Thursday, 3 June 2010

Mine's a Lime and Soda

This post was originally written for Crying Out Now, which is a site that provides a space for women to talk about their struggles with addiction and recovery. I have thought long and hard about publishing it on my own space too, but decided in the end that I would. Comments, as always, are welcome although I will say that gushing affirmations can make me feel uncomfortable. I really don't want to be told I'm brave and amazing for finally making the commitment to recovery that I should have made years ago. On the other hand - for those who are tempted to judge - I would like to say that it could just as easily have been you writing this post and me sitting in judgement.

Up untill quite recently, it never properly occurred to me that I was an alcoholic. I still balk at the term now - not out of any sense of denial, I know full well that I cannot drink moderately or safely - but simply because to say it seems so dramatic. It makes me think of the people I see on the benches in town on my way to work sometimes, drinking Special Brew at 9.00 in the morning. I sometimes find myself fantasising idly about joining them, about throwing all of my many balls straight up in the air and not even bothering to try to catch them again. I am drawn to it like one is to the edge of a cliff or the bank of a deep river. It's terrifying, yet strangely magnetic.

They say that alcoholism is progressive, and I don't doubt it, but I can not remember a time when I drank normally. I can not pin point where I might have 'crossed the line' because I have always drunk to excess. Even as a young teenager I would always be the one passing out in unsuitable places while my friends agonised over what to do with me. From that point on my alcoholism has gone through phases. There have been periods when I have been either drunk or hungover almost all the time. I have experienced black-outs, drunk spirits in the morning, and woken up shaking with the cold sweats. I also spent about six years trying desperately to moderate with varying degrees of torturous success. It was always going to be doomed to failure eventually. True moderate drinkers just are - they don't have to try with all their mental might. These days I make the only reasonable choice left to me, which is to be sober. See? Mine's a lime and soda.

Except when it's a gin and tonic.

You see, this was supposed to be a post all about my sobriety. About how sobriety was a righteous choice that I had made. About how I was done with self sabotage and self pity. It was going to be a post that said fuck the back story, because whether to drink or not is a simple choice to be made forever in the here and now - that talked about how I was never again going to repeat another pathetic story from my childhood because I alone was responsible for my actions - not some demon from my distant past. It was going to be a post about how my sobriety was rooted in the fertile soil of my own power, and about how - for me - there could be no higher power than that.

Except that last night I drank again. A group of us went out for a friends birthday and I could not resist the peer pressure to have a drink. I could not bring myself to spill when my friends asked me why I was not having a cocktail. I attempted a feeble, 'Oh you know, I'm not really drinking at the moment...' only to have it waved away by friends who wanted to see me have a great time. Friends who I have managed to hide so much of myself from. Friends who wanted to go to a club to get drunk and dance and flirt, and who wanted me to join in. So I broke a promise to myself and I did.

And nobody died. We drank cocktails and danced and flirted. It was fun. The only person in the whole world who knew what I was risking was me. But today I feel frightened and shocked. I feel turned inside out because I thought I had being sober pretty much sewn up. I had been completely tee-total for six months. I thought I was learning to trust myself dammit. 'You takes your responsibility, you makes your choices' had become my personal motto, and I still wholeheartedly believe that. I did make a choice last night, but it was the choice to drink. The choice to jeopardise my good life, and by the same token, my childrens good lives. Today it is unthinkable.

So now what? The fact that the night passed without incident is precisely what makes this relapse so very dangerous. How easy it is now for the devil on my shoulder to whisper seductively: "See? What's the problem? You're fine to have a few drinks every now and then. Real alcoholics drink untill they pass out every time they pick up. You can control it now." I can't. I don't want to go into lurid details about my own personal rock bottoms but I know that I can't control my drinking - that I've never been able to control it. I know that I will always be an alcoholic and that the only way I can win is to not feed my body and brain with the substance to which they are addicted.

So this is what I'm going to do: I'm going to get up, dust myself off and keep going in the same sober direction. I'm going to formulate a comprehensive plan as to how I'm going to deal with the next situation in which there is social pressure to drink (if anyone's got any tips I would be most grateful) and I'm going to takes my responsibility and makes my (better) choices. In the end what else is there?

