100 Days Without Booze: Learning To Live With Feelings
So week three off the sauce is down and I am approaching 25 days - a quarter of the way through my challenge! This week I have found that I have been thinking less about drinking and more about how I can squeeze significant exercise into my days. I have managed to take in three hot yoga classes (sweating out the last of the toxins!), been boxing training in the park with the husband, and I have notched up my running distance and time to 7km in 45 minutes. I am training for a 10k run in Victoria Park in three weeks and to clock myself running further and quicker each week makes me feel pretty high on life.
Singing Sober High Point
Best day this week: Friday, when I went to sunny Victoria Park with my friend Max, drank coffee next to the lake watching the birds, and then practised singing our favourite songs for an upcoming open mic night. Even though we probably looked like hipster wankers, I have to say it felt pretty good to sng Neil Young outside in the sunshine so...I don’t care! Another real highlight of this week has been to have friends, many of whom I don’t see so often anymore, contact me in response to my blog, offering their support, and also sharing their insights and experiences with alcohol and mental health. It really made me feel that I am not alone in having struggled with my relationship with alcohol. And it felt good to have people confide in me. I suppose in a time of the Insta-brag and endless projected perfection people are responding well to vulnerability online; some honesty in a dishonest world.
Facing Serious Temptation
So, in the continued spirit of honesty, I am going to share my low point this week: A big, blow- out, unstoppable argument. I am not going to dwell on the subject of the argument or my opponent, because I am over it and it’s not relevant. What is relevant is how it made me feel and how I dealt with the fallout. I had this huge knot of anger and upset in my stomach and I didn’t know how to get rid of it. My knee jerk reaction after and during an argument is to drink. I don’t know any different. There is still booze in our house, bottles of wine, spirits, even a miniature bottle of vodka from god knows where. God I wanted to drink that miniature! I wanted to dull down the pain in my stomach forget the cross words and go to sleep. This is what I have always done since I can remember. You’re upset? Here, have a whisky, have a fag. Until now this is the only way I have ever dealt with intense emotions. When my dad died, we immediately gathered in my sister’s kitchen and drank Cypriot brandy she had just brought back from holiday, even though it was probably only midday. Even around my wedding, when I had pretty normal feelings of nerves and excitement, I drank. I drank the night before my wedding and I drank the morning of my wedding. I really wish I hadn’t - I would have looked a lot more relaxed and happy if I hadn’t been drinking the night before. The thing that was meant to relax me made me feel more anxious and stressed - funny that!
Using Control To Cope With Conflict
I know most people hate arguments but I really hate them and do not react well to them. As a teenager I had to listen regularly to my parents arguing. I would hide at the top of our 3 storey townhouse, but I could still hear them. I developed an eating disorder- bulimia. I think it told myself at the time that it was because I wanted to be thin like my best friends, and like the models in magazines. But really I think I wanted to have some control over my home environment and this secretive, bingeing and purging behaviour made me feel powerful. It felt powerful to have a secret and I loved being thin. I look at photos now of me at 14 and I looked so bloody miserable. Thin, but miserable and removed from my surroundings. Eventually my sister noticed what was going on and was seriously on my case. She gave me a bloody hard time. I didn’t feel powerful anymore. I felt like an idiot. I stopped making myself sick and the eating disorder went away. Poof! Just like that. Cured
Alcohol Versus Eating Disorders
A few months ago, though, as my drinking had started to become problematic, I started to wonder if in fact my bulimia had not gone away but morphed into an adult version involving booze. I became curious about whether there is a link between that eating disorder from my past and my drinking when stressed (often drinking to the point where I make myself sick.) I didn’t have to look far on the internet to realise that there is a well documented link between eating disorders and alcohol abuse. According to the eating recovery centre 50% of people with eating disorders go on to develop alcohol and drug abuse problems. Which is not particularly surprising, as both serve as coping mechanisms, providing an immediate way to deal with anxiety and stress. However, whilst eating disorders are definitely dangerous and can develop to have severe effects on your health and mortality, binge drinking immediately puts you in danger, as you are vulnerable out in public, can fall and injure yourself, or choke on your own vomit in your sleep, which would be an incredibly pointless way to end your life.
So when I was sitting on my sofa at 11pm post-argument, rather than downing vodka to obliterate my feelings, crashing into bed and waking up with an even more crashing hangover, I spoke to my best friend who talked me down. I had a hot shower. I cuddled my dog. And I listened to a Headspace meditation until I feel asleep. I simply went through the motions of being pissed off and chalked the day up as ‘a bad day.’ We all have bad days. They pass. Then we have some good days. Swings and roundabouts. In short; I am learning to cope with life and feelings rather than burying my head in booze. I might just be (sort of) growing up. Maybe.
Bring it, Week Four!