Day 162: When I look back at my previous bouts of sobriety over the years there was always one common thread. I never had any intention of giving up alcohol for life. I had spells off the booze and could find it fairly easy. I sometimes did it to lose weight. I sometimes did it to improve my mental health. Quite often I did it after I’d done something bad after a binge drinking session which consequently lead to me either hurting myself or others. I would fall out with my wife and I would ‘offer’ to stop drinking. This became a cycle in our early years of marriage to the point that neither me nor my wife really believed I would ever change. If I think back 5 years ago for example, I wasn’t drinking to the excess in the house I eventually succumbed to but my big problem was social drinking and not knowing when to stop. I could go Monday to Friday not having any alcohol but I knew that come the weekend I could let my hair down and binge. I saw binging as my release and that I had the God given right to selfishly drink to excess despite living with my wife and then in time my daughters. My attitude was that I worked hard and I enjoyed a drink plus nobody was going to tell me what I could or couldn’t do. Just writing those words today makes me shudder. I was being a selfish arsehole. There’s nothing wrong with unwinding with a drink or three but drinking became my god given right every weekend. My priority over everything else.
We fast forward through recent years as my marriage ‘plodded’ along and I’m sure my wife would agree, she just tolerated me through love as opposed to being happy with my behaviour. My social drinking reduced with less nights out and weekends away with my friends but I just replaced that with drinking more often on my own in the house and when I was working away. I’d quite often buy three bottles of wine in a supermarket because there was an offer on and I’d be telling myself it was a good deal and to buy in bulk. In reality I deep down knew I would drink those three bottles of wine in one sitting. It was as if I needed to have more alcohol in the house than I required as some kind of security blanket for me in a sense that if I wanted to drink more I could. No need to leave the house. Always there If I wanted more.
Periods of abstinence became less infrequent in recent years because the core driver of my spells off the alcohol (going out, binging and doing something wrong) were not happening and I guess I would tell myself and my wife albeit subconsciously that it’s better for me to drink in the house than going out somewhere where the unpredictable perils of the past could repeat themselves.
My wife would comment more and more on my drinking in our home. My first drink on a weekend was getting earlier in the day, the volume was increasing and I was moving from beer to wine to whisky. Drinking stronger stuff and showing visible signs later in the day / night of having ‘too much’.
The whole ‘stumbling in drunk, slurring, injured from trips and scuffles and throwing up in the toilet’ was now replaced with the less eventful silence and moods. My wife would go to bed early and I would fall asleep on the couch pissed. Pretty much repeated every weekend and then gradually during the week too.
I’ve written about my more recent struggles in this blog previously so won’t go back over it all but obviously the pandemic and lockdown intensified things for me to the point the drinking completely took over and I was trying to mask my mental health struggles with the demon drink. For the first time in my life my relationship with alcohol had moved up a level from ‘binge drinker’ who had a selfish attitude about drinking because ‘everyone does it’ and I liked the feeling to needing a drink to get through a day struggling with anxiety and depression. When I ended up in hospital and spent time on my own getting treatment I was able to finally analyse and evaluate my life, my relationship with alcohol and my core priorities.
So that leads me onto the subject of relapsing. A common thing in the world of recovery.
Relapse is common and a part of the recovery process for many people; It doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily failed. Around 29.4% of people report not relapsing at all after going sober. The largest group (32.3%) relapsed back to alcohol use within the first year after stopping. Thankfully, your chances of relapsing decrease the longer you stay sober: 21.4% relapsed in their second year in recovery, but only 9.6% relapsed in years three through five, and only 7.2% did so after their fifth year in recovery.
So what changed for me? It was simply my desire to not drink. As simplistic and corny as it sounds I left hospital with a different mindset to the one I had when I arrived. I’d never fell that far before and I don’t want to be in that place (both mentally and in hospital) ever again. Will I ever relapse? Nobody including me knows the answer to that but what I do know is I’ve reached 162 days continuously sober and apart from fleeting thoughts about drinking again I’ve never been in a position where I’ve seriously contemplated breaking my sobriety. I have been around alcohol and I’ve had ample opportunities to drink alcohol (both privately or socially) but I haven’t. Not to prove that I can stay sober. Not because I’m trying to show others I’m not drinking. My decision, very simply is because I no longer want alcohol in my body and my mind.