Ok ok brain, I’m writing. Thank you for letting me sleep until 5:29 though. Kind of you. Practically a lie in really.
I was going to start with when David left me - meaning when he so abruptly walked out on me and my son after promising us the world. But actually it started before that. When he left me every day when he was commuting. We would have a couple of large glasses of wine (so 2/3 of a bottle each) in the bar at Waterloo. It’s one of the only places I’ve been that I never caught the eye of or chatted to anyone else there. Not the bar staff, not anyone. I only had eyes for him. He was my world and he left me every night. For someone with a massive fear of being abandoned I still haven’t really come to terms with why I let this happen to me. Then I’d walk back to the flat and drink another bottle. The pain inside was just unbearable otherwise.
And then at the weekend, I’d get drunk and sleep with anyone who would have me.
It was a very self destructive life. And it totally destructed when he left for that final time. When he walked out of the door without even saying goodbye to my son. I felt like I’d bared my true self to him and he had fled. I was suicidal and even more drunk even more of the time. One of my friends used to come over every single night. I was totally out of his way to getting home but he came by and just let me cry and get drunk and then eventually I’d pass out. He saved my life. I couldn’t see why it was worth saving but he saved it.
And then life continued.
Working in the City and living where I did - the memories were everywhere. I couldn’t escape and I relived everything, all the time. And David was still in contact with me. Through all of this even though he’d rejected me yet again, I still let him peddle his lies and false promises. Why? I don’t know. I know now that I’ll never let myself go through that again but at time I had no sense of self worth or self value. (Yes, I do think of my surname every time I write the word “self”. It’s a bit surreal 😆). I think from what I understand now, I had an almost innate need to punish myself. To put myself in a situation where I inflicted that much pain on myself again and again. To hurt felt both familiar and unbearable. It was the same sense of pain deep inside as the one I had felt growing up. I knew this feeling. And in a world of confusion and hurt anything that felt familiar was comfortable, yet completely devastating to my confused mind and soul.
Writing this down, I can feel that pain again. I honestly don’t know how my friend had managed to save me when all I had wanted to do was find something that would put an end to the pain - even if that meant ending my life.
Suicide is so often that. Not so much a desire to end a life, as a desire to end the pain.
It was a confused and traumatic time. I moved again, and it got worse. I lost my way. My son hated finding me drunkly smoking out of the window late at night, crying again. He was embarrassed when I got drunk and fell asleep one day at Granny’s. Being drunk when staying with her was a new low. I’d never done that before. Then I got drunk and passed out at my sister's. He told her about the incident at Granny’s, and my sister had a word with me. She was kind - but firm. I was upsetting him.
At the same time I was in contact with the amazing, amazing, amazing Samaritans. They let me ramble on for hours. After contact with the mental health crisis team, I got a referral from my GP to the team that triages you to find the best support for you. In the long questioning process, they uncovered my drinking habits. And the very kind and not judgemental advice that came back was to seek help for my alcohol addiction first before undertaking any therapy. The red flag had been that I used drinking in times of emotional distress (all the time then…) to numb the pain. And therapy can be painful. It can be intensely pain relieving, but it can be painful in the process. So, I thanked her, and took the number for the local self referral alcohol and drug addiction service.
And, in the meantime, I had been subjected to the kindest and most loving intervention I’ve ever yet heard. And trust me I’ve heard a lot. My boyfriend said:
”Kiri, please don’t drink to get so drunk. It steals time away from us.”
If you have a drunk person in your life, and you’d like to talk to them about it, take note. Please. It was so non-judgemental and it felt so loving. It felt like someone actually wanted to be with the real me, not just the drunk me. I felt so loved.
And on a drunk hen night reunion, I talked to the most wonderful people. One that night and one the morning after. They gave me advice and kind and loving help.
So all these things were coming together. At the same time, I was spiralling further and further down. I had eventually ceased contact with David but I couldn’t understand why the pain wouldn’t go away. I had such a deep ache of loss inside me. A void. The void that I tried to fill with drink. And you can never fill it. It’s like a sink without the plug in.
