At all times writing this blog has been very much to help me and also, hopefully, to help you. I have tried to be as honest and open about the struggles of giving up alcohol and as positive about the triumphs as I can. In recent months I have felt the need to share my thoughts here less and less as I've become more settled in my sobriety. I don't know if this has been the right thing, but from a writer's perspective I can only write if I have something to say.
While alcohol in no longer occupying my mind, the absence of it as a my go-to, fix-all, coping strategy, has left me somewhat naked and exposed. A post by Mrs D on Living Sober recently about how quitting booze is just the start and the importance of the work you have to do afterwards, resonated with me a lot. Mrs D is often talking about how without booze to squash things down you have to face life, and your emotions, raw. You can't avoid it any more.
My last post talked about quitting alcohol being the "best decision of my life", and it is, but in the last few weeks I have felt very lost, culminating in a break down of sorts. I don't know what else to call it. I revisited my counsellor at the end of last week. I began seeing her after I landed in hospital with a full-blown panic attack last year (my first), but haven't been since last December. She helped me through that difficult period, but since then feelings of anxiety have frequently bubbled to the surface, triggered by one uncomfortable situation or another - a racing heart, shallow breathing, a shakiness and a feeling of loss of control.
On Friday I tried to explain how empty I feel at the moment, how I lack energy, how miserable it has made me feel. I told her that my mind has been racing - a swirl of mainly negative thoughts - and how exhausting that is. I told her how when I finally burst out crying I felt bereft and desperate, my shaking hands reaching out for my phone to email her an SOS. During my crises I explained to my wife how I was feeling and in the same breath how guilty I felt about it because by anyone else's measure my life is pretty sweet.
I hate labels. Problem drinker. Depressive. Obsessive compulsive. Perfectionist. Optimist. Pessimist. They try to jam you into a specific box but most things in life are far more grey. For as long as I can remember, I have ridden a rollercoaster of ups and downs, not really knowing if I were actually depressed or just suffering the same peaks and troughs as every other person. I still don't really know. Deep down I felt there was something going on that wasn't right, but I've never known what to call it. I see now that I have suffered, am suffering, and perhaps it doesn't have to be that way.
My counsellor says I have probably battled anxiety all my life, and looking back I agree with her. I have definitely used alcohol to cope with social anxiety. Fear of failure is another big one for me, and I know I don't hold the franchise on that. I've wasted so much energy on it, it has at times hampered my enjoyment of life.
But the good news is I have options. I have enrolled in a Mindfulness Works course next month. My counsellor says many of her clients have benefitted hugely from it. I'm about to see a psychiatrist to assess whether medication could help. And I'll keep seeing my counsellor. It has already helped talking about it all, reaching out for help. My wife has been incredible; taking the pressure off me this weekend by looking after our kids, being supportive, truly understanding, worrying about me, loving me. She's my best friend and always will be.
I caught up with an old friend a couple of days ago, and he told me everyone has a "cross to bear" and that "everything will pass". I know I will be alright, because I'm prepared to work on it. I know that life is good. And I know that someone like me will never be helped by alcohol.