I once read an article about a woman who could buy a box of Quality Street and just eat the odd one. “Bollocks” I thought. Who can do that? When I open a box of chocolates, packet of biscuits or family bag of Doritos, I eat them. All of them. The behaviour has made me “Quality Street Aware” – so I just don’t buy them. It’s a shame I’m less aware when it comes to wine. I’ve kick-started myself into writing this blog because I’ve had another ‘blip’. I don’t like the term ‘relapse’ and as this is my sobriety journey, I can call it what I like. Despite what seems like relentless work on recognising my own skewed relationship with alcohol, for some reason, it still has a hold over me. It is like the shitty boyfriend: the one who keeps telling you all will be different this time, and it is for a week or so, then he goes out and sleeps with your sister. In the end you become wary, you become “dickhead aware” and you stay away. Why, why can I not do this with wine? Why do I keep thinking all will be different this time?
I also once read another article about Kathleen Tynan, that she when writing, could be found immaculately dressed sitting at a desk sipping cold white wine. Come to think of it, I don’t think I read the actual article at all, I think I read that reference in Bridget Jones’ Diary. The reason the reference comes to mind, is that as I sit here now, writing, I’m thinking “a drink would be nice” and the Tynan reference always pops romantically into my brain. Bridget Jones also pops in there and I think: there’s a woman I would really like to share a Chardonnay with (and I don’t even like Chardonnay).
In truth, the “a drink would be nice while I’m doing this” pops into my head during all kinds of things: painting, decorating, ironing, working, cleaning. I heard from a woman recently who drank wine whilst on the treadmill (I can hold my hands up that I never did that – go on a treadmill that is). Maybe a drink would be nice, would take the edge off the monotony of the task, but I’m working hard on being Alcohol Self Aware: understanding that this thinking underlies everything I do, that the thought worms its slimy way into my head, stops me thinking about anything else, until The Wine Witch’s apple looks just too juicy and red in my head, and I bite. For the first few bites I think “this is delicious”, but the apple soon withers, Snow White-style, and I quickly realise it is rotten and poisoned – and talking of slimy worms, there’s a big fat one in the middle.
The relief the bite of the apple offers is short-lived. It switches off the internal dialogue, the “should I? shouldn’t I?” for a short while but that dialogue is very quickly replaced with anxiety. Anxiety over having another one, and another one, and another one. The task you were performing is suddenly secondary to the wine drinking which you had, half an hour ago, argued to yourself would just be a nice accompaniment. If you’re painting or cleaning or whatever it is you are doing, that suddenly takes a lot longer as you’re obsessing over the wine. After the relief of the first glass, by the third or fourth (usually within an hour for me), the old worries about the rate at which you’ve pounded the first two are back. The fuzziness of the relief of the first glass is superseded by a general fuzziness and loss of control. I hate this bit, the crossing of the nice and relaxed to the actual getting pissed, on your own, doing the ironing and starting to lose it. The rest? A mixture of regret and going to the toilet a lot.
So, back to my blip. A month after my first blip I’ve had another one. The ‘reasoning’ behind my decision to drink is by-the-by, the danger is that I’ve now got myself into a headspace that tells me if I can go a month or so without, without too much trouble, I’m not an alcoholic. My alcohol awareness has become compromised. If you read my previous blogs you can appreciate that this ‘reasoning’ is… for want of a better phrase, absolute bollocks. This thinking is dangerous because I know I will grasp that slippery slope, that I will throw away my “grippy shoes” and dive headlong onto that slope like it’s the Cresta Run. I will, given the slightest ‘reasoning’ throw away my awareness and go for it.
I’ve talked before about how I had started the AA Step Program. Right now, rightly or wrongly (and this is me, it is going to be wrongly), I can not commit to AA. It’s not that I can’t commit mentally it is literally a matter of timing: my work hours are very erratic and I can’t get to meetings. But I am still studying The Steps. Step One suggests that the obsession around alcohol can be alleviated by resigning yourself to the fact that you are powerless over it. That once you start if you ‘play the tape forward’ in your head you will see the mess it will get you into. I have read countless accounts of people getting sober and their family and friends being ecstatic as playing the tape forward was like detonating a bomb and everyone around them was affected by the blast. But what if those around you were always seemingly unaffected by the bomb? What if the detonation was more of an implosion than an explosion and the only person hurt was you? What if, by refusing to let the bomb go off you’ve become sufficiently alcohol aware that you are now seemingly adversely affecting those around you? Confused? So am I. Let me explain.
My alcoholism did not include many sordid tales (I stress, didn’t include many, that’s not to say there weren’t any). There was no getting arrested, no wetting myself, no blackouts, no fights, no lurid tales of naughtiness. There was some wild dancing, inappropriate and sometimes downright nasty comments, loudness and a bit of stumbling around. But this doesn’t mean that I wasn’t affected to my core by my drinking. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t suffer, every night, when my wine witch best friend suddenly turned on me and kept me awake with her incessant cackle. I’m always aware of those consequences. However, when I fixate enough, when I think I really want a drink, as much as I’m alcohol aware, as much as I think of the consequences, I’m also about instant gratification (instant gratification doesn’t work, let’s be honest, who doesn’t feel a bit sordid and guilty after a bit of instant gratification?). So, in conclusion, being ‘alcohol aware’ will get you so far, being free of the demon takes relentless, daily, hard work.