It was my birthday yesterday and I knew as soon as I woke up that I’d be drinking.
As I stood in the shower, I told myself that having ‘done’ 31 days alcohol free, I could now try a month of Moderation Management . In theory, it sounds great. You abstain for 30 days and then you start drinking moderately- for women, it’s one or two drinks, every now and then. Perfect. There are several events coming up over the next month when I would usually drink and practising Moderation Management would allow me to drink, in a normal, sensible, responsible fashion. No missing out!
And so off I went for lunch, with my Mother and sister. I sat in the sun and ate lovely food and slowly sipped at a couple of glasses of sparkling wine over the course of a few hours. All very civilised and normal. I didn’t feel tipsy and there was no overwhelming urge to drink more. I did however start to feel very tired and my mood began to dip.
By the time I said my goodbyes and left my mother and sister, I felt very, very sad. I was heading to the beach to watch the full moon rise over the water and there was no stopping me as I pulled into a liquor store to purchase some drinks, because watching the full moon rise on your birthday is the perfect occasion for drinking alone.
And so I drank. Properly. None of that Moderation Management bollocks. No pacing drinks, no keeping an eye on how quickly I was drinking. I drank one, it was nice, so I had another. I watched the moon rise and that was lovely, so I had another.
The Stop Drinking switch turned off and I was well on the way to getting drunk.
I had a great time. I messaged a couple of friends and family, I drank, I looked at the moon, I chatted (rambled drunkenly and embarrassingly) on the phone to a friend, I drank, and I went home and laid on the floor, because by this point the whole room was spinning, spinning, spinning and I just needed to have a little lie down to make it stop. And then I threw up, because my tolerance had lowered after a month abstinent, and I had a great time cleaning that up and then lying on the floor some more.
And then I called in sick to work because by this stage it was 1am and if I was working, like a normal person, I’d have to be up and functional in 4 1/2 hours and that was just not going to happen.
And then I went to bed.
It was marvellous.
But my favourite part was waking up this morning and instantly realising I Had Done It Again. I had gotten drunk and wasted my time, health, energy, money and self esteem on shitty shitty alcohol.
The saving grace is that I don’t have a horrendous hangover. I don’t feel great but on the scale of hangovers, this one is relatively mild. I don’t have The Fear, although in the past, this sometimes likes to visit later in the day. I don’t have a headache and I’m getting on with my day. Most importantly, although I am disappointed that I chose to drink, I am not beating myself up. There’s no point in berating myself. I made a crappy choice and now I know better.
So where to from here?
Well, the idea of a month’s Moderation Management is obviously laughable. That’s being tossed out the window. I did not enjoy the couple of ‘civilised’ drinks I had at lunch. It just lead to me feeling very tired and very sad. Not worth the calories or money at all. I don’t see the point in having just one or two. And I don’t want to get drunk and lie on my living room floor.
What I was seeking was to drink like a normal drinker. What I do is drink like a fish. A fish with no ‘off’ button. A fish who drinks to get drunk, to mentally escape the confines of it’s fishbowl, while physically swimming around and around and around in the same old boring space.
I’m not a fish.
I am someone with free will and the power of choice. I choose to get back on the abstinence wagon. I don’t know how long for- the concept of forever seems impossible and ludicrous and I feel like I’d be setting myself up for failure if I was to declare that I’m never drinking again. But equally I feel as though I’d be setting myself up for failure if I didn’t have some sort of goal to aim for. I know that I can do 31 days, relatively easily. I knew that I’d reach my goal of a month’s abstinence because I had my birthday and the opportunity to drink dangling like a carrot on the end of a stick. But it obviously wasn’t long enough time to instil lasting change or to form new pathways in my brain (is that even possible with alcohol use?) or to so change my life for the better that the idea of drinking at all became undesirable, so the new goal needs to be a longer period of time.
Let’s say 3 months. That sounds doable and not too overwhelming. Let’s see what happens over the course of not drinking for 3 months. Will I want to drink at the end of it? How much will my life have improved? Will I have escaped my fishbowl?