Monday, 1 October 2018

What is an Alcoholic?

What is an Alcoholic?  What is your definition of one?  What does your mind conjure up when you think of the word 'Alcoholic'.  Is it that man that you see sitting on a park bench drinking out of a bottle hidden in a paper bag?  Is it that woman in front of you at the supermarket that smells of booze, buying a bottle of vodka or gin .. or whatever?  Or is it that woman (or man) that is well dressed, has a decent job, seems to have a good life?  That person who is just very capable of hiding it well?

I ask because my friend - whose husband very recently passed away - is livid.  She has his death certificate and it says the cause of death is decompressed alcoholic liver disease.  She took some calming down I can tell you!  She said the Doctor who certified the death got it wrong:  Her husband died from multiple organ failure.  His liver stopped working completely and then so did his kidneys.  Yes, she said - there was alcohol involved .... but "He was NOT an alcoholic!".  

While I find this a little strange taking into account her feelings expressed to me a few weeks ago, I can understand she does not like the connotations this has and she doesn't want her children having this as their legacy.  The certificate has to be forwarded to various people and she told me that they had previously had their critical illness insurance refused due to the reasons of her husband's illness.  I don't doubt that is also an element of denial too and embarrassment.  She doesn't want strangers knowing her business.

You see, it's the words "he was not an alcoholic" that bother me.  When I think of someone as an alcoholic .... And I really detest that word .... I think of someone who drinks way too much than they should on a daily basis, I think of someone who hides what they drink, someone who hides the empty bottles.  Someone who obsesses about where, when and how much they can drink from almost the minute they wake.  Someone who cannot go even for a day without a drink of booze.

I know, because I was that person.  An alcoholic has many different disguises.

My friend's husband couldn't even stop drinking booze when his life depended on it.  I spoke to her parents yesterday - when they were clearing up her overgrown neglected garden recently they found empty spirit bottles galore hidden in all sorts of places.

For now, I think her denial will be how she's going to cope with her grief and that is her perogative.  All we can do is be on standby for when or if that denial turns into anger.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Farewell Chris

This afternoon I received some awful news from my friend whose husband I've written about on here.     The husband with advanced liver disease.  Chris died earlier today.  He collapsed at home and was rushed to hospital where he slipped away.  He couldn't stay sober so was never going to get his second chance at life.

I'm saddened, shocked.  I'm also angry for my friend - her husband, her lover, her best friend couldn't do what he needed to do to stay alive.  But who am I to judge?

This so easily could have been me.. Or you..... I'm grabbing my second chance at life with both hands and giving my truly wonderful husband and my two darling daughters and extra big hug tonight.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018


I have absolutely no doubt that had I not stopped drinking alcohol, I would have slid even further down that slippery slope to 'proper alcoholism' - where I would have lost everything, my family, my home, my job and my health.  I'd be drinking cheap vodka for breakfast full time (I was already getting to be a part timer at it).

Eventually, I'd be suffering from advanced liver disease:  I'd have almost luminous yellow tinged eyes that would seem to bulge out because my face was so thin and gaunt.  My skin would be a funny browny colour - almost like a sun tan, but not.  I'd be so thin from the lack of appetite that all I could do would be to lie on the sofa watching shit TV, dozing on and off because I was so exhausted.  My home would be fitted with various disability aids to help me get in and out of the shower, the house, up the stairs to bed.  My muscles would have wasted away, I'd be skin and bone and would look like I had an eating disorder, with the exception of my round bloated abdomen which I would have to have drained every two weeks.  I would look and act like I was twice my age.   I'd have to take a cocktail of drugs just to keep me going for the day and it would be very difficult keeping them down.  I'd have to try hard not to vomit them back up.

My husband and children would be worried sick about me, would hate me, would resent me all at once.

I'd get thinly disguised looks of horror from visitors - those people who I hadn't managed to alienate.

We would have to sell the house or face being repossessed because the mortgage isn't being paid because we are a salary down now that I can't work.  I can't claim much in the way of benefits.

There'd be endless visits to the hospital to see consultants, prodding, poking, personal questions about my drinking:  How much, how long?  You must tell us the truth which is hard when you have your spouse sitting next to you and you have been secretive and lying for all these years.  Those visits where you are told your liver is beyond repair.  This is your life now.  Just one more drink of booze will kill you.  The trouble is that you want that drink - you need that drink.