Mine's a lime and soda.

If anyone has been affected by the issues discussed in this post then there are some fantastic blogs out there that deal (amongst other things) with the thorny subject of addiction and recovery. It is by no means a comprehensive list - I'm discovering new stuff all the time - but these are invaluable and really worth reading:

Stephanie over at Baby on Bored
Ellie over at One Crafty Mother
Robin over at Life on its Own Terms
And of course, Black Hockey Jesus


  1. In any given situation being honest with friends and family is always going to be best policy. Be strong and say to all who know you that your not drinking anymore. The more people you tell the more people there will be to support you. Well done you for those prior six months and good luck with the days to come. xxxx

  2. There is such a lot of peer pressure around drinking and alcohol in our culture that is incredibly difficult for someone to resist - even someone who feels they can take it or leave it. When I was in the early stages of pregnancy (but hadn't told anyone yet), I remember getting quite good at faking drinking just to avoid the inevitable questions. I do think that maybe if these people truly are your friends, you should tell them - perhaps honesty is the best policy. Of course, this is easy for me to say, as I don't know them, or their relationship with you.

    If/when we do meet - gently remind me, and I'll be happy to buy you a lime and soda. x

  3. I dont have any words of sympathy, apart to say as the daughter of a drinker, I can not be one

  4. I'll hold back on the gushy affirmations but I will say a sincere thank you for sharing this. It makes a huge difference to know this about you and understand a little about the challenges you face on any social occasion. It's easy to say that it's not important, or that it shouldn't make any difference, but it obviously is and does - especially when the element of choice is taken away.

    Personally I respect your honesty and would advocate it as the simplest, most unequivocal route to ease the social pressure, but can understand that it's not necessarily something that you'd chose to share. If nothing else your story is a reminder that none of us should EVER pressure anyone into drinking, no matter what the situation or celebration. Pxx

  5. Whew. How to deal with the social pressure to drink...? I hate to say it but I think you ought to give it to your mates directly on the chin. Fess up. If they're at all genuine they'll back you up and support you. Cos that is what you need in a social situation. Other people stiffening your backbone.

    And bollocks to all your deprecation. You are brave. I lost an aunt a couple of years ago to a combination of grief and alcoholism. She could admit to neither. Therefore nobody could help her. Admitting it yourself is the first step. Admitting it to your friends is the next. And, by the way, admitting it doesn't mean making an apology out of yourself. It's just a fact. You're dealing with it. They need to too.

    Feel free to ignore me in lieu of better advice you may receive from other people. ;-)

  6. Sounds like it's tough. Drinking is such an integral part of our culture and social pressure to drink is huge. I'm not sure how you can avoid it other than completely changing your lifestyle and friends. It must require enormous willpower at times. I'm not sure I have any tips on avoiding social pressure, would driving to an evening out help? Then that could be your excuse for not drinking. Thank you for sharing your post, it gives a real insight into the challenges of addiction. Something non-addicts don't really understand.

  7. My brother died from alcohol related diseases when he was 39. Went to bed one night and just didn't wake up again. The autopsy showed severe liver damage and heart disease brought on by alcoholism.

    My younger brother has never drank alcohol. Ever. And he says his friends, even though they know he never drinks, always try to persuade him to have 'just one'. Why do we do this to people?

    I admire your honesty, and hope you make the right decisions. x

  8. Thanks for sharing this. It's something I'm giving a lot of thought to at the moment... jill

  9. Gappy - I admire you more each time you post. Honestly. I know you don't want gushing but that must have taken guts.

    I hesitate to offer any advice because I don't really have any first hand knowledge but tend to veer towards what some of the other commenters above have said. Your friends, if they are worth their metal, will understand. But I know that's easy to say. I do have one good friend in our circle who is an alcoholic and he was in a very, very bad way. But he told us all, and no one has ever tried to tempt him since or have one for the road or at weddings or New Year. Everyone looks out for him without watching him ilke a hawk, and at first, whilst he could not trust himself to be in those sort of social situations, now he can. It was almost as if we all knew anyway but were waiting for him to say it. Does that make sense?

