Up close a walnut looks like a human brain. Due to heavy drinking my brain actually did turn into a walnut. It stopped functioning properly. It wasn't absorbing information or making smart choices. The only thing my brain was good for was being sprinkled over a Waldorf salad or ground down into an oil. It was useless, sat up there in my skull, swishing around in my pickled noggin with a load of blood and dormant neurones keeping it afloat. Drinking numbed me out, dumbed me out. It made me stupid and it tricked my brain into thinking what I was doing was ok. I was destroying my intelligence by not giving my brain a chance.
Only when I was a few months sober did my crumbling walnut start to heal. Day by day I felt smarter, quicker. Ideas that had felt like dreams began to surface, make sense. I had a new business idea daily. I could work out emotional confusions with ease and deft. It was almost worth the 26 years of boozing to feel this cloud lift. I was like me but on super charge.I realised I'd been half-functioning. Half a person. Using a small part of my brain to get through each day.
Once un-pickled, I decided to focus in on my drinking habit, I wanted to see within my problem and pick away at every layer of why? I decided to magnify the shit out of that walnut and find out what was really going on.
Sieving the lumps out from deep within my brain was hard but necessary. Knowing why was going to give my sobriety strength. I knew it. I had to my brave enough to want answers. Having kids made me brave enough, I mean, when you've pushed a bowling ball out of your lady garden you can pretty much face anything! But getting to the exact point of deciding to change is never easy.
After years of trying to moderate my drinking and years of pretending that my drinking was normal I woke up one morning with a huge headache and said to myself ‘ I’ve had enough’. It had been the same mantra every Sunday morning for the past 26 years. This particular morning was different. I could hear a child crying in the distance. Not any child, my child.
A pang of guilt got me out of bed. The feeling of doom and regret made me sick. I heaved over the toilet until the crying in the room beyond got so loud I had to give in to it and enter my reality. Return to my new role - motherhood.
I got up, I fed, changed, I tickled and repeated. I got through that day with shame lurking behind the pile of dirty nappies. It hurt my soul.
Any drunken regrets before kids, had dissolved like a fallen out tooth in a glass of coke. They seemed trivial compared to this young life. This child. A perfect life that was going to suffer because of my non functioning walnut....my decision to drink.
My baby was 6 weeks old. I’d had been my first mothers group night out. I'd been a good mummy until then, doing everything right. But inside I was dying, I was bored. There was an unwritten code that had been kept secret from me, people expected me to become a stay at homer, an antiques road show watcher.
'Sorry everyone' I felt like shouting from my kitchen window...
'But this mummy aint gunna give up her crazy lifestyle just because of a screaming brat'
Just because I was a mum now didn't mean I would become a dullard. No way - I wanted to show the world that I could still be a rockstar. My inner Meatloaf was screaming to be unleashed. I waited, bided my time, acted all prim and proper until I could let loose and be me again.
The only me I knew.
I didn't consider staying that perfect me, the pregnant me, that did shit right. Who'd want to go to karaoke with that numb nut? (literally)
Being good makes being bad easier. I'd been still like a sleeping volcano for weeks. I was being fluffy and full of lullaby's. Projecting the right image. Then the new Mothers group Facebook invite popped up. If there'd been a 'Fuck yes, get me out of here' button I would have hit that, instead I hit the 'Going' and felt relief that there was to be a few hours of me on the horizon.
By the time I got to the pub I was ready to explode and felt like ordering wines two glasses at a time. So, I did. I don’t remember much. I do recall seeing strands of hair dipping into the toilet bowl and there were photos of me grinding a lamp post. I think I had fun?
Drinking to black out is fun right?
That following day was not fun, not fun at all, it was a slog. But, I was determined to show my family that I could do this.. I could be hung over and functional. I could drink and parent.
I was lying to myself and them but stopping drinking was not a viable option.
Over the next 4 years (yes 4 years) I tried... and tried. I stopped and started and failed and got bored and got wasted.I was useless, not only at stopping g drinking but also at looking after my baby the next day. My attempts at being a rock 'n roll mum were crap. There were no groupies and Tv's thrown out of windows. Just a lot of head aches and a sad husband who was left pushing a pram down the seafront alone.
The amazing thing is that no matter how shitty I felt...I carried on. I made promises on Mondays that were broken by Thursdays. Alcohol was so ingrained that I had no ideas how to stop. I made excuses. Even though I was suffering I carried on.
After the birth of my second child the same thing happened .. at 6 weeks post birth I went out on the razzle dazzle. (Words like that do make it sound rather fun!) I got plastered and then had two children to care for with a sore head. It was awful and I felt twice as guilty and the fear set in like a heavy rain.
I kept asking myself,
“Why do I keep doing something I hate?”
Repeating a pattern that caused me harm seemed insane. But my walnut couldn't help me because it was so damaged. By the time the happy hour bell rang out there I was, first at the bar waving a tenner at the barman.
Was I going insane? Nuts?, it certainly felt so.
I didn’t have time to go mad. I had too much to lose. I had a family. People that love me, need me alive. My need became as basic as staying alive for my kids.
One Sunday afternoon, after a heavy night out, racked with self hatred, I told my husband ,
“I think I need help”
That’s where this started. That’s when I became better. I gave my brain a chance.
I had reached out. Only to my husband but it meant I had taken control. I admitted I couldn’t tackle this on my own.
"I want to change and er.... I think I want to stop drinking?"
He agreed. Said he was worried about me. He said he'd be there for me.
The next morning I booked myself into therapy. I was ready to crack the nut open, look inside and understand my problem. It was time to get the magnifying glass out.
I didn’t know who I was without 5 beers swimming around in my blood stream and my not knowing made me feel alone. Also I felt I wasn't worthy of help, that perhaps my drinking problem wasn't bad enough to warrant professional help?. I was wrong.
A problem is a problem ... no matter how big or small. Only when I picked up the phone and found someone professional to help me did I understand that any problem deserves attention. I deserved help.
I remember the sweet lady on the other end of the phone saying
"Yes, we can help with that, see you next week"
She didn't lie - she did help me. Reaching out and asking for help is the only way to change. Finding like minded people that share your problem is an essential part of that.
I read a post from The Sober Curios Collective today...
"Sober curious describes a recent cultural phenomenon in which people are finding themselves questioning why they feel they need to drink, what drinking alcohol is really doing for them, if it's worth it, and if they might accomplish more without it,".
In addition to the health concerns that come with drinking, "there is also a sort of spiritual dimension as well,". "A lot of us are starting to really question what life is really all about. We aren't feeling fulfilled, and some of us are wondering if alcohol might actually be hindering us from achieving a state of self-actualization."
Reach out and find your tribe - be it therapy, AA or just a shoulder to lean on.
My brain is in recovery, the solid matter is feeling all squidgy again and my body is on the mend. I feel fitter, mentally and phisically. I'm not without cravings yet and there is still lots of work to do. Now I look after myself, it means I can look after others.
My brain is as precious as a truffle. People will be scrambling for shavings from it after I die, They'll serve it in top class restaurnts balanced on a crouton.
It will be non toxic by then, full of goodness and brimming with love....maybe with a musky hint of a 2012 Chardonnay.