving. It’s a very grey area and some people say that being sat at work, looking forward to getting home and opening a bottle of wine every evening is craving, even when you stop at one bottle. I don’t believe that’s true but it’s interesting when you get talking to other people in recovery on how they define craving alcohol. You may be reading this and wondering if you have a problem. My advice would be to find your nearest SMART Recovery meeting and you’ll soon decide. It’s pretty nerve racking because that’s a huge step to take but it’s definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was at that first meeting on the Isle of Man that I realised I did have a problem. It was so comforting being around people who understood me; some with a problem worse than mine and some less but it doesn’t matter how bad your issue is. A problem is a problem, and I do believe that if someone is questioning their alcohol consumption, then they’ve already answered their own question. There’s no time frame. It took me over 20 years to realise my drinking was out of control but the sooner we realise these things, the quicker we can fix them and improve our quality of life.

It’s difficult to get your life back on track when you’ve had the same routine for so many years. Especially when a lot of your friends are down the pub and you’re trying to stay away from alcohol. I love being outdoors and exploring new places and that was a massive part of my recovery that kept me busy and away from temptation. Meeting JT has been amazing because we have so many similar interests. I’ve got that zest for life back and JT has given me the motivation to get back into what I love. Our weekends are filled with trips away, long walks over the hills, meals out and after about 15 years of not being on a bike I’ve finally been out and bought one with the money I’ve saved and got the cycling bug back that I had when I was a teenager. Like every couple we have our ups and downs but I absolutely love our time we spend together. The funny thing is our backgrounds couldn’t be any different so without knocking the drink on the head, our paths would have never crossed.

I’ve decided to continue with drinking in moderation and I know I will be successful with it long term. Rome wasn’t built in a day!! My mum and Mick got married last month and I decided last minute that I would drink alcohol on the day. Obviously, I’d have to take it easy because it was an all day event so we made sure there was plenty of alcohol free wine on the tables and enough choice behind the bar. I drank AF prosecco during the day then went onto alcoholic red wine in the evening. I felt tipsy by the end of the night, but I was in control. We went home at a sensible time, said goodbye and was happy to let everyone continue enjoying themselves. I didn’t feel like I was about to miss out on something and I was happy to go home. Back in the day I was always the last to leave then would be looking for someone throwing a house party! Last week I took JT to her first Manchester Pride and again, I decided to drink throughout the day. We arrived at lunch time, I started drinking around 4pm and we got home at midnight. For the whole time I was drinking Amstel beer in moderation, it wasn’t a struggle and we had the best day ever. In the early days of moderation I felt I had to really concentrate on not going too far and not drinking too fast but I’ve found that each time I do this it does get easier. I’ll never drink alcohol on a regular basis ever again but it is nice to be able to enjoy a social event with a few beers once in a while.

Alcohol free drinks will always be a part of my life and I do enjoy them, but when it comes to red wine, I ain’t gonna find anything that tastes anywhere near my favourite bottle of red. I love my Irish coffee as well and that’s not going to be possible with alcohol free drinks. When buying drinks to have at home I always go for the AF option. In fact, I prefer AF San Miguel to the alcoholic version. I know a lot of people will disagree with me but this is my recovery, it always will be my recovery and the most important thing for me is taking back control. Rather than alcohol being in control of me, I’m now in control of alcohol.

Thanks for reading.

Claire xx

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