Desire to Drink

There have been some pretty tough days of late where I’ve come so close to succumbing to my Addictive Voice and feeding it alcohol.

For context (not that I’m using it as an excuse or for approval to drink) my oldest daughter who is 7 years old has been in hospital for around one month now. It’s been a very traumatic experience for her and whilst me and my wife have been strong for her, it is naturally taking it’s toll on us too. We have another daughter in nursery school so the juggling act has been tricky.

During this time our family unit has been split in two. Me and my wife only see each other when we are at the hospital swapping ‘shifts’ between daughters so that in itself is an odd dynamic. Our oldest daughter has her own struggles and long road ahead but we need to be acutely aware of keeping routine for her little sister too. It may feel like an afterthought but the mental health of both me and my wife is so important because if we break we become a burden, not a help to the family.

That’s where I wanted to go with this post – my first in a while. It’s not appropriate or important to share the finer details of my daughter’s condition at the moment and blogging about our day to day in the four walls of a very busy and overwhelmed NHS hospital won’t do any of us any good so I’ll give you an update on me instead.

As you may know if you are a regular reader of Happy Daddy, I’m a man with diagnosed and long standing mental health issues who for 17 years was a binge drinker turned alcohol dependant boozer. Throw in life events like my daughter’s illness and I won’t deny it tests my metal despite the progress I’m making in recovery.

It’s very much about pragmatically using the tools I’ve come to rely on or have successfully utilised in the past to ensure I can keep myself in the strongest mental and physical place whilst also appreciating we are not super human and there is a likelihood that despite all of our best intentions and efforts there will be kinks in our armour during periods of high stress and disruption.

Tiredness, fatigue, exhaustion, agitation, irritation, anger, self pity and despair are just some of the buzz words that pop into my head when describing the last 5 weeks or so since my daughter’s health took a pretty sudden nosedive.

I even reacted immaturely in Tesco tonight. I’d just popped in on my way home from Hospital and was walking down an aisle browsing the shelves. I could see a bloke walking towards me and assumed he’d walk around the outside of me as I was pretty close to the shelf but he didn’t move. We had an awkward few seconds staring at each other before I nudged past him and said “you weren’t going to move were you?” – He replied “nah” so as I walked away I called him an obscenity which he most definitely heard.

Why do that? I didn’t have right of way as much as he didn’t. I could have easily walked around him and carried on with my day but I’m finding that I’m spoiling for a fight more of late. It’s like the old me in the height of my depression (not always drink related) where I would get angry so easily and use any excuse to get into an altercation. I used to have really bad road rage for example, and that has increased again of late despite a good few years of being a zen driver. When I got back to my car after paying for my bread and chocolate I told myself off and accepted I was pathetic. That’s the difference. In the past I would have justified my behaviour and let it wind me up for hours later.

I suppose it’s all a way of saying I’m under a lot of stress at the moment and in the past I would have used alcohol as my go to relief yet all it would do is fuel even more intense anger and irritation further down the line. I know deep down that I’m not a bad person but I also know I have unresolved deep rooted issues which need to be addressed by a Therapist or Psychologist.

In the past when I had counselling or a psychologist I wasn’t being fully truthful with them because I was hiding the severity of my drinking. I think I’m in a unique place in my life now where I can address my issues clearly and without alcohol blurring and undoing any work I achieve through therapy.

I’ve made the first steps to accessing said help.

I’m off now but I just wanted to thank everybody for their kind words and thoughts. I’m still active on Twitter (albeit maybe not as much as normal) and the majority of interactions I have in the Recovery Community are positive. Focus is of course on my little girls and wife but it is so imperative that I recognise my own struggles before they become something more uncontrollable. I think I’ve done that successfully just by writing today but the next important step is applying solutions to the problem.

The Struggle

It’s been a very tough week and whilst I don’t think it’s appropriate to share the finer personal details on here I can say that my oldest daughter (our 7 year old) has been in hospital. In fact, due to a shortage of beds and the chaos at our local hospital she has been an inpatient at a hospital nearly 30 miles away.

The complexities of it all have been difficult to witness as a parent and whilst all my energy and focus has been on my child it’s naturally taken it’s toll mentally on me and my wife. You automatically go into survival mode and live off limited food and drink, next to no sleep and in my case fighting my own guilt and demons. Of course, thinking rationally I know my daughter being unwell is not my fault but you do blame yourself and question if you could have done things different. I live with the mantra of ‘live life with no regrets’ though so beyond my irrational and immediate thought process in the moment I’m trying to be strong and pragmatic.

The drive to and from the hospital (around 35-40 mins) is giving me time to switch off and put things into perspective. Despite the initial panic and worry about my daughter things have stabilised and the Doctors have given us the reassurances she is not in the danger zone. We can now try and look at a plan beyond hospital as a family. My usual coping mechanisms of running, yoga and writing have been on the back burner this week from a time point of view and quite naturally I miss these outlets because they help me stay in a safe mental space. All that said I’m sober and I’m focused on my family so that is good enough for me at present.

I did have a little wobble on Monday Evening on my way home. My youngest was sleeping at the Grandparents and my wife was staying with my 7yr old at the hospital. It was around 9pm and I popped into a supermarket to get something to eat but I just ended up aimlessly wandering the aisles – I knew I needed to fuel my body but I had no appetite. I then walked into the booze aisle, which normally doesn’t bother me anymore but I started thinking about buying some alcohol to help relax me for when I got back home to the empty house. I shaked off the addictive voice pretty quickly and gave myself a pep talk back in the car but it was yet another example of my Beast leaping onto any insecurity I show it.

Our Addictive Voice (AV) only exists for one thing – the substance we have previously had no control over. It has no care or consideration for personal issues that are upsetting or confusing us. In fact it will sniff these out very easily as opportunities to have a feed. I have made the decision to no longer consume alcohol (ever) but my AV doesn’t agree with that so will use ANY way to get me to change my mind.

Life is a rollercoaster as Irish Popstar Ronan Keating once sang and unfortunately at the moment it’s been a constant flow of drops and dips which naturally batter and bruise the armour but I still look at the bigger picture with wide lenses and appreciate that if I was still using alcohol and other unhealthy coping mechanisms I’d be in a much worse place that I currently am. I need to be strong for myself first and foremost so I can offer the best support and love to my family. I don’t agree with the whole “you need to be strong for your kids, wife, etc” – You need to be strong for YOU because you are the only person you can control the actions and behaviours of. You can influence others but you can only control you. Being strong within yourself and for yourself will naturally lead to positive output for your loved ones.

I’ve taken a little bit of time off work this week to be there for my family and unfortunately our short break away that was planned in for yesterday and today has been cancelled so this weekend will be about resting up, spending time with the loved ones and getting ready for the week ahead. I’m taking a little break from Social Media too whilst I sort my head out but for those who I engage with regularly via the online Recovery Community I thought I’d share a reassuring post as no doubt you’ll be missing my wisdom (Ha!).