So, I got help. I picked up the phone and called the alcohol people. I was absolutely shit scared. I don’t know why but I know I was. They were lovely and kind and straightforward and took some details. They asked me to come in and talk to someone. So I did. And I was so so scared and nervous going to that appointment. But Sean was amazing. Kind and lovely and said he’d been where I was, and there was no judgement here. I felt safe. Finally it was ok to talk about the elephant in the room. I’d known for ages I had a problem, but I hadn’t wanted to admit it. I’d been to an AA meeting once and actually I’d felt falsely reassured there - I wasn’t that bad so I didn’t need help. Here, I actually told Sean the truth about my alcohol consumption. We always lie don’t we, anytime anyone asks. But here, there was no point in lying. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it properly.
They used a mixture of a key worker (Sean) and a group therapy course over 8 weeks.
At first, before the group sessions began, I just talked to Sean a couple of times a week. I would go in and tell him how I was and how my drinking had been that week. He wasn’t there to judge me - he was there to reassure me. I wasn’t the worst person in the whole world. I wasn’t a failure. I was just a person. Slowly we began to talk about reduction. Gently decreasing the amount of times a week I would get drunk. Starting to make decisions about drinking a little less. For me - an all or nothing person - it was better to not have any on a certain night than kid myself that I could just have a glass.
And then the group sessions started. And I have never been so nervous in my life. I was petrified. I walked in and I and about 15 other people were there. All as nervous as me. I don’t know what we thought would happen. But what did, was that the most lovely man in the world ever came in and sat down and talked to us. Jason had been right where we were, and knew how nervous we were. He talked. I can’t remember what he said but it calmed us down and we all introduced ourselves.
And the course ran for 8 weeks, twice a week. Most of us weren’t working at the time but the ones who did had been given time off to attend. HR are apparently fantastic about these kind of things nowadays. I’m pretty sure it would be illegal to discriminate and sack someone for seeking help like this.
I used to look forward to those sessions so much. One of the girls there was so similar to me and we bonded. We just clicked and it was so nice to hear and see someone in the same place as I was, going through the same things.
We learnt that happy people just simply do not become addicts.
”Studies also show that substance use disorder is frequently a response to trauma and pain for people who reach for the numbing effect of mind-altering substances. Banta-Green and other researchers emphasize the need for counseling and support systems to help addicts in recovery handle ups and downs without self-medicating.
“A big part of recovery is people learning positive coping tools for dealing with physical and emotional pain,” Banta-Green said. “So many people use so many substances to deal with bad feelings. We have to recognize that trauma is a major driver of a lot of addiction problems.””
Understanding this for the first time was a major breakthrough for me. As stupid as it might sound, I’d never connected my early childhood, my relationships, the pain I felt, and my drinking all together in this way. Something clicked inside me. I picked a date - the 22nd September - a month before my mastectomy and a month after my birthday. Each of August, September, and October now have the 22nd forever circled in my calendar. I would quit drinking on the 22nd September, and my boobs would be off on the 22nd October. And I’d be running a marathon the next April. This was my plan.
So I went out with one of my best friends on the 21st September and got totally drunk. See it out in style, hey?! Remember if it’s worth doing something, it’s worth doing it well and wholeheartedly.
And then I stopped drinking.
As it turns out, my car crash of the aftermath of the operation helped somewhat in that the meds I was taking were seriously and strenuously contra-indicated with drinking. And lockdown with someone who doesn’t really drink at all also massively helped in the not going out and being tempted part of recovery.
But ultimately, I don’t want to dull that pain anymore. When I have a glass of wine (once in a blue moon) now, I don’t actually feel that same urge to drink until I can’t feel anything. I’m learning about my pain now. I’m exploring how it feels in my body and my mind and my soul. And I’m learning to live with it. Granny said it might be like the pain of grief - it might never go away. And I’m truly ok with that.
I just don’t want to drink until I fall asleep anymore.
I’m sober now, and I really like it. Yes I still drink occasionally and I’m fine with that. For me, my definition of being sober means never using drink again to dull that pain. When I am in pain now I explore it. I take it by the hand and talk to it until I can work out why it’s hurting. And that process helps me deal with it and hold it inside me without running away from it. Talking and writing about it are the most cathartic things I can do.
And I’m beginning to like me too. Very slowly but it’s there. It’s like starting a new relationship, that phase where you’re finding out things about the other person. Only this time it’s myself. I’m piecing together my past and my present and I’m working out what I want my future to be. I don’t know what that is but right now I know I’m safe and I’m loved and that’s all I need.