real life

"I’m lying in bed in the spare room, on sheets soaked with my own urine."

I’m lying in bed in the spare room, on sheets soaked with my own urine, unable to lift my head or open my eyes. In the kitchen, I hear the voices of my two beautiful children talking to their father. ‘Dad’, asks my son, ‘why is Mummy still in bed?’. I cringe as I wait for him to answer. Just like that, as if the question was nothing new (which it wasn’t), he replies ‘Mummy’s just tired mate, she’s trying to catch up on some sleep’.

In that very instant, something inside me snapped. It felt different to all the other mornings (or afternoons) that I’d woken up, cursing what I could remember of the night before and promising myself that it would never happen again. It felt different to the hour-long minutes I seemed to spend in the shower each morning fighting with thoughts and swearing on the life of every sentient being that today, things would change. It felt like someone had just slapped me hard and something had ignited inside me.

I remember the first time I got drunk. It was at my Dad’s 50th birthday party. I was 14 years old. I remember standing in the front yard of our house and delighting in the feeling that was rushing through my body. I remember what I was wearing, how I’d done my hair and the moment that I knew alcohol was going to be a very special and necessary part of my life. It was like I had just found my soul mate. From that day forward, alcohol and that incredibly magical feeling, became my obsession. My life began to revolve around the next time I could get drunk. Not just the next time I could drink but the next time I could totally annihilate myself, travel to that place where I was free and light and my mind was filled with inspiration.

I quickly gained a reputation for being able to drink more than anyone at the party. I was able to buy alcohol because I looked older and frequently took a bottle to school in my school bag, or mixed into something else in my drink bottle. I was the one leading my friends astray when it came to getting ‘smashed’ and I immediately noticed that I was different to them. They knew when they’d had enough or they’d get so sick that they’d swear off drinking ever again and went for long periods being disinterested in it. Not me. It didn’t matter what happened to me or how sick I got, it was never enough to deter me for more than a day or two, or a weekend at the very most.

My injury and incident list became quite extensive and my risk taking behaviour wasn’t getting any better. Early on, the stories of my woes were amusing to my friends – and to me, so it seemed – but as I got into my late twenties, I realised that nobody else was falling over breaking their bones or their face or putting themselves into potentially dangerous situations like I was. Nobody else was regularly staying up until 3am drinking or making drunken phone calls to Oprah before passing out and sleeping through their alarms, subsequently turning up to work hours late or not at all. Nobody else was ducking out of work to the pub at lunch time or going home sick just so they could drink. Nobody else was getting behind the wheel of their car when they should have been in a cab and nobody else’s life was completely ruled by a bottle.

I knew from the start that my drinking was a problem and from my late teens, I suspected I was an alcoholic. Any time I chatted with friends about my concerns, they fobbed it off. Why wouldn’t they? Our society condones most of the behaviours I was exhibiting. My friends didn’t understand just how concerned I was about my drinking and the fact that I knew it would either kill me, send me insane or land me in jail. They suggested I just try to cut back. Perhaps they didn’t realise that for decades, I had played games with the demon that ruled my life.

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For decades, I had played games with the demon that ruled my life. (Image provided)

I’d make rules, drinking only on certain days, drinking only certain types of alcohol, mixing my drinks with soft drinks, water and ice to try and lessen my intake. None of it worked. When people would ask how much I’d had to drink, you could back it in that I’d halve the actual amount so they didn’t know the extent of the disaster that was my life.

During the pregnancies of each of my children (I remained sober for both), I swore things would change. I would be the mother I dreamed of, the mother my children deserved – a super woman with the will power and determination to conquer all my demons. How wrong I was. After the birth of each child, my drinking went back to the way it was before, if not worse. I was living with a man who loved me drunk – a fact that I didn’t realise until the end of my drinking—and enabled me to drink at every turn.

He didn’t seem phased that I couldn’t function like a normal woman and mother should. He excused my behaviour and made my drinking life easy to maintain. On my 100th sober day, he blatantly told me that I was boring and didn’t know how to have fun anymore. When I asked if it concerned him that I was so passed out that I was wetting the bed most nights, or that I couldn’t get up for our children, or that I was quite probably driving over the limit most mornings, he told me he thought I was making a big deal out of it. Two days later, I asked him to move out.

On January 1, 2015 at 3.16pm, I realised enough was enough. I was lying to myself and now other people were lying for me. I jumped out of bed and ran to my laptop and typed a note to myself. I reminded myself that my children didn’t ask to be here, nor did they ask for a mother who was too sick or drunk to be the mother they deserved.

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I was an asshole. I was selfish and I was sick.

 I was an asshole. I was selfish and I was sick. (Image provided)

I had been attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous for a few weeks leading up to then but wasn’t willing to admit I was powerless, that my life had become unmanageable and that this ‘problem’ was actually a disease and I needed help. I finally reached out and asked for help. I still remember the look on my GP’s face when I told her HONESTLY, how much alcohol I was consuming in a week.

On January 1, 2015 at 3.16pm, my life changed.

Today I have been sober for 2 years and 35 days. I go to AA meetings (although I’m not into the ‘God bit’) and I see an incredible drug and alcohol counsellor and a psychologist on a regular basis.

I have an amazing support network of friends and family and I have come to terms with the disease that I have, and the fact that I cannot control it. I have admitted my defects (of which I have many that I will work on until the day I die) and have taken ownership of some of the horrendous things I have done when I was drinking. I have learned to let go of regrets and realise that I am blessed to be a recovering alcoholic because it allows me to appreciate every day I am sober, clear headed and able to live life on life’s terms.

I refuse to hide my story in shame and have found that by sharing my journey openly, others around me have reached out for help. If my story can help just one other person start their journey into recovery, every moment of my darkness will be worth it.

If you or a loved one is suffering with alcoholism, Mamamia urges you to contact 1800 888 236 or visit the DrinkWise website.

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