I get asked why I don’t just moderate my drinking instead of giving up, a lot! Well, here you go…
One of my least fond childhood memories is my drunk dad throwing up out of the passenger window of our family car and it splashing on my window behind him. I can’t really fluff that story up for you. It was grim.
On another occasion he picked me up from school unable to talk and drove me home so inebriated he had no recollection of doing it.
In the middle of my A levels he left us and went to Europe with no warning and didn’t return for 3 months. One day a postcard addressed to me arrived with the word ‘BUM’ scrawled across it. This was the only contact anybody in the family including my mum had had from him in weeks. I guess it was supposed to be some sort of private joke that he thought I would find funny. I guess he was drunk.
The only time he wasn’t drinking was during a year when he committed to sobriety in order to slow his liver damage but it got him in the end. He died at 52 of organ failure following a pub binge.
Even given all the drunkenness, I adored my dad and I know he loved me with everything he had. He was kind, razor sharp witted, stylish, hilarious, generous, an incredible chef and highly intelligent. But he was an alcoholic who just couldn’t quit and of all the wonderful qualities I wanted from him, the one I got in abundance was his addictive nature.
Well, thanks dad.
Thanks for giving me the gift of sobriety because quite frankly had you not been such a hell raiser, I might be dead by now or at least well on my way.
Can you moderate your drinking?
When people say to me,
‘Why don’t you just have one drink? Learn to moderate your drinking. Don’t be so compulsive.’
I’m like, ‘OH! I seeeeee! Yes, you’re right. Now you’ve said that, I will stop being such a fucking loser!’
I would love to be a mindful drinker. In fact, I wish I was Jen Johnson, the mindful drinker.
20 years of neural trekking
The neural pathways associated with alcohol are so well trodden in my brain that even if I don’t use them for ages they are well established. One drink and I’ll be back on rails fighting with myself not to drink on Mondays… failing, not drinking on Tuesday…. failing, etc. I would be back in that abusive relationship within a week.
(Marc Lewis explains why addiction is not a disease in his amazing and easy to understand book, The biology of desire available on Amazon.)
I quit while I was ahead
Even given all the training I received from my dad and the years of committed drinking I have undertaken, somehow I managed to get out unscathed. My life is pretty awesome and I am fit and healthy. How come?
Because I hardly qualified as having a drink problem. In reality I was able to limit my intake, even if it did take every ounce of effort to do so. I just wasn’t prepared to let myself become him. I wouldn’t let my sons down like he let my mum and all of us 5 kids down.
Seeing my dad go in and out of rehab, in and out of affairs and in and out of our lives was so heartbreaking that there is literally no chance that I will do that to my family. I won’t play with fire, so I quit while I am still way ahead.
Why would you wait to hit rock bottom?
Why would I let myself reach rock bottom before deciding to give up drinking? My rock bottom was very tame: a row with my husband over how I didn’t think he drank enough. I mean, it’s comical to look back on now but it was enough to stop me in my tracks and do the thing I knew had been coming for months: Googling, ‘am I an alcoholic?’
Once I was in that dark place it was a no-brainier. To go on would be to live in complete denial and eventually I would have to look myself in the eye, when everything had turned to shit, as it inevitably would and say,
‘I chose this. With full understanding of the consequences of drinking too much I chose to continue doing it. It’s what I wanted for me and for my family.’
I cannot moderate my drinking. One drink is not an option. One cigarette isn’t an option for me. I am the rat in the laboratory cage, pressing the red button for pleasure even though it is killing me. I know that about myself and knowledge is key. What you do with that knowledge can be the making of you or the end of you.
Yeah, but I love drinking!
I will probably never drink again and that’s a fucker because I freakin’ love alcohol but I also love driving really fast, smoking Marlboro reds and skiing without a helmet. But there it is.
It was a real shocker to discover how awesome life is without alcohol. I now understand that the only thing I am really missing is the quick escape that alcohol offers. But you know what? Now that I have faced my demons square in the face and told then to go fuck themselves, I actually feel like there is a lot less to escape from.
There are a lot of people who drink way too much. They do it without thinking and they do it because it’s what everyone else is doing. I would urge those people to be brave enough to step off that carousel and either quit or cut down massively. Because even if you think you can handle it, remember, you are not the only person in your life.