The power of suggestion has helped me in my drinking all of my adult life. I've told myself (and guests) at various times; You need a drink. You deserve a drink. You've worked hard today. It's time to celebrate. God I NEED a drink! It's been such a stressful day. That bloody three-year-old has driven me to drink! Just have another one. You might as well finish the bottle. You could open another bottle. It's nearly wine o'clock! We could have a water, a coffee, or a refreshing cider - go on I'm having one!
I've found every justification and excuse to pop the top off whatever drink is in current supply and there have been very few times over the years when there hasn't been alcohol in my house.
I found out recently I have a "high bottom". I'm learning new terms from the sober blogosphere every day it seems. Fellow blogger MIT (Make.it.tea) and I both have them. My rock bottom was the result of a gradual unease with my drinking built up over years, with various negative alcohol-themed events tipping me to the point of first cutting back and then quitting altogether. (I talk about that moment in this blog post).
There was never any really major drama that went with my drinking - no relationship breakdowns (well I did get legless once after being dumped), no injuries due to alcohol (apart from falling asleep and walking face-first into a fence one night), no out-of-the-norm drunken antics that signalled to my friends and family I had a problem (I just blended in seamlessly with the drunken tomfoolery that surrounded me). I never hid empty wine bottles from my spouse after agreeing to an alcohol free day like Mrs D did, and I never tripped over an electric fence and into a gorse bush, before plunging head-first into an effluent pond, and nearly drowning, as my brave journo mate Katrina did (you can read her amazing story here).
Last night, my wife read the chapter in Mrs D's book where she hit her empty-wine-bottle-hiding rock bottom, and my wife asked me if I ever hid my drinking from her. I told her I never agreed to not drink and then drank behind her back. In the shower this morning I remembered the times I would buy two riggers of cider with the big Friday shop and then get on a roll and guzzle one before she got home from work. I'd chuck the empty in the big bin outside rather than the bin at the back door. Then when she'd get home I'd open the other rigger and she'd think it was my first. SHIT!!! I DID hide my drinking from her (I will ring her and confess before she reads this blog). At the time, of course, I thought I wasn't hiding my drinking, rather hiding the fact I was having more than my share of the weekend's alcohol supply (See how we justify these things to ourselves?).
I haven't had physical cravings. My battle since giving up alcohol has been largely mental. The last week has been the toughest. At times I've felt like a fraud - or that I didn't have a problem - because it's been relatively easy for me (though I know it's foolish to compare myself with others). But I think it's started to dawn on me how much effort I'm actually putting into this; the almost all-consuming nature of always thinking about my sobriety is draining in a way I can't fully comprehend or describe. I just want to live my sober life and not have it inhabit my thoughts ALL THE TIME.
When I wrote recently about being visited by the mythical Booze Fairy (who told me quitting alcohol was stoopid) it was purely because I didn't want to admit I was the one questioning my sobriety; it seemed much more palatable to palm the thought off to a third party, an outside influence.
Every time I suggest to myself drinking again would be good I use the same power of suggestion to re-affirm my decision to remain sober. Whenever I think about the good ol' drinking times and how much I loved drinking, I remind myself of the bad times and the negative effects it had on my life. I reaffirm to myself how much better life is now. Being mindful of my triggers helps me navigate the shaky moments, instead of mindlessly heading straight for the wine like I used to. I know it will pass and it does.
I'm realising I am responsible for every decision, good or bad, that I've made in my life. Now, I'm solely responsible for living my life without alcohol.
It's up to me, and only me, to live the life I want.
I know I'm doing the right thing.
I know I wield the power to do it.
Note: The new photo behind the blog is a dusky scene from my recent Noosa trip - it's a happy, positive memory of my first alcohol free holiday (and I was getting sick of that Wellington Zoo chimp!).