The title for this blog has arisen like a mushroom, overnight in a dark forest, because it needs to be seen. It also needs to be picked and tasted.
I am fascinated by the push-pull destruction of alcohol addiction. It is like a dance, moving in and moving out. A dance towards a substance and away from self. Are you caught in a love-hate relationship with booze?
I was. And I have been reading the Goodbye Letters to Alcohol this week on our amazing revamped Tribe Sober website. I have felt complex, myriad emotions. What really gobsmacked me was the brutal honesty, the raw exposure of deep shame and wracking guilt, blazing anger and oceanic sadness that the alcohol caused in so many lives.
And the courageous writers who are now mostly sober and who acknowledge their dependence on alcohol, and their relief when it is gone from their lives. I wanted to share every story, every letter, with other drinkers.
Courageous Sobriety vs Obsessive Drinking
I also delved into the guest blogs – gripping, heart-warming and educational stories, opening up beehives of interests and needs and emotions. All of them need to be read, by us, by our families and by the global community affected by alcohol addiction.
So, are you caught in a love-hate relationship with booze, right now? Is the push-pull destruction of alcohol addiction like a snake in your home? Do you hear the wine witch calling you every day at 5pm? “Have just a small one to relax you – you deserve a drink after a long day at work/a hard day at home/looking after the kid all day/doing all the housework/getting out of bed/going to the gym or yoga or ballet”… sound familiar?
The love starts after that first sip – aaaahhhh I feel so relaxed and mellow and all my troubles are easing away. I love this feeling, I love this wine. I think I will just have another glass. By the third glass, however, the hate is seeping into the love.
The hate for self, the hate of the family for you and that glass. You feel the hate and you start to mutter and get angry and grumpy and depressed. You resent your family for resenting you and resent that last glass for changing you. A daily pattern.
The Dance of Life
I have heard of the push and pull in relationships: Darlene Lancer puts it so well in her paper, “The Relationship Duet”:
The relationship duet is the dance of intimacy that all couples do. If one partner moves in, the other backs-up. Partners reverse roles as well, but always maintain a certain space between them. The unspoken agreement is that the Pursuer chase the Distancer forever, but never catch-up, and that the Distancer keep running, but never really get away. What is happening is a negotiation of the emotional space between them.
In our case of being drinkers of alcohol, we could say that the wine is the Pursuer at one moment, and the Distancer at the next! But wait! On the other hand, maybe, WE are the Pursuer? And then we are the Distancer as we feel the shame and try to escape the clutches of the drinking. Yes, this is the push-pull of alcohol addiction and yes, it is destructive.
Daniel Kelly describes his own love-hate relationship with alcohol and how he stopped and started a lot during his drinking days. He was doing so well, off the booze for a while, but decided to start again:
“In an attempt to cut down my drinking, I tried to limit the number of drinks I had when I went out. ?????? ??? ? ???? ?? ???? ??? ?????? ???? ??? ?????. Friday night rolled around, and I was determined to go to the bar, hang out with my friends, and end the night at one or two drinks. But this happened rarely, if ever. Before I knew it, I was waking up in my bed the next day fully clothed, wondering what the hell happened.”
Can you relate? That terrible feeling of “what happened last night?” “When did I get home, and who dropped me home?” “What did I DO?”
The Desire to Stop the Stop-Starting
He acknowledges that he needs to stop:
“Even though like many others, I had suffered many hangovers and I acknowledged the drawbacks of alcohol, giving it up altogether never really occurred to me. Quit alcohol entirely? No one did that. I mean, I would be a social outcast if I did that, right? Nonetheless, I couldn’t see how I could carry on drinking any longer.”
How many of you reading this have experienced these feelings? I did! I used to stop for a week, start again, stop for a month, start again, stop for 6 weeks, start again. And every time I started again, I felt as if I had had a good detox and that I was ready to have my wine again, because it was fine and there was not a problem.
When I stopped for 8 months, due to a drinking Sunday when I had way too much wine and my husband yelled at me yet again, I felt resentful during those long months. I got so fit and healthy and I felt all the benefits of the not drinking. But then those voices in my head, that negative self-talk, got the better of me.
I had a glass of wine. I moderated for a month then WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU MAM! I was back at square one again. Less than 6 months down that track and I had to give up for good, COLD TURKEY!
When we are caught in that love-hate relationship with alcohol, it messes up our lives and can take months, if not years, to resolve. The push-pull destruction of alcohol addiction bends so many lives out of alignment. Especially during the 2020 Covid-19 year of Lockdowns!