    You've make incredible strides. Don't let one slip up stop you xx

  10. Just hugs. No gush.

  11. This is a first *honest* step in the right direction, and i wholeheartedly admire and agree with your declaration to dust yourself and move forward. A relapse is not a failure, just a chance to learn and practise again. No gush, just admiration. I love a woman raw with honesty. Try and be this honest with your friends.

  12. You know, I can't understand this feeling to pressure people into drinking. I don't understand people who celebrate their drunken antics once they're past the age of 16.

    I'm the stepdaughter of a man who was a drinker, not necessarily an alcoholic, but somsone who had a temper when drunk. It means I'm very uncomfortable around people who drink to excess or in unhealthy ways and I rarely drink myself - but invariably people will try and persuade me to have "just one" or I'll end up nursing a G&T all night rather than look as though I'm being preachy. It's weird, isn't it?

    What I have found is that often saying, "I don't drink" and being very clear about that is easier - people are less likely to hassle you if it's a decisive "don't drink" than a waffly "not drinking really at the moment"

    My advice would be to honestly tell your friends that you've made the decision not to drink for your health and wellbeing. Tell them away from the bar - ask for their support. It's up to you whether you want to share the reasons for not drinking, but a friend will support you if you ask for it. And if they dont, well, they're not the friends you'll need on the road to recovery.

    I hope this doesn't seem judgmental - I'm lucky not to have experienced addiction, but I have seen drinking when it's out of control and nobody comes out of that kind of situation any happier.

    Wishing you lots of strength, support and good things in life.


  13. Gabby, as others have said above, the courage in writing this is a major step forward. You are now in some capacity willing to admit this problem to more people than just yourself. I've struggled with my own demons (but that is a conversation for another time) so I do get the turmoil that succumbing to the one drink brings. It's too easy to beat ourselves up for these "slips". Six months sober is something to be massively proud and your one G&T doesn't detract from that. I think if you let yourself think it does then that will lead to a feeling of "what the hell might as well have another, can't do it anyway". Make sense? If you can tell your friends or maybe even just one person from the group that would be a real help to you. It's hard to do these things alone. Especially with the drinking culture that is all around us. Perhaps for now you just can't be in any social situations that involve alcohol. I don't want to tell you what to do though! Whatever feels right. Good luck woman and don't be defeated by this. You are on the road to recovery. x

  14. Anyone who sits in judgment should look pretty carefully at themselves, I think. Nobody is immune from problems with drugs or alcohol - it can happen to anyone of any social, economic or ethnic status.

    I think it takes enormous courage to look at something like this - for anyone to look at any problem they are having that is negatively impacting their life - and have the guts to square their shoulders and look it dead in the eye.

    I won't gush - I promise - but you just showed more bravery than most people ever show in a lifetime. You have all my support and admiration. Life is too short to live it half-assed, and you just grabbed the bull right by the horns and told him to f*ck off. I love you for that.


    P.S. - thanks for the props, girl. I appreciate it. We're all in this together.

  15. Hugs and well done for getting this out there.

    I think maybe if you don't want to be so candid with your friends as to tell them right out that you've got issues with alcohol (and you certainly don't have to) then a strong course of anti-biotics could be a life saver if it's just every now and again that you are in such a position. Failing that, drive.

    Don't beat yourself up too much about falling off the wagon, the fact that you've written this post shows just how far you've come and I've every faith that you'll be back on track again.

    It is sad that it's deemed OK to peer pressure people into drinking, we don't do that with smoking or any other vices come to that.

  16. you are in recovery, and sometimes, unfortunately recovery means one step back when all you really want is two steps forward. What's great about you is that you realize that it was a step back, and you want to make sure it never happens again.

    I personally do think you're awesome for coming clean about it on the blog and writing about your struggles. So many addicts cannot do that. Peace to you, and encouragement for recovery.

  17. A HUGE thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment. I have been agonising over whether to write a post about my issues with alcohol ever since I first began my blog. I'm glad I did now.