This, unfortunately, is my friend's situation with her husband (the one I have mentioned previously).  I haven't visited since my last encounter, but went this weekend to drop off my friend's birthday card.  The visit was awful.  Horrendous.  In just a few months there is a massive difference in how her husband looks.  He was a strapping 6 foot odd big built man who used to play sport a lot.  Instead of the 20 stone he weighed - he is now just 11 stone.  He looks like an extra out of the walking dead - limbs hanging, shuffling, dazed and unable to speak clearly.

They have been told that the only option left is for him to have a liver transplant.  His consultant is dubious because of the past history of relapses.  He's not strong enough either and, of course, he needs to go on a waiting list if he is suitable for a transplant.

My friend said she hates her husband now.  She resents him.  She hates that she has to help him with the simplest thing.  She hates the endless trips to the hospital where she has to listen to her husband's attempts to lie about his drinking.  Then she has to listen to the truth.  He didn't really get this ill after only a year of heavy drinking.  She hates seeing other patients with the same problem - various different shades of yellow.  There are those who leave the hospital opening a can of lager.  She hates that her chidren are suffering.  They have been acting up at home and at school.  They are both at important impressionable ages. 

He is obviously no longer working.  His severance pay ran out a long time ago.  She is struggling financially.  She is scared to open the letters coming from her mortgage lender.  She knows what they say.  Her utility providers are about to refer her outstanding bills to a debt collector.  They are coming to install prepayment meters.  She owes her retired parents money.

She wants to leave him but feels that she can't.  His family don't live in this country.  If she leaves he'll have no-one.  She feels responsible for him but resents this.

This is what can happen when alcohol controls you.... when you can't stop at just one.  You don't just fuck up your life.

Luckily, sensibly I saw the light and quit in time and for this I am thankful for my 404 days sober.  This will not be my 'Eventually'.  I only need to conjure up an image of my friend's husband to imagine my 'Eventually' if I drink alcohol again.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Drinking dreams

Last night I had a 'drinking dream'.  The first that I have had for a long time.  I remember it clearly, like it actually happened.

It wasn't a good drinking dream - one where I am enjoying just the one glass of wine.  No, this one was reminiscent of what life was like before becoming sober.  In it I had a bottle of my favourite red wine and a large wine glass.  I knew I was sober, that I shouldn't be drinking, but I was desperate.  I quickly poured the first glass and drank it quickly and secretly and then I hid the rest of the bottle for later.  I then spent some time trying to act sober in front of my family.  I also 'appeared' in a supermarket and bought a huge bottle of Amaretto liquer 'for a friend's birthday'.  Then, later on when the effect of the first drink had worn off and I was sober, I realised that I had to find the hidden bottle so that I could dispose of it before Mr W found it.  Only, I couldn't find it!  I searched everywhere I could think of ..... I was panicking and anxious (I HAD to find this bottle) and then I woke up.

I woke up feeling the same way I used to every day before I decame sober:  Feeling shitty, hungover, ashamed and tense because I had drunk alcohol (albeit in my dream).  My jaw and teeth hurt because I've been grinding my teeth.

It took me a little while to realise that it was a dream - just that and nothing else.  I've still been sober for almost 13 months.  I felt relief.

If I am honest, this dream has shaken me.  I had thought that I was passed this stage and I don't know what may have affected my sub-conscious to prompt me to have a drinking dream.  Other than yesterday, when there seemed to be a huge amount of posts about Gin on Facebook, there is nothing that stands out as a trigger.

I'm hoping this type of dream doesn't happen again and I am reinforcing to myself today that I have been sober for 393 days and that I WILL continue to be sober.

Drinking dreams can bugger off!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The art of saying "No, thank you"

My one year soberversary passed on 7 July 2018 without fanfare or without comment nor acknowledgment from Mr W or the girls.  Inside, I was cheering and congratulating myself but I appreciate that for my immediate family it's just another day in the office.  What is a massive milestone and achievement for me is nothing to them and that's just the way it is.  Still though, I knew the wine witch was lurking which surprised me a little - she's not been all that vocal recently (a quick flip of my middle finger and she usually goes).  She kept popping up every now and then throughout the day to tell me I didn't have a problem at all with alcohol - I've not touched booze for a whole year.  You're cured!  You can moderate!  Mmmmm - yeah right!

