Saturday April 21st 2016 – I went back to AA a shaking, shivering mess, huddled in my thick parka and scarf, crying and ashamed. Defeated and full of remorse and fear. The Big Book says it all, the program speaks of the alcoholic who is truly defeated and ready to admit powerlessness. With that change came a loss of all of my connections as most of them were toxic, based on shared addictions and my decision to be abstinent and sober was too confronting for most friends. I lost my best friend – alcohol – and then my minimal friendships because I finally realised I couldn’t keep doing the same old behaviours and expect positive changes.
One friend – Philly – said to me “I miss the drunk Isabella” – at the time I didn’t know what to say, yet internally I was screaming and shouting abuse. I wanted to shout, punch and pummel him with reminders of drunken calls, near fatal overdoses, falls and near death experiences. I didn’t say anything.
What I did do was cease contact with Philly who had been in my life since I was 18. Philly had been my best friend for a decade in my 20’s, in my 30’s we still had drunken, drug fuelled catch ups every couple of years. Philly who professed undying love for me, who I had called whilst overdosing and would visit me in hospital when Joey saved my arse from dying. Philly who admitted he did nothing when I called him to say goodbye, that I had taken a shit load of meds and wine – because he was home alone and too drunk to so anything to save or help me.
Philly would try to tempt me with alcohol, drugs or both. Every. Single. Time I tried to get sober. Is that friendship? Is that healthy? Is that fair? Is that love? No. That’s what addiction does to people – it fights to keep its friends close and equally unwell so that the individual does not have to face their own addictions, struggles, pain and self sabotaging choices and actions.
My desperate desire to be sober held a mirror up to my friends and showed them their own sickness – which they were not ready to accept. It was not my place to force them to see their own addictions, pain and chaos created by their addictions. And that’s ok. Some friends I distanced myself from slowly and carefully as I did not want to harm them further. Others turned on me – lashing out in anger, blaming and critising me for my new lifestyle and quiet voice of change. These friends ceased contact with me and it was explosive, painful and full of anger and arguments – recriminations and judgements from both sides. I had yet to learn to avoid or cease the toxic patterns of our friendships or relationship – something I still struggle with today.
Yet here I am – still sober, with a small group of strong healthy friends who only want the best for me. I now seek healthy, balanced company. I seem to be almost “adopted” by people who see something in me that they like. I question their desire to be my friend – are they crazy? Do they pity me? What do they think I can give them in return for their amazing qualities, support and friendship? Are they nuts???
I am slowly learning to accept that others see something in me I do not yet fully see or own. I observe their healthy choices, listen to their love of excercise, healthy eating and gardening, gigs, music festivals, travel (NO girls I am never going to be into excercise like you – that’s where I draw the line!!!!) and, occasionally I ask for advice and act on it.
The only changes I should be focusing on is that of my own choices and life – other peoples lives are their own business. Until their choices and actions impact me – THEN it’s my business up to a point.
The beginning of the end or the start of something new?
This is so true right now – in fact my whole life has been like this. I was always looking after someone else – trying, but mostly forcing, my own will onto others.
I was critical, judgemental and angry at those close to me. I fought, cried and begged them to try to help themselves – knowing that I was forcing my will onto them. Whilst I was also sabotaging and harming myself to resist change and to cope with hating myself.
I was in so much pain and expressed it the only way I knew how – by being angry when they wouldn’t seek help, play the martyr or call me to fix the problem when it had escalated to being a crisis. I’ve lost so many years trying to fix the broken people around me – in the process I lost myself and harmed myself.
Finally in 2016, I admitted I was beaten and wrong – my way never worked – I had to change. No one else.
My last drunken binge was huge and I had no idea it would be the last time I would drink. Wednesday 20th of April, 2016 consisted of lunch drinks at 12pm noon sharp – 3 glasses of red wine in less than an hour.
The waitress was friendly when I first sat down to have “lunch” on my day off, however at the end of the two hours and 6 red wines, she wasn’t as friendly. I was aware of the change in attitude, the looks of astonishment and judgement she was casting at me – it was time to leave. I was completely steady on my feet, no slurring or falling over – which would tell its own story of the high tolerance I had for alcohol.
