My Drinking Story
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact time I realised drinking and I needed to urgently break up.... but we definitely got there.
I have a pretty typical Australian drinking history. It started when I was 14- swigging from bottles of ‘Passion Pop’ with friends after dark when my mum thought I was in bed. This progressed to drinking at parties- one particularly ‘memorable’ event was throwing up in my best friends brothers’ car as he drove me home from said friends 16th birthday party. My mum made me take flowers to the house the next day and apologise.
It was so embarrassing.
University days followed with 241 drinks on student nights. Alcohol everywhere. Even now I can see my relationship with alcohol was intense. I was always ready to party and drinking to excess. Making an idiot out of myself with friends or hooking up with the wrong type of guy. However I was never troubled by this. I was under the impression that there was something wrong with me, not alcohol. I didn’t once question alcohols presence in my life. I also had a lot of fun partying and when I got the alcohol equation ‘just right’- I could understand why I loved drinking. Everything seemed fun and exciting.
Life went on like this, with periods of unintentional sobriety when I got a ‘real’ job after university.
But alcohol would be waiting right there- at the next party or get together.
I would never drink alone though and I wouldn’t ever buy it just to have it at home. I saw it as a party drug. If I wasn’t partying- why would I need it? Life with alcohol continued in this pattern for a long time from age 22- 28.
When I was 25 I moved overseas to teach in the Middle East. Before I left I spoke to a friend who was already living in Abu Dhabi- she said, ‘get ready to drink more than you ever have in your whole life!’ To which I replied- ‘are you crazy, it’s a Muslim country- I won’t be drinking.’ Turns out she was right. Expat life was INSANE. Every night at one of the hotels- it was ‘Ladies Night’- which meant women drank for free. On the weekends the hotels offered something called ‘Brunch’- which was generally a 4hr package of all you can eat and drink- fancy food and cocktails included. It worked out to be around $60 to indulge in these 5 star feasts and so expats found themselves there most weekends. To have alcohol in your house you needed an ‘alcohol license’- though there was one store with blackened windows where they wouldn’t check your license and you could buy alcohol and pork- all the forbidden fruits- to keep at home.
I didn’t bother though.
If I wanted a drink I would just go out, there was always someone looking to party.
After the Middle East, at 28, I moved to a country called Azerbaijan- it’s not a Muslim country and so drinking had a much more normal feel to it. It was here that I would often have a bottle of their delicious red wine at home- for whenever I felt like it. I still very much associated it with partying but I was developing a different relationship with alcohol too- one built on using it as a coping strategy. Stressed after work? wine. Relaxing in the bath? wine. Of course the expat culture was strong here too so drinking and partying was still very much a thing- it just meant that now I was drinking at home and when I was out too.
At 29 I finally returned to Australia and landed a regular teaching job near Brisbane.
What a culture shock!
Life was normal and dare I say it, boring.
I had brought home with me years and years of emotional baggage which I wasn’t ready to face. Even though I couldn’t drink all the time now that I lived here, I started taking diet pills, sleeping pills, anti anxiety pills. Anything to take the edge of and get me through the day. I met my now husband a few months later and was pregnant by the time I was 30. I still hadn’t questioned the role of alcohol in my life. Ian and I drank a fair bit when we first met but it was all very adult.
Drinks on the beach on a Friday afternoon. Red wine in a fancy restaurant. Frangelico night caps.
There were moments though...
moments I can look back on now and pick out.
Like the time I decided to buy a ‘roadie’ on the way home from work. Usually a premix can that I would drink whilst driving (isn’t that illegal?). This turned into a pattern that would repeat itself many many more times before I quit alcohol. The time I added Frangelico into my coffee in the morning. The time I had a drink when I was pregnant because I felt so overwhelmed and didn’t know how to cope with the feelings. I was setting the scene though because as soon as I’d had my baby, with a side of birth trauma and when I wasn’t able to breastfeed- it was back to alcohol. The first drink I had was a week after the birth when someone told me Guiness would help my breastmilk supply- I wasted no time popping into the bottle-o and grabbing a can. Popping into a bottleo for one or two roadies would become something that would be a strain on my bank account and mental health over the next few years. Something I did as a sudden fix. An instant moment of reprieve from whatever was happening in my head.
Years later I would learn, which shops had the best selection and at what price. Which drinks had the highest standard drinks in one can- there was a wine can going around (probably still is)- which had 2.4 standard drinks in it. That would be my choice. Once my husband brought me home the wrong can (1.2 standard drinks) and I was so irritated. Telling him he had done it on purpose just to annoy me. How embarrassing in reflection. So this was it, somewhere between the ages of 31 and 34- I knew the problem was real and growing. I made numerous promises to myself about stopping- sometimes making the monthly goal I had set myself (and often not).
I went to an out patient addiction course when I was 32. I had gotten myself addicted to a particular prescription drug somewhere along the way and stopping it was proving impossible. Unfortunately I was still drinking when I did the course so I retained very little and didn’t end up even finishing the course. It was so easy to continue drinking. There was always a reason. Even playdates (with the ‘right’ mums) would include a glass of wine- which was enough to take the edge off. Having drinks during the day on the weekend was pretty easy to slot into my life, it’s not that unusual to begin the Sunday session around 11am.
But my parenting was suffering.
I was irritable. My husband and I were on the alcohol elevator and it was only going down. I put on about 20kgs and my health was at an all time low. Through my periods of trying to stop drinking and seeing a psychiatrist- I finally figured out that I had mental health issues- that I had never dealt with. I had traits of Borderline Personality Disorder- stemming from childhood abandonment at the hands of my father. Alcohol exasperated this- making it impossible to control my emotions. It was all now very clear why I had such troubles with relationships (friendships, work and romantic) throughout my life. I would feel out of control emotionally, further ignite the feelings with alcohol and watch my rage and intense emotion take over.
Despite knowing all this- I had trouble making any long term progress.
80 days here, one month there etc etc.
But finally at 34 - I made a big change. Mentally.
I read a book ‘Tired of Thinking about Drinking’- which recommended a 100 day challenge. Now, of course, I had done these before, but this book was so relatable, my husband was doing the challenge with me and I found an in real life sober social group where I lived. All the stars finally aligned for me! I made the 100 days and kept going. Past my 100 days- I had a few slips. Some planned, some as reactions to situations. But I made a personal decision to not go back to 0 days. I count it as 250- 8. This helps me stay accountable but also doesn’t disregard all the changes I’ve made. I have also given up all drugs, which during the initial 100 days I was still relying on here and there.
So there is progress!
I feel differently about it this time. My husband plans to never drink again after reading ‘Alcohol Explained’- and that support is just amazing. I still see a counsellor fortnightly and I am continuously working on myself.
These stories always end with the writer having a complete turnaround but mine is a slower success story. I’m not where I want to be yet, but having seen how far I have come already, I know I’m going to get there - and what a wonderful feeling that is!
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