Are you in early recovery and finding that you are not really coping? You have ditched the drink and are trying desperately to stay afloat in this mad world? You have these voices inside your head: praising all your efforts to be sober one minute, then egging you on to have just one tiny drink the next. You want to be free, right?
It is hard to be in early recovery and to know what to do. You are not really coping because you don’t know what to expect. From you (your mind and your body, your addicted thoughts, and your sense of purpose) and from life itself. You are suddenly without the crutch you depended on your entire life. This feels like dangling from a rope over a gorge 1km down. You feel vulnerable, alone, and afraid.
We Have Felt Your Pain
Join the club. Many of us have been there. I chose to stop drinking before I was labelled as an alcoholic. Or as an almost alcoholic. Or as someone who has alcohol misuse disorder. Did you merely misuse the substance, or did you depend on it like an alcoholic would?
All these labels. Be free of them when you choose recovery.
This blog will hopefully assist those of you still not coping with being freshly sober. More and more people, and many of them women, have found themselves increasingly dependent on their “daily glass of wine”.
This soon becomes a “daily 3 glasses of wine” and then a bottle. A bottle of wine is only 4 to 5 large glasses of wine! How did that happen? And you didn’t even feel the effects of those 5 glasses. So you felt as if you could easily open a second bottle?
I Was There Too
It is hard to realise this and then try to stop. I know. I used to stop-start a lot. I always made sure I had at least 2 dry days in a week. Then the rest of the week, I would be having my 4 large glasses of wine a night (which is a bottle). I used to look forward to my first glass from midday onwards. I knew that at 5pm I would sipping a Chardonnay or a Chenin Blanc. Followed by my 3 red glasses – should I buy a Shiraz or a Pinotage and how much should I spend? That was my daily self-talk. Was it yours too?
Then I would take a break. A week off to detox and get fit again. Stop that morning blur where my eyes were puffy and my thoughts just a little too thick and slow. And so it would continue. You know the story.
I knew that the wine was bad for me. I used to Google health articles to remind myself of that fact. But still I could not give up for good. Is this called addiction?
I like the way I felt and looked when not drinking, but if I drove past the Kwik Spar and had time, I stopped for wine. Urgh!
Why Do You (And So Many Women) Drink Daily?
- You feel stressed: you have had a long day with the kids, at the office, in the traffic (we can always find a reason to have that first glass)
- You do it every night and you have designed a convenient daily habit
- You are celebrating or mourning something: someone’s birthday, funeral, promotion at work, lottery ticket win, baby, loss of job, the list goes on
- Your husband drinks every day, and your friends do it too
- You have always done it and your family condoned it
- You want to still be that fun and festive person you always were around the braai, or in the pub, or at the night club
- It is an easy escape route from things that annoy or anger you – such as people at work, the kids, the routine at home, the weather
- You are bored or alone and it feels good
- Simply: you like it, you like the way it makes you feel!
Change Your Lenses
Time to change the kind of lenses you are looking through. Time to put on the reality lenses and see life in the raw. Pack away those rose-tinted, blurry lenses. It is time to listen to the good voice in your head. Not the bad voice that tells you it is OK to have wine.
It is time to admit that you need recovery. And that if you are not coping then you need professional help. Find out what made you decide that you need recovery. Then find out how to help yourself recover and move towards sobriety.
You need to tell or ask yourself these things:
- Do you really want to be sober?
- Play the movie forward: think about the morning feeling of shame and guilt if you do drink; think about the silly things you say when you are on your fifth glass of wine, or second bottle. Think of all the things that you forget.
- Do you want to feel fresh and healthy forever?
- Give your body a break from all the substance abuse and let it live.
- Get quality and quantity sleep.
- Do you really need that social life connected to alcohol or can you choose to be quiet, knitting and reading every night?
- A mocktail is tastier than wine and far better for you.
- Do not believe that alcohol is a relaxant – it is far from that. You will awaken in the night and you will be all over the place at once, just not relaxing.
The media is packed with wonderful tips which we can all read and all benefit from. Being in recovery is not for sissies. Admit that you need recovery. This is the first, biggest and hardest step you must take. Then you find out if you are coping or not. If you are really not coping, take note:
1. Accept that if you want things to change, things need to change
Change your friends if necessary, change where you spend your time, and change family interactions. Just for a while, or maybe forever. It depends on you.
2. Stop trying to do it alone
Tell someone, anyone. Tell a few people. Those who will understand. Having someone to answer to and to turn to when things get rough is vital. Be honest.
3. Willpower alone won’t work
Willpower runs out. You need accountability and help. It takes a complete mindset and lifestyle change.
4. Educate yourself
Learn how addiction works. Read about it, speak to people, join forums and sober groups. Share your feelings.
5. Learn to understand yourself better
Are you happy? Why do you drink? What are you hiding? Find a mentor.
6. Try to be useful
Find ways to help other people. Look around you. Everywhere, there is struggle. Volunteer at the homeless shelter or a poor school.
7. Develop a gratitude practice
Gratitude works. Notice the beauty around you. Notice the world and its people. Smell the roses.
Reach out. Something better is waiting for you.
How do you know if you are an alcoholic? To assess your alcohol consumption, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you frequently intend to stop at one drink and over imbibe?
- Have you tried to quit drinking and been unsuccessful?
- Do you drink almost every day?
- Do you get cravings for alcohol?
- Do you miss school, work, or family functions because you’re hangover?
- Is your drinking causing problems in your family life or friendships?
- Has your drinking caused you to give up the activities you once enjoyed?
- Is your alcohol consumption stretching your income?
- Does your drinking put you in a position dangerous to yourself or others?
- Is your drinking affecting your physical health?
- Do you require increasing amounts of alcohol to get that happy feeling a drink or two used to give you?
- Do you feel depressed, insecure, anxious, irritable, or unloved because of your drinking?
- When you don’t drink, do you experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches, irritability, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, or tremors?