Anyway, back to the subject heading!

Mr W and I enjoyed our holiday abroad:  It was a fairly quiet resort with not a lot going on and our hotel was fabulous.  We went half board rather than all inclusive, so that we were not completely tied to the hotel.  

However, alcohol seemed to be featured a lot in this hotel.  No kidding, you could even have cava for breakfast!  

Firstly, when we arrived to check in we were offered a glass of Cava, but I declined politely, said it was a little early in the day for us and asked if they had water instead.  Mr W, actually seemed to take offence when he was offered and was (I thought) a little abrupt "No!  We don't drink!" is what he said.  We did get a strange look, but yes, they had water and we were subsequently given a glass.  There were also a number of 'themed nights' for the evening meal and when you walked into the restaurant/dining room you were offered a cocktail ..... sangria, marguarita, etc.  I felt a little 'displaced' on our first evening trip to the dining area when I was offered a drink.  I asked what it was and was informed it was Sangria, I asked if it contained alcohol (although why, I don't know - of course it did).  No, they didn't have a non alcoholic alternative and no, there was no water available.

Bearing in mind that I am the one that had a major problem with alcohol, I think I have learned the art of saying "No, thanks - not for me" (or similar) quite well.  I don't feel the need to explain myself to complete strangers and nor do I want to.  However, Mr W was a completelty different kettle of fish and I would have to try and speak first before he did.  When I was too slow, he'd exclaim "No! We don't drink" and worse (on one occasion):  "No!  We are sober".  

I feel awful, for saying this out loud, but it was plain embarrassing and awkward.  I did, nicely, try to explain that we don't have to give a reason for our refusal - we just have to say no thank you or not for me.... easy!  No-one cares if we don't want a drink of booze.

There was one evening that was extremely awkward because of Mr W and I really cringed.  We went to the Hotel's posh restaurant for a meal and we were brought a cocktail.  Mr W  looked very annoyed (are these waiters and waitresses meant to be physic?) but I managed to jump in first and ask if they contained alcohol.  Yes, they did so I asked if they had an alcohol free one - not a problem Madam.  The waitress who brought the replacements remarked that they were AF and asked if we were having a night off from alcohol.  Mr W remarked "No! We just don't drink anymore, we're not like some of these people that just go on holiday to drink you know! And, you can take these wine glasses and wine list away too".  I mean, WTF!!  Was there any need?  The waitress scuttled off.  I was seriously mortified and told him so.  I felt as though he was he was drawing attention to the fact that we are sober and I felt ashamed of this.  I know there is no reason why I should feel ashamed but Mr W could do with a lesson or three in diplomacy because he is seriously lacking in that department.

If I'm honest I am a little irritated that it is presumed that everyone drinks alcohol and there is a woeful lack of any alternative.  In another restaurant/pub, I asked for their mocktail list.  They didn't have one, I was told to choose one from the cocktail list and they would leave the alcohol out.

I did have a little snigger to myself at one point though:  I received an email from the Hotel mid stay asking how our stay was so far and if I had any comments/suggestions for them that might make ours and other guest's stays nicer.  I mentioned that it would be lovely if they could offer guests a non-alcoholic alternative on their themed nights in their restaurant.  The next day, I had a note pushed under our room door thanking me for my suggestion.  As a thank you, they were enclosing a voucher .... 10% off my next bottle of wine!  Really!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Hiding Places

I'm going on holiday in a couple of days, but when we get back we are having some work done to the house so I have been desperately trying to sort out my holiday clothes (unfortunately none of them fit anymore due to the weight gain) and clearing out a storage cupboard that is crammed full of ... shit  .... to make way for new pipework, etc.

I pulled out a couple of refuse sacks filled with old Christmas decorations, an old vacuum cleaner that doesn't work (why do we keep this stuff), The Husbands golf caddy that was used twice .... and came across a bottle of red wine - opened with only about an inch of the stuff left in the bottom.  I'd come across a former hiding place.  I know it has been there for at least a year (seeing as I am 361 days sober), but I immediately remembered knowing that I had hidden a bottle of wine somewhere in that cupboard but not being able to find it when I went looking for it to get rid of the evidence (I'd have swigged the rest of the wine first).  My next thought was that I must have been a contortionist to have put it where it was .... or very determined not to get caught out.  Then I felt shame:  How bad had I become?