Find a Recovery Coach
One of my favourite ladies in this world is Holly Whitaker who says it like it is and who has saved any people from alcoholism. She is the founder of the first ever recovery programme for women in the USA. She started Hip Sobriety and I remember reading her hilarious blogs a few years ago. Now she is behind Tempest and it is essential that you read her book, Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol.
Holly is honest when she says, “By late 2012, I had been drinking problematically for years but delayed doing anything about it because I wasn’t sure if I fit the definition of an alcoholic, and because I just didn’t want to be an alcoholic. So I kept trying to drink “normally” until finally my drinking was so bad I had no choice but to do something about it. My moment of clarity came when I realized alcohol was getting in the way of everything I wanted out of life.”
Being Stuck in The EGO Time Warp
Being stuck in that time warp of needing a drink, then hating yourself for having that drink, is draining. It soaks up so much time we could be spending doing useful and humble things. Instead, our drinking is a way of feeding our greedy ego.
That ego that needs sustenance because something terrible happened to us long ago, or because we are stressed, or because we fear the future or because we are in lockdown or because …. And because ….
There are millions of reasons why our egos need a drink! Wake up people, conquer that ego and become humble. Reach out, get better and start helping the people around you who need it the most.
On that note, I want to use Holly Whitaker’s presentation about how we can escape that love-hate relationship with alcohol. We can deal with that push-pull destruction of alcohol addiction head-on. That does not mean we run away, no, it means we deal with all the CAUSES of our drinking. We look deep, at the REASONS why we drink.
For me, it is a huge DISCONNECT from me and others because my mom was too distracted with her own alcoholism to give me the nurturing as a baby and a child that I needed. I am now in my midlife and I still fear intimacy and relationships and myriad other things but I am dealing with it every day. It is hard but it is worth it! I loved what Darlene Lancer says about this very issue:
Research suggests that intimacy problems originate in the early relationship between the mother and infant. Babies and toddlers are dependent on the mothers’ empathy and regard for their needs and emotions in order to sense their “selves,” to feel whole. To an enfant or toddler, emotional or physical abandonment, whether through neglect, illness, divorce or death, threatens its existence, because of its dependency on the mother for validation and development of wholeness. Later, as an adult, being alone or separations in intimate relationships are experienced as painful reminders of the earlier loss.
Here goes: (with thanks to Holly Whitaker):
Definition of addiction: Anything we do to repeatedly to relieve pain, despite negative consequences. A neurobiological feedback loop gone wrong. It presents two issues: What drives us to it? What keeps us stuck in it?
What Keeps us Stuck: 7 Limiting Beliefs
- We think we can’t quit drinking and we think that we are the only ones in the world who can’t. So, get rid of this negative self-talk by using affirmations. Holly says: use mantras and design your vision for the future.
- We aren’t sure it’s that bad or that we really need to quit. We aren’t sure if we are “one of them.” We don’t want to acknowledge that we are an alcoholic! Holly says: make a list including time, money, love, energy – see how alcohol removes these. Stop comparing yourself to others and get rid of FOMO. Live your own life and rise above other drinkers.
- Cognitive dissonance. We have a love hate relationship, and we can’t imagine not drinking. This is our social conditioning coming in and we think there is a benefit to drinking. Magazines and radio, television and film all tell us that drinking is sexy! Holly says: Read This Naked Mind. Focus on your freedom and get excited about a new life; empower yourself.
- We are terrified. Period. Yes, it is terrifying to now have to give up a life we spent avoiding discomfort, avoiding fear. So, stop, and start to look at that fear and also the possibility of discomfort. Read more about your Reptilian Brain! Holly says: make a fear list.
- We have a very grim picture of what it looks like as a drinker – we see it as an incurable disease, a forever struggle. Holly says: read blogs about how people have conquered their drinking. This is your beginning, not the end, your adventure, not your disaster.
- We don’t like change. Finding the courage to make this change leads to the courage to make other changes and to reach for the things you never thought possible.
- We are afraid of failure. What if we try and we can’t? Be careful of this fear because it is the crux of relapse. Make a commitment to you and write a list of heroes who have failed in life. There are many out there! Even Elizabeth Gilbert failed and learned from that lesson!
How are You Feeling Now?
Ready to take up that challenge I hope: don your Superhero cloak, grab your superhero weapon and bop that love-hate relationship with booze on the head! Do the crazy dance that you need to do to conquer your push-pull destructive relationship with alcohol!