    It has been a big thing for me to write this and I'm feeling quite overwhelmed with it all, so I hope everyone will understand if I don't reply to each comment individually. I didn't want to not let people know how much I appreciated the support though - so thanks again people. It means a lot.

  18. I don't do gushy because I am equally uncomfortable with it. I don't understand the reasons for the peer pressure yet I experience it all the time myself. I get a bit cross sometimes, I feel like people don't respect my choice and I don't feel the need to explain that I have a fear of alcohol having seen alcoholism and the effects is has.

    I agree with a previous commenter, if you can't tell these friends, and have them respect your choices, then they arent the friends you need for your recovery. Do give them the chance to support you, they may surprise you :)

    Take care. Jen.

  19. Please keep posting about this issue. Veronica(also in recovery).

  20. My father was an alcoholic. Drank every day. He had his own issues and anger. My mother did not drink but she had her own problems. Father left us when I was ten. But during those ten years there was lots of drunkenness and trauma. From about twelve till seventeen I was in foster homes. So when I was a young mother with one child and got a job and friends wanted me to go drinking I did. One time I lost three days out of my life. Did not know what I did or who with. That was enough to wake me up. I basically did not drink again for many years, and then again with peer pressure I started drinking wine. Wine is okay, right? Then I stopped again. And years later started drinking wine again because my friends pushed so hard. Till I got to a place that I was able to stand on my own two feet, tell other people I do not drink. For my own reasons. If that made them uncomfortable or if they could not be friends with me because of that, they weren't true friends anyway. I haven't had any alcohol for about eight years now. Because I do not want it. I see other things that people just do not accept in their friends. I do not watch TV. To most people that is obscene. Preposterous. I can honestly say it has taken me a long time but I am in a place in my own peace of mind that the choices I make now are what I know are right for me for my own reasons and not because of outside pressure. The twelve step program I am involved with is for codependency and for me that is exactly the right program for me. I have to tell you that I admire your putting it out there and owning up to your belief that you are an alcoholic. In my father's case he never did acknowledge his disease and he died younger than I am now.

  21. The thing is many people aren't going to understand until you come right out and say 'I'm a recovering alcoholic' - and then you become the topic of conversation for the evening... I don't not drink, but I've gone from being a heavy and undignified drinker to a spritzer woman, mostly because the hangovers give me migraines every time I drink now. And people don't question that: I just say that now I'm older drinking makes me ill! Good luck. It's hard enough recovering from an addiction without having to worry about how others will feel about it! If we ever meet I'll be more than happy to drink lime and soda with you!

  22. very well-written. i have never had a drinking problem, never really enjoyed the sensation of being drunk, but i have had other addiction problems. and you're right about it being dangerous to have a night where you drink and nothing bad happens. to use an overworked phrase, it's a slippery slope. but so is everything in life, really. keep on making the decisions you know are right for you.

    and thanks for the post.

    ps.s. no joke: my word verification word? BINGE. tee hee.

  23. Alexis, Binge? Hahaha no way. PMSL!

  24. I understand the 'I'm an alcoholic' phrase being so important. It never goes away & is so important for other addictions to take up the mantra of 'I'm a ????'. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Another brilliant post Gappy. And so courageous. I must say I've given a lot of thought to my own drinking lately, spending weekends hungover and physically ill is such a waste of time. So for the first time in ages (probably since I was pregnant) I went out at the weekend and didn't drink. Of course everyone kept asking me why I wasn't drinking and then when I wasn't budging they left me alone on the assumption that I was pregnant.
    Drinking forms such a huge part of our culture and there is that whole pressure that you're not really joining in the fun if you don't drink. I think the best thing you could do is to be honest with your friends - I think if a friend told me this, I would take it seriously because it takes guts to admit you have a problem.
    Don't beat yourself up, you've already faced the demon by admitting you have a problem, tomorrow you can start again. Take care x