But, you know I hid booze everywhere in the house.  I was an expert at it.  Some of you lovely sober people out there might identify with these hiding places (if, indeed you did hide booze like me):

  • In plain sight - in a water bottle in my handbag (no-one would dare go in to my handbag).
  • In my wardrobe.... this is where my husband found my empty water bottle that had been filled with vodka.
  • In my knicker drawer ... under my knickers.  Not long ago, when having a clothes clearout, I did come across a pair of knickers stained with red wine.... Gross!
  • Under my bed, hidden in unused handbags.
  • In the bathroom cabinet where I store towels.  I'd hide the bottle underneath all the towels.
  • In my daughters bedrooms when they weren't at home.
  • In the kitchen cupboards .... right at the back where you need an extra long arm to reach something.
  • In the car .... underneath the seats or in the box I keep in the boot.  These were usually the empties, so that I could dispose of them somewhere else other than home.
  • In the garden .... this was a pretty good place when I smoked.  It worked better when the nights got darker earlier (Autumn and Winter) I'd get home from work and squirrel the bottle of whatever behind a plant pot.  Then, when I went outside for a cigarette, I would have a sneaky drink too.  I used to fall over in the garden loads of times and face plant the grass.
I have to hand it to myself - I was pretty resourceful!  All of this was so that my husband and daughters wouldn't see how much I was drinking.  How awful is that?

Luckily, I found the hidden bottle of wine and not my husband - that would have been AWKWARD!  I still have that element of sneakiness about me though - I emptied the remaining wine out (it was definately off) and disposed of the empty bottle in the external refuse bin .... right at the bottom.

I did beat myself up a bit about finding the bottle and then remembering/thinking of all my other hiding places, but this morning I have picked myself up and given myself the frame of mind that "That was in the past - things have moved on, I've sober for almost one year and ... I wasn't as clever as I thought I was - If I were, I'd have gotten rid of that bottle long before now."

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Almost One Year Sober

On the 7th July 2018 I will have been sober for one whole year!  Who'd have thought it?

This year, I'll be celebrating my one year sober anniversary sunning myself on a hot sandy beach.  It's something I would not be doing if I was still drinking.  I wouldn't have been able to afford it.

I've spent the last couple of days reflecting about the last year:  how I've coped, how being sober has benefitted me (and those around me) and what would have happened had I not stopped drinking.

I have to say that I am almost grateful that I had my personal 'rock bottom' moment.  It is still very fresh in my memory and, whenever I begin to romanticise my drinking days, I think of this time and of other times.  These memories still make me feel incredibly shameful.  I suppose it's one of my sober tools.  I do think this 'sober tool' of shaming myself isn't going to be good for me in the long term - I mean, how long should I beat myself up for?  I am beginning to concentrate on the many, many good things of being sober:  I can go to watch a film late at night and drive home.  I can pick my husband up at midnight.  On Monday night, I picked my younger daughter up from a concert.  BECAUSE I WAS SOBER!

I have no doubt that, had that night not happened, I would have continued to drink and I would have just gotten better at hiding it - especially the water bottles filled with vodka.  Who knows where I'd be.  Perhaps I would be like my friend's husband who has severe liver disease.  Perhaps my husband would have left me.  Perhaps my two wonderful daughters were not speaking to me.  Perhaps I might have lost my job.  Perhaps ..................

But, BECAUSE I AM SOBER, my relationship with my family has improved immensely, my finances are looking up and I am healthy.

Best of all:  I AM FREE!  I can honestly say that it is so liberating and such a weight off my shoulders that I no longer have to think about how, where, when and why I am going to get my next drink.

This last year hasn't been plain sailing - of course it hasn't.  Stopping drinking means you have to change yourself.  You have to give yourself a good hard look and a damn good shake.  You have to admit that you cannot moderate.  Alcohol is not good for you and you cannot ever drink booze again.  That is incredibly hard, but it does get easier when you start to see the benefits.

I am truly excited to see what the next year holds for me.  Whether there are ups and downs, I am prepared.  I know I can handle it.  BECAUSE I AM SOBER AND FREE! XX