I’ll be honest. This is not the post I thought I would be writing.
I was exactly 656 days alcohol free and looking forward to celebrating my two-year milestone in August. I was proud as hell, secure in my sobriety and without a single desire to drink.
So, when it came it caught me completely by surprise. I mean, it wasn’t the first time I’d had a craving. But this one was intense, like a tidal wave. I did everything I could to distract myself and shake it off. I went for a walk, went to look at the ocean. I told myself to just keep walking back to the hotel, and that tomorrow I would be so proud of myself.
But there I was, walking back to my hotel with a bottle of wine under my arm, the voice in my head alternating between, “please don’t do this” and “you’ve already made up your mind, so just do it already”.
I sat there looking at that glass of wine in front of me for a long time, hoping I would have a last-minute surge of willpower, or maybe some sort of mystical happening, a sign. I’m not sure what I was waiting for, a bolt of lightning perhaps? Whatever it was, it didn’t come.
So here I am, writing this.
I don’t know if anyone else has wondered what it would be like to drink after so long? I had, and I can tell you what it felt like for me. Disappointing, and a little surreal. Once I finished that bottle, I found myself looking up ‘Bottle-shops open near me’. That voice was back, and it was saying to me that I may as well drink more now, but this time I didn’t listen.
I woke up at 4 am the next morning, waiting for the moment where I was flooded with the relief that had always come when I realised that I hadn’t actually drank, that it was just a bad dream. But this time it didn’t come, because it wasn’t a bad dream. This time it was real.
I laid there, just feeling so disappointed in myself. I thought about all the alcohol-free days in a row that I could no longer claim as my own. I spent the whole of the following day feeling a bit disconnected, wondering what the f–k had just happened. How could I have let this happen again? And … what the hell do I do now?
This isn’t the first time I have been in this situation. My first sobriety journey lasted seven months, and when I started drinking again, I was SURE that I had found the magical moderation button (I’m sorry, but this still makes me laugh, years later). I can confirm now with certainty that I had NOT found the magical moderation button.
So this time, I already knew that as much as my brain was trying to convince me that I could moderate, I can’t, and I wasn’t about to waste any more time heading down that path. Been there, done that, and don’t recommend buying the T-shirt.
That brings me to the present moment, to my “What now?”
I knew I could choose to beat the living crap out of myself emotionally. I could tell myself that because I had drunk that wine, it was all ruined. That I had lost everything I had worked so hard for (I’m not sure about you, but my inner critic is super melodramatic – like, award winning melodramatic, and a massive bitch. Don’t worry, I don’t like her either). However, with a slightly more reasonable mindset, I also knew that I could offer myself the same gentle understanding, empathy and support that I would give to anyone else in the same situation, and then get back on the damn horse.
Have I reset my sober calendar? Not really. I’ve come to realise that this journey is so much more than just days on a calendar strung together, and that one step back does not negate the years I have spent creating a better life for myself.
It was 4 years ago that I first started on this journey, and it’s been a time of constant growth and an increasing sense of faith and pride in myself for doing something that I had never thought possible. Yes, I’ve had my moments where I’ve looked over my shoulder and taken some steps back, but that is all part of my bigger picture, my biggest success to date.
So, while this isn’t the story I wanted to write, it is a story I am grateful to have the opportunity to share. I know all too well the feelings of shame, despair, anger and fear that some people may feel in this situation, because I have felt them. I know how easy it can be to get so caught up in the (perceived) failure that you forget just how far you have come. Years ago, that would have been me, years ago, that was me. But not this time.
Am I happy that I drank again? Absolutely not. However, I am so grateful for the lessons I have learnt, and for the hope that inspires me to sit at my laptop writing this on a Saturday night, instead of sitting at a bar, writing myself off.