What is your Sober Date? Tell us a short paragraph on how you are living your best life now post addiction and recovery?
I have been sober since 14 May 2017. My life has changed so much that I would not have been able to imagine where I am now at that date. Gradually, as every sober day went by, everything slowly fell into place. Now I am a better mother, a better partner and my morals are totally different with alcohol out of the equation. I had suffered for years with chronic back pain, anxiety, depression and PTSD. Now, I am free of pain and suffering. When problems come up, I am able to deal with them, with the help of others and with a clear head. Being sober has given me a chance to really look at my life and how I think about things and this has, in turn, allowed me to reevaluate this and make changes. I have new hobbies and have made new friends. I have also connected on a stronger basis with my old friends. My new hobbies are linked in with my sober morals. I enjoy writing and painting, to me this allows me to be both honest and expressive. I also enjoy the gym and cooking/eating healthily. I would never have believed this before I sobered up. I used to scorn people who went to the gym (losers) and thought that ‘eating is cheating’ on a night out, prioritising shots and getting as drunk as possible.
How did addiction keep you from living your best life?
Alcohol addiction affected every single area of my life, as it was my top priority. Whilst I loved my children and did my best to keep things organized, what I really longed for was bedtime, so I could get the wine out and drink to blackout. I would then wake up in the morning, hungover and paranoid. Who had I texted the night before? It didn’t matter as I had to get ready for work. I would shout at the children, because of my hangover, it would be a mad rush and stress levels would be unbearable. I would get to work, trying not throw up on the tube, and stare blankly at my computer. Despite having studied for years to be a lawyer, my mind was blurry from the alcohol and I couldn’t cope with my workload. I would spend the day downing coffee and waiting for 5pm when I could get a mini bottle of wine to drink on the train on my way home. Then I would start all over again. This went on for years. This was me being in control. At the weekends, I would go out with friends and on occasion woke up in bed with total strangers, with no idea of how I got there. Somehow I had been functioning throughout blackout, but I had absolutely no memory of what had happened. This was dangerous and terrifying. I was constantly covered in bruises and had chronic back pain. I felt constantly sick and stressed, as if something awful was about to happen. I was only in my early 30s. Somehow, I actually managed to have a boyfriend who I loved towards the end of this madness. Obviously my addiction tore us apart as my behavior became more unpredictable. I would put all the alcohol on credit cards and as I moved from job to job, the responsibilities decreasing as I went along, to make more time for drinking, my debts built up into thousands. All of this didn’t make me stop drinking, it made me drink more.
What and who guided you toward an addiction free journey?
I tried again and again to stop drinking and I did manage periods of sobriety of a month here and there. Each and every time, I convinced myself I was fine now, and could have a drink. Each and every time, very quickly, my drinking escalated to the previous levels and even beyond. I was totally unable to control it. I went to AA and cried and cried at the meeting. I wanted to stop but I couldn’t. My father died at this point and my mother was in a care home, both as a result of alcoholism. I thought I was doomed. I knew I was nearing my rock bottom, and I feared this would be death. I sought help from a friend and stayed at her house. I got a few weeks of sobriety and had a nice weekend away with the children. The AA message began to get through. My boyfriend had come back to me and I knew how important it was to stay sober. My children were thrilled I was sober. I finally saw a light and had hope of how things could be sober. This guided me towards my journey. But then my father’s funeral happened, and I started drinking again.
What plan and steps did you take to get out of addiction?
This time my drinking was totally uncontrollable and I accepted this. I knew I would die and that I could not beat my addiction. I was convinced of it. I considered myself totally unworthy of life as alcohol had depressed me to the extent I loathed myself. I was convicted of a drink driving offence and spent the night in a police cell. As I had no alcohol in the police cell, I was having extreme withdrawal symptoms and suffered terrifying hallucinations and shaking fits. The police dropped me home and my ex husband told me I couldn’t see the children again. I didn’t want them to see me anyway. My boyfriend tried to help, but I pushed him away. I took an overdose and drank to excess and wrote suicide notes. After three days of being on a medical detox in hospital I knew I could not return home and arranged to go straight to a rehabilitation centre from the hospital.
Being in rehab changed my life. I needed a break from reality and I was lucky to be able to do this. I stayed there for 6 weeks, going to AA meetings every day and having counselling. The 6 weeks I was there was the longest time I had been sober since I was 14 years old and it was an absolute eye opener. I began to feel healthier very quickly, happiness and confidence also started to work their way in. I walked in the countryside, talked to my children and began to get my life back.
After rehab I found and attended my local AA group. I complete service there (to keep me coming back!) and I find inspiration in every meeting I go to. I identify with almost every share I hear, no matter how different from me the person sharing is. There is support in the rooms and I believe AA saved my life. Being sober gave me loads of spare time and I took up an interest in self help, reading lots of literature and started to train as a counsellor. I realized that one of the positive things I could do with my questionable past, was to share it with others and make them realise they too can get help and overcome addiction.
I took things slowly at first and avoided boozy situations. I told all the important people in my life that I was not drinking any more and explained how serious this was for me. I was surprised by how supportive everyone was, some people even coming to me to question their own drinking habits.
When did you decide it was time to take action?
Addiction slowly crept up on me over the years. I kidded myself for years that drinking socially was acceptable, this then turned into drinking at home and eventually, this turned into drinking in the morning. By the end of my addiction I was sleeping with a glass of wine by my bedside, as I knew that I would need a sip of alcohol to stop the shaking if I woke up. For me, the addiction was totally overwhelming and it was necessary for me to hit rock bottom in order to admit I was defeated and that I had to seek help. It took a suicide attempt and near death for me to reach out for help. I couldn’t fight the addiction on my own any more. I’m very lucky I lived through this in order to give sobriety and life a chance.
What was at stake for you if you didn't take these actions to get sober?
By the end of my drinking I had almost lost everything, I was in debt, without my children, about to lose my home, my liver was in a state, I had chronic pain and high blood pressure. I think if I had not sobered up, death would have been a luxury, as the other option would have been ending up an addict on the streets.
I am incredibly lucky that I did not lose my children and my partner through this process, as I know many addicts have. I did lose precious time and experiences with them through being drunk/hungover and I won’t get that back. Sobriety does give me the chance to make this up to them and to create a happy and positive future for us all.
For someone in the same situation as you were who wants to get clean, what would you want to tell them?
You feel lost and alone, but you are not. I have been there and so many others have too. There is nothing you have done that you cannot forgive yourself for. There is a life free from addiction that you can achieve and there are networks and support (even if you feel you have no-one) that can help you get this life. You can learn to love yourself. It will be hard work, but it will be worth it. I know that it is possible and I believe in you.
Claire McCartan is a qualified Counsellor and Life Coach, based in Hertfordshire, UK. When not being a mum and partner, she is also a carer for her own mother, having moved her out of her care home, and runs her own face-to-face and online counselling business, ‘Balance’. She is happy to chat on Twitter @BalanceCounsel1 and Instragram @balancecounselling
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