  26. Gappy, I understand the strength involved here. I don't currently have a problem with drink, but there was a time when I was falling into that place..I could feel myself falling. Self-medication, strength to carry on, whatever you want to call it..I knew it had to stop. I will never pressure anyone to drink, nor will I assume anything. Next time we get together I'll share a lime and soda with you, and I'll be grateful that we can both freely choose to do so! A drink doesn't destroy your resolve Gappy. You are stronger than that, you've proven it by being straightforward and honest with yourself! And with us, for which I am very grateful. hugs Vxx

  27. The only thing that has finally gotten me sober is embracing the alcoholic "label." I know that can be a controversial statement, but once I did that--to everyone in my life and most importantly to myself--my struggle got so much easier. So much easier. And this story reminds me that I don't have to worry about peer pressure anymore, because all of my friends know and appreciate my situation. Before, they didn't. They didn't know, so they couldn't behave any differently.

    I keep two words on display in a frame on my desk: Stay Vigilant. I don't ever want to forget the pain drinking brought me, particularly as I get further and further away into joy. I don't ever want to think I'm "cured" of this disease.

    I like that you are not letting this defeat you, but rather inform you. We've all only got this one day. Here's to today.

    Much love.

  28. Thank you for sharing. I remember a friend of mine taking me to one side and telling me she was an alcoholic. I'm pretty sure she told others too, because she was never pressured into drinking alcohol. If your friends are worth anything they too will understand and support you.
    We're all here for you x

  29. Great post, Gappy. Good for you to let a mistake disintegrate into the past and keep heading in the right direction. (Like a previous commenter, I don't know why people pressure others to drink.)

    Congratulations on your strength and your guts.

  30. Gappy I'm so glad you've shared this with us. Other things drop into place now and for the future this will be essential info (I won't be demanding you have a G&T with me at CyberMummy now!)

    As the daughter of alcoholics I know how hard it is to even face up to reality, let alone make choices and be responsible. You should feel very proud of yourself for making a choice to be sober, I know I am exceptionally proud of you. One day, when your kids understand, they will be too.

    As for the falling off the wagon, well, that's a tough one. I think you are right that more damage could be done longer term by the fact nothing "terrible" happened. And yet, I think something terrible did. You drank. That was enough. And you couldn't tell your friends. That is a big problem and its going to be a huge stumbling block in the future.

    I am not in any way qualified to talk about how you should handle this but I can't see these situations getting any easier without you talking to your friends and family about the realities of being unable to take a moderate approach towards alcohol.

    I think already I know you well enough to consider you the type of woman who wouldn't entertain friendship with people who are unable to deal with life, friendship and all it brings, warts and all. A calm, rational conversation in the quiet of home with a cup of tea is the place to start maybe, rather than in the heat of a busy bar pre-clubbing when everyone is gagging for a night on the lash. It was the right call not to do it there.

    I don't know what else to write really except to say, my friendship is still here for you and the next Soda and Lime is on me.

    MD xxx

  31. Addiction is so obscene. Though not the same I tell people that cigarettes control me, not me controlling cigarettes, an addict understands. Alcohol is in the wings. Just because I forced myself never to drink alone a few years ago, I fool myself into thinking I control alcohol, it doesn't control me. Be honest with your friends, say you have a problem with it and it has a problem with you. If they have a problem with that, ask them why. You can get on top of all this. Thanks for your post xxx

  32. There is no better post I could have read today. I will probably come back and read this again and again. I know i'll be very thankful (and envious) for your honesty and bravery for a long time to come... and I hope to be joining you in starting again very soon.

  33. Thank you for your story. It is helping(forcing) me to come to terms with my relationship with alcohol. When I drink, nobody dies, nothing bad really happens. I don't get drunk around the kids (I just get started around them). If I could stay sober for 6 months then relapse, at this point that might feel like an accomplishment to me. I will be following your formulated and comprehensive plan.

  34. I'm not going to gush but just wanted to say what a powerful and honest post. I know I drink too much but it's not usually more than one bottle of wine a night max. I may not drink during the day or crave it during the day but I know the feeling of no self-control when the bottle is open at night - it rarely gets re-corked for the following night. You seem to have woken up with the right attitude and are decisive about your path to sobriety and I wish you the best of luck xxx

  35. Sending you a comment offline.