I hadn’t finished for the day! Oh no! The sun was shining, I was blissfully aware of the world around me and felt beautiful, funny and an abundance of love for everything and everyone. There was no way in hell I was returning to the dark dungeon that housed the dark, moody and depressed Joey who refused to leave my home until he was ready. Oh no. I was determined to have some fucking fun in my life for once. I wanted to party, feel the sun on my face, laugh and feel free.
The day was still young – so much time left to drink and have fun for the day! I was determined to ignore that I had to drive to get home, had work the next day and would eventually have to return to the blackened husk of toxic waste I called home.
I called Anne of Green Gables – my best friend since I was 16 – yep! Of course I could come around and keep her company while she played her role as housewife with 3 children all under the age of 5. I rocked up to her place at 2pm, music blaring, grinning, brandishing two bottles of red wine. The kids loved drunk Isabella – they had no idea why mummy and Isabella were so much fun all of a sudden!!! Anne of Green Gables and I polished both bottles of red wine by 5pm – just in time for me to leave before her husband came home. Being the good friend I am I left another bottle of red wine for her to have that night – I even opened it and poured her a glass. We were so clever doing this – her hubby would think that she had just opened the first bottle for the day! He would never know it would be her second bottle of the day. Hehehehehehe
By 5.30pm I was home safe, no fatalities, car in one piece and as drunk as a skunk – but nooooooo the party would not stop. I cracked open a bottle of white wine so I could be classy and pretend that I had my drinking under control.
It’s now 7.30pm and I was onto the sparking wine and polished that off just in time to drive to the bottle shop for another bottle of sparkling wine for the night. Shops close at 9pm – how rude!
Fuck off Joey – I’ll drive if I want to, I’m fine, and no I don’t want to fuck you! But I do want you to move out of my fucking house and get your stinking rotten carcass out of my grandparents bedroom where you have been festering for 8 months. Thank fuck you are leaving in two weeks – on Mother’s Day of course – you’ll make that fucking day all about you of course.
Ohhhh yeah. That sweet, friendly Isabella had turned into her toxic, abusive revolting individual who was vile and vindictive.
I’m told by Joey that I was pretty full on abusive which I don’t doubt. Anne of Green Gables later told me she had no idea at any stage that I had drank a bottle of red before starting the party at her place. See! Told you I could handle my alcohol and my tolerance was high! Isabella knows her fucking alcohol limits, regularly exceeded them and turned into a blackout, erratic hot pile of mess.
That party on Wednesday 20th April, 2016 had me in bed and hungover for two days. Of which the hours were excruciatingly painful, soul destroying, full of regret, denial, fear, shame, remorse, guilt and the obsessive certainty that I would lose my job, then my car, my house and my life.
Something had to change.
And amazingly it did. One day at a time. Sometimes one hour at a time or one step, second or thought at a time.
I wish I could celebrate and jump up and down with joy at hitting 40 days of sobriety. I am happy – truly – however with this 2nd round of sobriety has come the realisation that this is really my last chance.
Trust me – this is not a drum up, a depressive state or some bizarre way of convincing myself that I shouldn’t drink, this is the reality of my drinking to date. Sadly, and yes, sadly, I cannot drink ever again – not ever – unless I want to lose my entire life as I know it. Unless I truly want to lose everything that I love, cherish and have worked hard to build and gain.
Friday night I was really wanting to ease the pain that the week had bought to me – one of the hardest weeks for a long time because I was sober and I did not use anything to numb the feelings of failure, fear, resentment and anger. I just sat with the feelings, sat with the lessons and shut my mouth as much as I could – I cried a lot, despaired of myself and my moods and in the end faced reality.
If I was to drink again my life would get worse immediately. No doubt about it. Everything within me knows that I came close again this time to losing my relationship with The Boy and, once again, I am close to losing my job due to my inconsistent moods and inability to manage one staff member. Plus other reasons.
I was hit with this realisation on Friday night after an AA meeting – that had not helped in a positive manner – but had ripped my soul open and exposed the truth.
