Does anybody else in recovery think about what would have become of them if they hadn’t put a stop to their abuse?
It’s probably not worth thinking about because it’s hypothetical and I’ll never know but it does creep into my mind from time to time.
Even in the days and weeks leading up to my subsequent break down and time in a Mental Health hospital I was in denial about my drinking and my mental health. I knew things were not good but I was functioning at work, home and still doing my running so I just saw it as a period of my life I’d have to ride out and it would fix itself. Having been a binge drinking anxiety suffering depressive since my late teens I had come to accept that this was my way of life and I would go through cycles of being a little bit better and a little bit worse with the occasion mega dip – just like I’d experienced in the previous November when I ended up in hospital via ambulance after losing my shit in the house. The problem was my ‘dips’ were getting deeper. The next one was when I ran barefoot into the nearby woods at night and I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to live anymore. My head had gone. I can’t even remember the event to be honest but I remember feeling very low in the hours leading up to it.
If I hadn’t stopped drinking at that point would I have continued to drink as heavily as I was? I was getting through a bottle of whisky or gin every 3/4 days on top of drinking wine and beer most days (as my main visible drink) – the spirits were hidden and they were my ‘straight from the bottle’ in between consumptions. I wasn’t drinking whilst I was working even though I was working from home in an empty house but I suspect I would have succumbed to that eventually.
People still have this stereotype of somebody drinking from the moment they wake up until they pass out each day – and I lived across the road from a lady who was exactly that. Her husband went to work about 8am each day and she would walk to the local shop about 8:15am and buy her bottle of whisky. Every day. When I finished school and was playing outside about 4am I’d sometimes see her slumped at her dining room table but more often than not the bedroom curtains were drawn and she was nowhere to be seen. We were quite good friends with the couple as they didn’t have children and I think she liked mothering me and my brother a bit. We used to get so many presents off them at Christmas and she would sometimes look after us if my parents went out. She was harmless to us but thinking back, she was never sober. And I recognised that as a 10-12 year old. It made me cautious around her but I certainly wasn’t scared or put off by her. My Dad drank most nights after work so alcohol was the norm to me growing up. I remember that she always had that smell of whisky on her. Always had a glass of whisky and water nearby. She died about 8 years ago now and I must admit as I got older and we moved house I had very little to do with them in the final years of her life but I do drive past their house quite often and the husband still lives there alone, retired now and it really makes me sad. It feels like I’ve let too much time go by to just knock on his door after about 15 years and say ‘Hi, remember me!’. I hope he is ok though.
So the stereotype was certainly born in my head from that example growing up but of course, I’m just another ‘example’ which is less obvious. I was much better at hiding it and my wife to this day can’t believe she didn’t notice more signs. I would be getting on with my day then nip upstairs to get a book or pen and have a drink whilst I was up there, or go in the bath with a bottle of beer but also drink a glass full of whisky too whilst I was soaking. One night I was doing steps in my bedroom on the top floor (during lockdown I used to try and do 10,000 daily steps) and my oldest daughter who follows me everywhere was drawing at my desk as I paced backwards and forwards across the room. I had a bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whisky in my walk in cupboard where I keep my bookcase and other bits ‘n’ bobs and I kept nipping in and taking glugs. I’ll always remember that in the time I did my pacing / step counts I managed to drink over half the bottle of Jameson’s which was the 1 litre size bottle. My daughter made a comment about my breath when I was near her at one point “Urgh, Daddy you drinking beer!”
My wife might not have been so quick to notice but nothing was getting past a then 5 year old.
I put so much effort into hiding I had a problem that the anxiety born from the effort trying to paint the picture of a stable, happy and soberful man sent me into a darker inner hell. And yes, I’d drink to comfort my inner pain. It was ultimately a cycle I was never going to break until alcohol was removed from the equation.
And alcohol only left my life when I was sectioned and detoxed. I wasn’t planning on going there so it was not an immediate thought process change on my part yet the time spent inside the facility with the doctors and nurses allowed me the time to strip back and think solely about me and what my life was and could be.
And the rest they say ‘is history’ – albeit I will never get complacent about sobriety. It is rented not owned. One day at a time.