Updated: Jul 17
I hope you will find it useful to learn a little bit more about me and my experience of quitting alcohol. I will attempt to answer, in a helpful non-preachy way, many of the questions I've had about why I decided to stop drinking and, most importantly how.
I have heard and read many similar stories. The themes vary but the overall message is the same. Being controlled, or feeling controlled by a substance or habit is just shit. No-one asks for it or seeks it out but once it’s got you, on whatever level, it’s bloody hard to get away.
How & why people get there and how they get out of it varies of course, but they do, and they share the what, when and how, so here’s my story.
I’d been questioning my rather enthusiastic drinking habits for quite some time. As someone who has suffered depression and anxiety from my late teens I was aware of, and attracted to, the quick fix of it, but not quite so conscious of the long term affect it had on my overall mental and physical well-being.
Over the years, to remind myself I was in control, I would do sober months or weeks with no problem at all. But I was always ready to celebrate my not-drinking at the end with a nice glass, or three, of wine, and then I’d be straight back into it.
For more years than I care to admit I could always find good solid reasons to drink, and wine was my go-to pal, for better or for worse. And it got a lot worse.
In March last year I lost my Dad, my Mum had died 5 years earlier. Both my parents died from aggressive cancers and suffered a great deal, both physically & emotionally. I saw a lot of pain and trauma and I travelled regularly to the UK, away from my own young family here in Australia. I became displaced, disconnected and eventually I lost control.
For a period of 2 months last year I watched myself spiral. I didn’t care enough to stop it. I auto-piloted through my days using alcohol to help get me through. The wine that had used to make me feel so good, or so numb, went from being my best friend to my worst enemy, a persistent stalker, lurking at every turn, and I just didn’t have the energy or will to stop. I wanted to feel nothing and the grey area became very very black for a while.
People often say the best things in life come from the challenges they are faced with and, whilst I’d do anything to have my folks back, the intensity of this period pushed me to the brink. And it also forced me to bring myself back.
I knew I could stop again, for a week, a month, or even longer. BUT I also knew I’d go back to it, and I really didn’t want to. This unhealthy love affair needed to be over for good.
After Dad passed away and I'd returned to some normality I went to see my GP and fessed up. She referred me to a wonderful Psychiatrist who told me about a two week program he worked in, covered mostly by my health insurance, and designed to help people like me to quit alcohol for good. I was dubious, terrified and in total denial about my suitability for such an ‘extreme’ measure but, fuelled by shame, grief and exhaustion I went with it. More than anything at this time I needed a break and, to be completely honest, I was certain it wouldn’t work. However the chance at two weeks of focusing only on myself, and the possibility that it might work, was too good to pass up.
I will write a separate post about my time in The Damascus Clinic ( see MiNDFOOD article July 2020) based on the diary & notes I kept, but for now suffice to say it was one of the best things I've ever done. The people who helped me, and who I met there, have inspired me to create this site. I have learnt so much but most importantly, and more incredibly, I found what I went there to find, my off-switch. I don’t want or need to drink anymore, and to me that’s the most empowering, and frankly miraculous thing that’s happened to me in a very long time.
I'll share more of this journey and the tools I've learnt along the way as well as the many highs (and a few lows) of not having my 'mate' around anymore. But for now I want to emphasise that, for me, the benefits of not drinking far far far outweigh the fleeting buzz of just one glass, and let's face it, it was never just one glass.
What is also liberating is that wider opinion is shifting and this 'problem' is becoming more understood and accepted, rather than judged. We don’t need to classify or label our drinking habits. We don’t need to be alcoholics or addicts, we can just be people who have a shit time with a substance, or who just simply don't like it anymore and want to live a better life without it.
For this reason I don’t specify the amount I drank at my worst, nor the number of days I’ve been sober or sordid tales of drunken acts. For me these things can ignite our tendency to create unhelpful comparisons. We all have very different experiences, and we are all unique, so I don't see any real point in it. All I know is that I was drinking too much for me. It was bad for my brain, my family, friendships and my life overall and that was enough for me to seek change.
As mentioned I've been lucky enough to have had a lot of help along the way from my time in Damascus as well as from the many resources that I’ve dipped into and explored over the years. It now only seems apt that I share as much as I can with anyone who’s interested.
One thing is for sure. Everyone that I’ve met that has started on the path to sobriety, be it a seasoned alcoholic, binge drinker or someone moderate who just wanted to cut back or take time out has a sense of freedom, pride and self-respect that is impossible to overlook. They are smart, creative, soulful, caring and determined humans who just found themselves in a spot of bother. On the other side these people are living amazing, fulfilled lives and I am so delighted to have found this freedom too.
This site is dedicated to my beautiful parents who left us too soon.