I am one of the lucky ones because I have stopped drinking before I lost it all.
My bottom is high, however if I do go out and drink again I will be left with nothing this time.
So I started to grieve for my old friend – and I seriously considered not breaking up with him, to stay with his stable warmth and see it through to the end. Was all this hard work of the past 40 days worth the break up with the beloved friend who had been there with me through thick and thin?
Yes. Everything I have been through is worth it for one reason – nothing I have gone through, or will go through, will be as bad as the future will be if I continue to drink. The pain will be far greater, the sorrow much deeper and the regret will be profound. If I live to see that day – which I have an uncomfortable feeling that I will because it is my destiny to live to extremes.
So. I have committed to follow the steps, ask for guidance and to not pick up the first drink for any reason and, although life is tricky, painful and it sucks in areas I am determined that I will not let it get worse due to my drinking.
Some catchup reading and reflections to, well, reflect on:
“Love and tolerance of others is our code” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p.84) – I need to practice loving others and to release all resentment, anger and hurt towards those that have harmed me – intentionally or not. I will focus on doing so to the best of my ability – otherwise I will rot from the inside-out.
“Fear … of economic insecurity will leave us” (AA, p.84) – I have lived my life in fear of economic insecurity since I was young. In fact, I know that if I continue to drink, the first thing that will go is my financial security. If I return to drinking I will lose my job and The Boy and I will end up exactly where my nightmares take me – where I really feel I belong, yet have spent my entire life fighting not to end up. I still feel that I am at the mercy of the Universe in relation to my job – this week at work showed me that – and I still do not have a strong grip on my finances and spending. I am meeting my commitments, still have my home, however am still living one pay to the next and about two months of pay in debt. So really not that bad, however if I didn’t shop like I do, I would not be in debt – however how minimal. Debt is debt when you don’t have a job.
“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol” (AA, p84) – This week has been a lesson to stop fighting everything and everyone – do I think I have learnt the lesson in full? No. But I have tried to stop resisting, to listen and keep my mouth shut (extremely hard for me) and I was successful some of the time. Mostly at home, work is a different kettle of fish – I am severely conflicted at the moment, feel like a huge failure, like I am the most immature person in the world, and who needs to pull her head in and grow up. I am mortified that my drinking has bought me to this place that I am quite obviously unbalanced and too immature to do this highly responsible job. Yet I know that my heart is in the right place, that I can do the work and develop a strong team – my drinking has just severely impacted my judgement and my behavior. It remains to be seen if the situation is salvagable – I keenly hope so as I truly like the work, the people and the role – I just haven’t like myself.
“Once an alcoholic always an alcoholic” (AA, p.33) – enough said really.
“I often did not think … (I) reacted to people and situations” – When I was drinking I was a ball of reaction and resentment – I did not, and could not think the situation through. My brain was too crowded and foggy to be able to make a clear assessment of my next step or word, so I responded on impulse and regretted instantly. To cover the pain, to dull my response time and calm the biting pain I would drink to take it all away, to no longer have to think things through or over. Soon, I was drinking to just survive as I found myself lost and confused without a drink or a hangover – I needed the relief of wine in my system to remind myself that I could feel something and control something even as I was losing control of myself.
Today is Gratitude Day.
I am so grateful that I have this 2nd opportunity to live life to its fullest, to have this last opportunity to right the wrongs and live life sober.
So grateful that I am able to attempt to change my work situation sober – that I am not still drunk and having to deal with being fired.
Grateful that The Boy is still here by my side and my heart no longer burns with the acid of resentment and pain of yester years.
Grateful that I still have a dog, my cats, family and friends and a place to call my own.
Amazed that the Universe is giving me this last chance to get my shit together – because God knows I have been given many opportunities and have been saved too many times.
Understanding that the future I fear could be mine if I so choose – so choose to continue to drink – the life of my nightmares is waiting just around the corner for me. The beast is hungry for new meat, new pain and a new plaything that is in the depths of despair – that will be me if I continue to drink away my so-called demons.
Hope that the life I dare to dream of will be mine if I am willing to go to any lengths to stay sober, to do any work that is required to keep safe and healthy.