This Christmas Bel gave herself the best gift she could possibly give herself….365 days of sobriety On this one year anniversary she decided to put it out there and share her story. Here goes…
When did it all start? Well I’d have to admit I’ve had a bad relationship with alcohol since I started drinking at age 14, binge drinking with friends over the park, nothing necessarily out of the ordinary for a teenager in the UK during the 90’s. Binge drinking at the weekends just gradually became the norm as I got older so I’ll skip to when I believe the problem really started and that, sadly, would have to be almost immediately after my daughter was born in 2006.
I was 27 when I found out I was pregnant. Completely unplanned and with the guy I’d been with on and off for 6 years. We were more ‘off’ at the time but both happy with the surprise. We decided that we’d only be ‘on’ again if it was for the right reason, which was because we wanted to be with each other and not just because of the baby. So I entered impending motherhood with the mindset that I was doing this alone (relationship wise).
I gave up my little much-loved rental flat and moved back in with my mum and stepdad to save pennies. Me and my stepdad get on great these days but back then not so much and especially not when living under the same roof, therefore this was not a great idea in hindsight and only isolated me further as I hid away in my room as much as possible so as not to upset the situation anymore than my mere presence already did.
6 days after my daughter was born my lovely Nan passed away, which was hard to cope with when suffering with hormone overload. Then the loneliness settled in. I’d gone from working Monday to Friday (in an office surrounded by most of my friends) and being able to do what I want when I want, to feeling isolated, unwanted, unattractive and alone, with a huge responsibility on my shoulders. So I started secretly drinking, just sometimes, here and there, not getting drunk, just a few swigs from the bottle when no one was around to give me that ‘buzz’ and ‘relieve the boredom’. I look back now and think that maybe it was something I could control, when everything else in my life at the time seemed so out of my control. Alcohol gradually became my friend (my secret soothing friend) when I didn’t really feel like I had any. Having a baby is supposed to be a wonderful thing, why would anyone think that maybe I wasn’t having such a great time?! All my friends were living the young, free and single life, as you do in your mid 20’s, going on holidays, nights out to the cinema, down the pub, etc. None of them had kids yet and I couldn’t be part of that lifestyle anymore as I had a tiny mini-me to look after and no money. I loved my daughter more than anything but I was deeply sad.
To make a seriously long 12 year story shorter, me and my daughters dad (now husband) decided to make a go of things when she was 4 months old and we moved into our own rental flat. Times were tough, the flat was small, we had enough money to pay bills but not to do much else for a long time. Gradually things got easier, the flats got (slightly) bigger and the money situation improved but one constant was my secret, and not so secret, drinking, along with all those feelings of worthlessness, ugliness and sheer hatred for myself.
I suppose I was what society would call a ‘functioning alcoholic’ although I hate that terminology. Why do people have to wear a label that separates them from ‘normal’ drinkers?! And what is considered ‘normal’ anyway?! Some people would say I wasn’t an alcoholic because I wasn’t dependent on alcohol, well not physically anyway but I definitely used it to deal with emotions. I believe that anyone who says “I could never give up alcohol” could be classed as an alcoholic. Why can’t you give it up? Because maybe you are addicted to an addictive substance?! If you can’t live without it then you are addicted to it. Anyone can fall victim to alcohol and it’s claws. No one is immune. There is no clear line, it is a spectrum and it just depends on where you fall within it. For me I knew I was higher up that spectrum when the bad times started outweighing the good. I could no longer genuinely laugh about my behaviour, even if it wasn’t bad, any memory or anecdote of a night out would make me cringe inside, and still does to be honest.
I suppose I was what society would call a ‘functioning alcoholic’ although I hate that terminology. Why do people have to wear a label that separates them from ‘normal’ drinkers?! And what is considered ‘normal’ anyway?!
I had many what I would class ‘rock bottom’ moments and if I detailed them all I’d be writing this for 365 days but there was one incident in January 2018 where during a blackout I upset my husband so much that he reacted in a way that was totally out of character for him (I obviously have no memory of my behaviour or his reaction due to said blackout). I knew at this point that I seriously needed to get my shit together before I completely ruined everything I’d worked so hard for in my life.
So 2018 was my year of change, I went to the doctor who was amazingly understanding and sympathetic with no judgement, she enrolled me on a 12 week alcohol awareness course and I also tried Nalmefene (medication designed to help you moderate your drinking) but the side effects were hideous for me. I tried private counselling and I did a lot of research online, reading blogs and joining social media groups. On a few of these groups I saw ‘This Naked Mind’ by Annie Grace being banded around as THE book to conquer the wine witch so I thought I’d give it a go. I read it slowly over the course of four months letting the words sink in. I was not disappointed and that book changed everything, it literally re-wired my brain and how I viewed alcohol. I would recommend that book to anyone questioning their relationship with alcohol as I truly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without that book. So thank you Annie
By mid November 2018 I had completed my first long stint of being booze free, a total of 52 days, which was a major accomplishment for me. As it was coming up to the holiday season I decided to do the moderation test. I started drinking again but only socially to start with. As is almost always the case, the frequency and quantity gradually increased. I therefore made the decision that moderation wasn’t for me, I’m an all or nothing kinda girl. So Christmas Day 2018 was the start of my life without alcohol.
