05 Sep The crazy side of stable
I wasn’t intending on writing a story about giving up drinking. And I’m going to sorely disappoint if you’re looking to read the drunken tales and agonising details that lead to an alcohol-fuelled moment of implosion. It just didn’t happen that way.
I really loved drinking. All the drinks – chardonnay was a popular choice, as was any other white wine. Red wine was a hit in the winter months. Cold beer, always appropriate. Gin? Delicious! Vodka? Tick! Champagne? Don’t think I ever said no to a glass. And if I was feeling a little dusty – some lightly-chilled rose would normally suffice.
Drinking was something I did with regularity and often with tremendous enthusiasm. Every single one of my social interactions included, or revolved around, drinking. Kids parties were no exception.
Then my workplace started to follow suit. Lunch-breaks became chardonnay guzzles between meetings. Sometimes food was involved, often not. After-work drinks, once a Friday activity, nudged their way into mid-week occurrences. They started earlier in the day and ended later. Sometimes they ended at a Karaoke bar, but most of the time I’d make it home for dinner and a civilised (sometimes) glass of wine with the family.
I was on first-name basis with the guys at the bottle shop.
Alcohol was like the perfectly-harmonised accompaniment to the melody of my day. Experiencing life’s moments without a glass in my hand would be like watching a movie without listening to its killer soundtrack. They were perfect together, they belonged together. The moments needed the drink. The movie needed the music. I didn’t imagine it possible to separate the two. Nor did I want to.
Almost everyone I knew was hitting it pretty hard – my friends, my family, my workmates – we all drank too much. We’d talk about it over drinks.
I certainly didn’t consider myself an alcoholic – that was a label I wasn’t comfortable wearing. My face wasn’t buried in a whiskey bottle while the world around me crumbled. I wasn’t muttering to myself on the train. Nor was I stashing bottles of vodka behind my bookcase in the hope they’d go undetected. I did, however, feel a cringe of guilt every Sunday evening as my teenage son wheeled the often overflowing glass-recycling bin toward the street. He rarely commented on the large percentage of wine bottles and when he did I’d be quick to remind him of the friends we’d had over. Jeez, did they drink a lot.
At work and at home I was managing and achieving everything I needed to. Sure, I enjoyed a party, who didn’t? But there was nothing to worry about, I was totally stable. Admittedly, I was edging toward the crazy corner, but no way near alcoholic-levels. Deadlines were met. Meals were made. Everything was fine. Repeat. Everything was fine.
I was just squeezing as much fun into my day as possible. Drinking was fun, and I was fun when I was drinking. It was who I was.
At some point a tiny noise inside me started to murmur. It coincided with the feeling of a little niggle, or a tiny shoulder tap. Initially, it was fairly unnoticeable, inaudible and intermittent. The hushed tones were quieter than a whisper. But still, so annoying. Sensing that it was trying to communicate something horribly shocking, and potentially social-life ending, I shut it down immediately and turned my attention to other, more important, matters. I didn’t need to hear that shit.
It kept on though, quite the persistent little nuisance.
Finally, the penny dropped. The annoying murmur broke through to whisper the dreaded message I’d been avoiding hearing. Something needed to change.
In the relationship between me and booze, one of us was clearly in control of the other. Disguised as a fun-loving best-friend, the booze had me all giddy and willing to commit to something long-term. As the relationship strengthened, we were a lock-in. We’d be together, forever. But somewhere along the line the relationship had taken a detour toward dependency and I was the weaker half.
I had a glimpse of my future-self stumbling blindly toward a steep and downward spiral. Continuing on the same trajectory for the next 5 to 10 years was, no doubt, going to get pretty ugly.
And that was it really. No rock-bottom moment of devastation. Just a very slow and uncomfortable realisation that I needed to reclaim the control. I was being slowly suffocated and it was time to fight back.
I have enough self-awareness to appreciate that I suck when it comes to moderating. There would be no way of implementing a gentle, wind-down approach. It was all or nothing. In the battle of Jacqui versus the bottle, it had me down and was gaining enough momentum to kick me, kerbside.
Drastic moves would be required if I had any chance of nailing the role of come-back kid. I had a fight on my hands and I figured that booze wouldn’t go down easily.
Maybe the first punch was pulled when I admitted, and now openly, that yes, I was an alcoholic.
Cue the ROCKY soundtrack.