April 29th 2019
At 9:30pm, feeling desperate, lonely and scared I tweeted the following:
“Day 1. I’ve chosen not to drink. This has been a long time coming. 25 years hard drinking virtually every night with no break longer than 3 weeks. Thing have to change. I’ll need help. I’m a Pub Landlady.”
That was a year ago today. A year since my first serious attempt at giving up my ‘beloved’ wine. The day when I turned months, if not years, of intentions into action. Today I should be celebrating a whole year without booze! I’m not. Before you go any further, this is not a total success story epitomised in a picture of me, like some competition weight loss winner finally standing in one leg of her old jeans, holding out the waistband for all to see how far she’s come. But…I am celebrating, because I have come so far and in truth am a completely different person to last year.
I see lots of inspiring posts talking about numbers: 1 day, 1 month, 1 year, since a last drink, it’s brilliant stuff. When I first seriously quit I loved counting the days ticking them off feeling, rightly so, proud of myself. But as the days mounted, so did the pressure and just counting days wasn’t enough. Giving up drinking is the start and I wasn’t becoming the contented, rounded individual I’d envisaged. Where would it all end anyway?….“Here Lieth Nikki, she didn’t drink for 14,327 days”. That smacked too much of having a life denoted only by alcoholism and I didn’t like that, didn’t like that at all. We are so much more than just an alcoholic, we are defined by lots of different things, at different times of our life and to different people.
Following a particularly heavy boozing weekend at a wedding (heavy even for my standards) I made a decision. I was desperate, hungover, worried, anxious and above all I was tired. Not just physically, but mentally exhausted. Tired of the constant internal dialogue of should I drink, shouldn’t I drink, what should I drink. Relentless. I stopped completely for six months.
But the old nagging doubts started to creep back in. The Wine Witch came calling regularly, filling my head with negativity about my decision to this “FOREVER? Like really? Forever?” The Wine Witch is akin to an abusive partner, one who seems to promise fun and release from boredom, and who does to an extent, but there is a HUGE caveat: he also fills you with self-loathing, regret and anxiety. The thing about this relationship is that you start as the exciting prospect yet by the end you are the desperate and needy one. Nothing attractive about that. When I started drinking again I had forgotten all ‘his’ bad sides and fell for the promise of one last fling, that all would be different this time. What I learned was, ‘he’ hadn’t changed a bit.
So, April 29th, not necessarily my sober date, in all honesty I can’t remember the date of my last drink. It was sometime in March. When the reality of Covid 19 and prospect of losing my livelihood hit home I hit the bottle. But it wasn’t carnage. I didn’t even enjoy it. I’m happy that I can’t remember the actual date as it removes the pressure of the numbers, but April 29th is always etched in my memory as my sobriety journey date. It was when my serious attempt to quit started and I reckon I have had more than 320 sober days out of the last 366 (it’s been a leap year, alcohol didn’t befuddle my brain so much that I don’t know how many days are in a year). One thing that has happened is that since being off work due to Covid, I have not even thought about drinking. They say that drinking is a symptom of the thinking and most of my drinking was done at work. Come to think of it, I rarely used to drink on days off as I didn’t want to waste them.
April 29th 2019, outwardly I appeared to have a decent life: 44, nice partner, nice home, ran a successful business that afforded me time to do my own things and allowed me to indulge my passion for travel with a good half dozen trips around the globe each year. But, inwardly was totally different, I hated my job and the six trips abroad each year which I saw as “escape” from my daily life still left 44 weeks annually living my ‘real life’. What Covid has done is remove the root cause of the drinking and so the symptom has gone. A year of trying everything from attending AA, working The Steps, getting help, getting a mentor… Covid has serendipitously been the revelation and the remedy to one woman’s battle with the Wine Witch. As I sat there this day last year pondering how I was going to armour myself, I would never have seen that coming.
This blog has been rushed. I had so many plans to tell you about what I have discovered over the last year and ALL of those changed today as I sat to write this as sometimes you just make self-discoveries as you write. It is an organic process. I would say that my sober journey this year has also been an organic process and the person writing this now is ultimately far happier than the one writing that tweet this time last year. This is not the traditional story of “Woman discovers wine actually isn’t very good for her, she gives up, it’s hard but she manages it and has never looked back, happy ever after” but I would say that this is a story of “happier ever after” and what I really want to get across is NEVER give up on giving up, it may not be straightforward, you may not know or count the days, but what you definitely don’t know is what lies ahead, so go with it, you CAN get there, your own way.