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 Abuse

Alcohol unlocked so much in me as a young man. It gave me confidence to have that first kiss. It gave me the edge to push back on those who tried to force me to do the wrong thing. Alcohol was a wonderful addition to my life and seemingly everybody else around me. I mean, the wonderful woman I am married to was on a night club dance floor when we drunkenly kissed for the first time. Alcohol unlocked so much. Gave me wings.

But isn’t that abuse all over? We are lead into a false sense of security with wondrous outcomes at our disposal. The sad reality is that our joy, mistakes and occasional never agains develop into much darker and severe issues later down the road.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Alcohol is a drug. Alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol makes us do things that we wouldn’t normally do in a sober and rational state. Now that’s out the way let’s have a discussion about how beneficial this relationship that we have with the booze actually really is!

Before I start with my preaching let’s get one thing straight. I’m maybe not the ‘stereotype’ when it comes to an alcohol dependent bloke who gets sectioned. I was a beige kid who grew up with no trauma or life changing events. I wasn’t abused and had both parents present throughout my childhood. We always had food on the table and we always had holidays. We were a working class and hard working family who by no means we’re rich but it was more than comfortable. Yes I got bullied a little but so did most kids in my school because it wasn’t a very nice place – but I had plenty friends and generally got by ok. I know I didn’t appreciate it at the time but I certainly do now on reflection.

Why do I share this? Because the amount of people (who know me well) who have either said they were surprised or couldn’t understand how I ended up as bad as I did is quite worrying. Anybody can have a ‘normal’ and functioning life yet still come undone. I’m a prime example of that.

Life is tough at the moment and it would be a perfect opportunity to use drinking alcohol as an excuse but this is where Rational Recovery is a game changer for me. In the past I would have used the illness of a child in hospital and the temporary split of the family unit (one of us is always in hospital with one daughter / other at home with the youngest daughter) to have a few drinks. My anxiety levels are heightened and I’m in ‘survival’ mode each day with limited sleep, good food and the stress of the unknown. Alcohol would be used as a reward and to self-medicate.

My Addictive Voice (AV) has been chatty this week as you could imagine. The general theme has been along the lines of “you like the taste of beer anyways and still drink 0.0% beer so why don’t you just have a real beer or two. It’ll make you feel good”

Yeah, it probably would. I don’t disagree with my AV but what I also know is that this is just a tactical move to reopen the doors to much, much more.

Let me paint the picture of what will happen… (this is hypothetical but WOULD probably unfold if I let my guard down)

I’ll have a few bottles of beer. I’ll feel fine. Maybe I’ll drink them watching the footy or on a jaunt to a gig. A week will pass and because there was no negative my beast will bank that for the next time. The next time follows pretty quickly and this time my addictive voice uses the ammunition it now has to nudge me towards even more booze. The wife is away for the weekend so treat yourself – get a crate in.

Again, no consequence other than a little hangover and that is soon gone. Wait a minute, I’m coping ok with this drinking malarkey after all BUT let’s not go overboard here. People no longer trust you with alcohol and let’s be honest – you don’t really trust yourself so let’s keep it a secret between us.

Hmmm… the crate was nice but it was 20 bottles of beer and it didn’t touch the side. Not like the old days. Maybe a bottle of Gin would be ok. Just mix it with plenty tonic and measure it. It’ll be ok because I’m not going to smashing bottle after bottle down my neck like when my wife was on that work trip last weekend. I’ll have to drink it on the sly though and pretend it’s just tonic water.

Wow, first real hangover in a long time. I don’t miss that. Jesus, I can’t hide this from anybody. I’m meant to be having a family day too. Oh God, I need to shake this off. I know this isn’t the right thing to do but a mender sorted me out in the past. I’ll offer to get bacon and orange juice from the local shop for the family breakfast and no, I really shouldn’t but I’ll get some whisky. It’ll hit the spot and straighten me out.

That’s why I don’t moderate. Cos the above used to be me.