BG2: Addictions

I was going to write about the health benefits of fasting, but something else has triggered this article. It is on alcoholism, but addictions in general.

To this day, I still tell people that I was never an alcoholic. Yes, I loved to drink; yes, I would have experienced “blackout” nights more times than I could count, but I still stopped, without the help of AA, so therefore, I’m not an alcoholic.

I am only now starting to understand that at the age of 27 I had been drinking heavily for seven years and that drinking was causing me to have panic attacks and lose friends. Worst of all it was jeopardising my relationship with my boyfriend – the most important person in my life.

I will never forget the feeling I experienced on February 9, 2014, the day I took my last drink. I was on my third day of a three-day bender and I was feeling utterly exhausted and powerless. I was sick and tired of being “that girl” who drank too much at work functions, sick and tired of waking up without my phone and having no idea what happened the night before, sick and tired of embarrassing my friends, family and loved ones. Most of all, I was sick and tired of my attempts at drinking in moderation, which usually resulted in my biggest nights out.

Enough was enough. I made the decision, not one drop of alcohol was ever going to pass my lips again.

What followed were 9 months of a battle of wills between her body and her willpower. ?

There’s no nice way to describe the first few months. There were shakes, sugar cravings, nausea, anger, tears, hysterical behaviour – you name it, I experienced it. Oh and there were sober Sundays – long, never-ending sober Sundays.

Luckily for me I had an amazingly supportive network that helped me through those first few horrible months and slowly but surely I started to see the positives. A huge help for me was writing to people; I found it hard to talk about what I was experiencing, so instead I emailed and Facebook messaged my friends. The support they provided via those messages was invaluable.

After I hit the three-month mark, things started to look up. My anxiety problems had reduced, the constant guilt I had learned to live with was starting to lift. I had a very healthy looking bank account. I was starting to love sober Sundays.

I was feeling so good that I started to tell myself – maybe you don’t need to quit alcohol forever, six months would surely be enough. Fortunately, by then the news had spread that “Anna was going sober” so there was no way any of my friends would let me get away with having that fateful “just one sip”.

I’ve written about my battles with alcohol before. ?In my case, I didn’t drink at all through most of my twenties. ?Didn’t like the taste of it, it was a habit not to drink. ?My wife wasn’t a drinker, but there was a bottle of Jim Beam in the cupboard for the rare occasions she poured herself a small one.

One day, I was suffering a dreadful toothache. ?The Mrs suggested having a stiff drink to take the edge off until I could have it seen to.

As someone who had essentially never drank alcohol in his life, a couple of shots of straight JB sent me off to narcotic heaven.

It was years later that I started to be really stressed. ?Work. ?Money. ? And I had trouble sleeping. ?One day I remembered how that alcohol had worked very well for going to sleep. ? It seemed an easy way to self-medicate. ?It was the start of a battle that lasted over 15 years.

I’ve had essentially two periods with a dry spell in the middle. ?At my worst, I was downing a bottle and a half of vodka a day. ?I was pretty much pickled all the time, and was what people call a ‘functional alcoholic’. ?Apart from some very close friends, nobody knew.

One day I went to the doctor and said “I need some help here. ?I’m drinking to sleep, but I’m no longer in control, and it’s not really working well anymore”. ?I was put on sleeping pills and anti-depressants. ? Over several years, I had such a mental dependence on the sleeping pills, I had to go to see a head doc to ween myself off them.

Then one day, I’m thinking, “One drink can’t hurt. ?’cause it does kind of feel nice to have that numbing feeling after a hard or stressful day”. ? Long story shorter, one drink became two, then three, and I managed to get to a 4-6 cans of 7% coke and bourbon daily habit before I finally managed to stop drinking again.

At that point, I finally admitted to ?myself I had no power over the stuff. ?Clearly, once I start, I can’t stop. ?And I do have the power to not start again. ?I had my last drink on April 24 2010. ?I can’t say I was sober on Anzac Day, but it is?the first day of what will soon mark 5 years of sober life.

I did decide that I was going to allow myself a crutch: ?I was going to eat what I liked. ?Which kind of brings me to Blubbergeddon, I guess.

The problem with eating too much, is that you can’t go ‘sober’. ?Where you can cut out alcohol totally and still live a perfectly happy and functional life, you can’t do the same with food. ? How on earth do you “stop eating” when you want more? ? It was a problem I had faced with alcohol, and the only way I could control that was to not touch it at all. ?If I did, I couldn’t control it.

The answer, for me, lies in telling people around you what you are doing. ?I decided to tell everyone about my drinking issues, and that they had my permission to argue me down if I ever tried to convince them one drink was just fine.

Similarly, with Blubbergeddon, I’ve made this such a public thing, and I’ve made so much of a commitment, to back out now isn’t an option.

It’s a long story to get where I want to go: ?addictive behaviours, and how to take control back.

We are all different people, with different ways of motivating ourselves. ?To some, the mere idea of “not being in control” will seem absurd. ?”Just stop!”, they will say, shaking their heads. ? It is easy to stop one day. ?Perhaps two. ?But then the trouble starts.

And if nobody knows, and nobody is looking….

I notice that some of you in Blubbergeddon are starting to slide off the back. ? Now, I’ve been in this situation myself, and I need to be honest: ?if you’re not ready to do it, you’re not ready to do it. ? And a stupid group on a blog won’t make any difference.

But if you are ready to do it, and you are sliding backwards, this is the time to make a more public commitment. ?Tell your immediate family, you friends, point them at the blog, do whatever it takes to put some peer pressure on yourself.

This is how support groups work.

As for those of you reading this struggling with alcohol – it’s a powerful molecule. ?It changes the way you think. ?Even now there are?two of you in your head. ?One that damn well knows, is ashamed, and wishes you would stop. ?The other, somehow, strangely, goes and gets another drink anyway.

Most of us struggle with control over some aspects in our life. ? It’s only the completely self deceiving and the supernaturally self disciplined that will tell you to “just stop”. ? All I can say is that it isn’t easy. ?But it can be done. ?The difference is that you need to?want it enough. ?And then, there are people and even taxpayer support that can help you if you can’t do it by yourself.

If you still struggle, or managed to beat one of the sirens that keep calling you (for the time being), please share your story below.


– Pete, Anna Williams, NZ Herald