lifestyle

'I've been sober for 9 years'.

by DEB HAY

One day at a time, the days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years.

Yes. They do.

So what’s different today?

I have been married for nearly eight years. (That whole thing about not getting into a relationship when you first get sober? Totally ignored that.  Met Richard when I was 3 weeks sober. I looked upon our meeting as my reward for not drinking.  It is a lot easier to focus on your recovery when you’re not in a new relationship, but that’s why everyone gets into one. We don’t want to focus on us when we could be focusing on something else – food, smoking, another person? Lucky for me that Richard was Mr Right, and is along for the long haul. He’s been my rock.)

I have a five and a half year old son. His name is Alex. He is beautiful.  Today, when I wake up, I know that I won’t have embarrassed him with my drunken antics, I won’t have endangered his life by driving drunk. I may embarrass him in other ways, but at least I don’t have to worry about the ones that I can’t remember.

When I have a good time, it’s real, and not the product of a glass of alcohol. It’s a lot harder to have a good time when you’re sober, cause alcohol is a magic carpet ride into the land of “gee whiz, everyone is HILARIOUS tonight!!” Everything seems funny until you wake up with vomit all over your new jacket, no money, the car parked at a crazy-jaunty angle in the car park and a sense of dread at the missing hours in the night that enabled you to get grass stains on your back.  Yes, it takes more effort to have fun without alcohol.  But it’s real, and it lasts.

I have a good relationship with my family these days. I particularly have a friendship with my sisters, instead of always needing to be rescued by them.  My approach to family occasions would be something like the line in that song “I love the good times that you wreck…” I could be counted on to pick a fight, to get too drunk, to show up with only half an hour’s sleep and a massive hangover, reeking of alcohol. The fact that I have my sisters back is proof of their capacity to forgive and my capacity to change. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been so worthwhile. My parents and I have a better relationship too, I am more able to look after myself and others than to always be the one needing scraping off the road.

I respect myself these days. Don’t get me wrong – I desperately miss alcohol sometimes. I miss the ease that it gave me, I miss the ways in which I could be the life and soul of the party.  But, the buzz I got from alcohol was shifty. I could never predict which nights would be the “wooohooo sister, we is having fuuuuun” and which nights would be the “you skanky ho, get away from my (ex)boyfriend, imma punch you in the stomach”. And no, I didn’t ever get violent when I drank … but that didn’t stop me from copping a punch in the guts once when an equally drunken lass didn’t appreciate me giggling and dancing with her ex boyfriend.

I started to become less trustworthy. I took to drunk driving. I took to getting friendly with inappropriate men. All the people I hung out with went home and I started hanging out with the hard party crew. And, as your parents would tell you – guess what comes with the hard party crew? DRUGS! Drugs are bad, mmmkay? Although they seem like fun when you’re drunk. I was such a try hard, chameleon, trying to fit in with the people who I thought were the coolest. So when the people I hung around with started talking about drugs, I took on the lingo, and became so good at it, that everyone thought I was a speed freak. What a compliment, eh? So, when a cool guy offered me a line of speed at a party, thinking it wasn’t my first … I felt so complimented that I had to accept. Are you surprised that I was a natural? They couldn’t believe that it was my first time. And that made me feel like I was good at something. Good at taking drugs? What a talent.

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I was starting to lose myself in the last days of my drinking. I felt like I was walking a line between a semblance of sanity, and tipping off into la la land. That could have been the pills I was taking when my new friends brought them out.  I still like club music, but if I ever hear any songs about “I was so f#$ked up”, it gives me the chills and I have to change the channel. That’s what it’s like… everyone comparing how out of it they are, and how wasted they are, how they can’t see and it’s sooooo cooool to be so wasted. Did you know that you grind and grit your teeth when you are on drugs? it’s really bad for your teeth.  One of my friends, a hairdresser, had to have a few of her teeth removed cause of the drugs…. and I have a missing tooth that reminds me of the ways that I started to neglect myself.

I’d always, always wake up feeling awful, alone and dreadful. Ashamed, guilty, dreadful. None of my other friends seemed to feel the same way, or if they did, were waaaaaaay in denial.  I knew things were bad when, after a particularly bad bender on a pill (which I didn’t want to take until I got drunk), I couldn’t leave the house. I hadn’t driven, I had the car there, I could have walked to the shops. But I couldn’t physically leave the house.  It was like the paranoia and guilt were weighing down on me and stopping me from getting out. I didn’t feel safe. I had no choice but to eat my flatmate’s chocolates. This caused trouble, as it would. But I felt it was justifiable. My behaviour was out of control. My housemates staged an intervention. I cried and told them it was none of their business.

I kept on drinking and dabbling in drugging. My life got worse. Then, one night, I went out drinking with some friends. I had started drinking quicker and quicker.  The good, fun part of my drinking lasted for less time each time I drank. I’d go straight from “this is awkward, small talk, let’s get pissed” to “dribbling, slurring, I just need to lie down for a sec”, without a pause in the middle for “waheyyyyy!! Girls are having funnnnnn tonight!!”. My drinking had really ceased to be much fun for anyone.  That night, I crashed my car into a soccer field, completely missing the road to the highway I had to travel home on. As wake up calls go, you can’t get much bigger than that. I was in a blackout. If I’d got on that Highway, I’d almost certainly have killed myself, or someone else. All the other points in my life, I’d ignored the signs. But here was one I couldn’t ignore.

Two days later, on the 25th of May 2003, I attended my first AA meeting. I was 26, and sure I was too young for this program … but the stories I heard, I identified with. I craved the peace that the people there had. I admired the way that they had turned their lives around. I was arrogant, and thought I was different, but I stuck around. Things got a lot better from then on. Not right away, and not always. I still struggle with my addictive personality and with being “different”. I wish I could go out for a fun night with the girls. I wish I could sit down with a fun glass of wine. But I’m just not confident that I could stop at one. And my husband and son have never seen me drink, and I want to keep it that way. I just can’t guarantee what would happen. So I will keep trudging this path of happy destinies and enjoy life on life’s terms. I value what I have today, and a single glass of wine could undo that.  It’s just not worth it.

Deb Hay has suffered from Depression and  Borderline Personality Disorder most of her life but she’s done so with the support of an extraordinarily loving family and fabulous friends. You can find her blog here.

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