So today I stop counting the days! I no longer have to say “I’m this many days sober…” it’s just “I don’t drink alcohol anymore”. It’s been a bumpy road this past year and I’ve spent a lot of it floating around on a pink fluffy cloud feeling fantastic about what I have achieved…I’ve lost 22kg (48lbs), I’ve discovered a serious love of exercise (something I never dreamed would happen, I always detested exercise as an adult), I workout at least 3 times a week, I’m studying to become a fitness instructor/personal trainer, in addition to my day job, and most recently I got a promotion at work. None of this stuff would of happened had I continued drinking.
Now that’s the good stuff. To be honest I wrote most of this blog post over a month ago, as I thought it would be a little rude of me to spend Christmas Day doing it, and it was all fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!!! Since then I’ve had to amend the second part of this post and here’s why…
So some people still say to me that they miss ‘Drunk Bel’ and sometimes I miss her too but the truth is most people only ever really saw ‘Fun-Drunk Bel’, ‘Arsehole-Drunk Bel’ saved most of her appearances for her husband, she might of made a cameo appearance for friends occasionally but it was rare. When she did appear however I have no hesitation in saying she really was a selfish arsehole. She could be very bitter about the past, vicious-tongued and worrying (not coming home after work was an often occurrence). Towards the end of my drinking in 2017 and my early days of attempting to get sober in 2018, things got worse before they got better, as they invariably do. I created a highly intense home environment and a lot of anxiety (will she come home, won’t she, has she been drinking, hasn’t she). The private counselling, although only four sessions, opened up some doors that I thought had been sealed shut a long time ago and a load of shit came tumbling out, which sent my head in a spin. Even though I was educating myself and finding my road to sobriety, when I felt down I turned to my old friend/foe for comfort and absorbed as much of her as possible
Now whilst I’ve been on my fluffy pink cloud during 2019, floating around going “la-la-la look at the new me aren’t I fabulous” I neglected the one person who stuck by me through all this. Yes, the husband! So this blog post rewrite is because of that. Unfortunately he hit me with a sledgehammer (metaphorically) just over a week ago when he announced that he is struggling to move past everything. He still associates me with the person I was in 2017/2018 when things were at there worse. Now he has relaxed and is no longer in survival mode a barrage of different emotions and feelings towards me have overcome him. We are therefore separating. He needs space to heal and decide if he can move past this. So whilst I’ve been improving myself and had my head up my own arse this past year I hadn’t noticed the wounds I had created in him or do anything to try and heal them. I focused purely on myself, assuming that me getting sober and becoming a better version of myself was the answer to everything, it sadly wasn’t. My advice to those newly sober…don’t forget to nurture the relationships with your loved ones. If they’ve stuck with you through the bad times the chances are there are some deep wounds, no matter how strong they appear on the surface. Help to heal those wounds and turn them into fading scars, let them know you appreciate them, always remembering you are not the only casualty from your addiction.
So here I am one year sober with a real mixture of emotions. On the one hand I’m so happy that I’m this version of myself, I like who I’ve become and I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been but I also feel very sad. Over the past 365 days I’ve achieved so much, more than I ever did during my drinking years but a big part of my life now hangs in the balance as a result of who I was. Yes I’m a much nicer person to be around nowadays but sometimes change can come too late. Getting sober is the best decision I ever made, I have absolutely no regrets there, and would I be the person I am today if I hadn’t become addicted to alcohol? Probably not. These days I tend to look at the hand I’ve been dealt in life and any hardships I’ve faced as a positive and see them as lessons learned. My only regrets are the casualties I have created in my journey to getting here. 2020 is around the corner and although this latest development in my life has seriously knocked my confidence, I’m going to continue to be the best version of myself I can be and really start appreciating those that matter most to me, my amazing friends and family ♥️
So ho ho ho that’s my journey-to-sobriety story and where I am as of today. If putting it out there is relatable and helpful to just one person then it was worth it.
Wishing you all a fabulous festive holiday and an even better new year!!
Check out the Sober Experiment’s blog page, I loved their latest post! #soberlife #soberliving #blog #soberblog #quitalcohol
We sometimes don’t realize how often we drink alcohol, or, how much we depend on that nightly glass of wine or beer. While drinking in moderation isn’t all bad, taking just 30 days off will positively impact your future drinking choices. Drinking alcohol is so ingrained in our society, have you ever thought what if we were much happier without it? Why not try The 30 day Sober Experiment. This is more than just ditching the booze for 30 days with our help we can help you change your relationship with alcohol for good!