Do you cringe when the recycling bins are dragged over your drive, clinking and jangling their merry jig at 6 am in the morning for the neighbours to hear? Do you share out your booze purchases between several stores to try and cover up how much you drink?
The amount of alcohol I drank steadily rose over the years. In my early twenties and thirties, I was strictly a beer man and most nights at the pub would be an eight-pint session.
By the time I'd settled down with a partner and had kids, staying in and drinking became the order of the day, and I progressed to spirits. Drinking Vodka is the absolute worst way to spend an evening!
That was the worst of the drinking, through a ten-year period from 40-50 my life revolved around the bottle until I realised that waking up with a stonking hangover every other day was not normal and I needed to cut back.
That was when the awful reality hit home. Trying to stop drinking was like trying to hold back the tide. The Alcoholic Voice would scream at me until I gave in. I never understood why a perfectly rational human being could wake up in the morning so determined not to drink and then be plastered again by early evening. It happened time and time again.
I had conditioned the brain into receiving its alcohol fix so regularly that now that I began to deprive it, it went haywire and screamed at me incessantly until I gave in. If you've tried to stop drinking for any length of time, you'll know that AV (alcoholic voice) all too well.
Of course, there never was just one drink. Once the first had gone down the hatch that was it, and I'd continue drinking until I passed out in a drunken stupor.
I tried all manner of “controlled drinking” experiments. Drinking only after 6 PM, drinking only at weekends, not drinking during the week, only having two drinks. All of these experiments ended up in the same fashion – me waking up with a hangover having made another excuse as to why I couldn't stick to the agreement.
Eventually, I came to the horrible realisation that to stop drinking I had to stop drinking. Easier said than done of course. Once you get to the point where you've exhausted all the “moderate drinking” experiments, that's when you stare sobriety as the only viable option squarely in the eye.
In the beginning, it is frightening. We use alcohol as a crutch in every social situation. Whether meeting up with friends, going out clubbing or BBQ weekends, all involve drinks or pre-drinks to “take the edge off”. Not being able to drink leaves you feeling naked and alone.
Also, if you've been drinking for any length of time then getting sober involves getting in touch with emotions that you haven't felt for a long time and it can all seem overwhelming. No wonder it is so hard to stop.
The first step is to admit to yourself that you have a problem. I didn't consider myself an alcoholic and indeed I know plenty of people who drink far more than me that wouldn't consider themselves an alcoholic either. Only you know how badly drink is affecting your life and the damage it is doing.
If you feel ashamed when the recycling containers are full again. If you wake up feeling shitty after drinking a couple of bottles wine on your own during a weekday and it happens several times a week. If you are constantly “tired of feeling tired” then you probably know the game is up.
The good news is that life is better on the other side. It will probably take you three or four months until you start seeing the full benefits of sobriety depending on how long and how much you've been drinking. But as soon as you stop, your body will thank you for it.
The benefits multiply though, like compound interest. Once you've got through the first week or so and made it to 30 days, then you'll be in good shape. It may not seem like it at the time, but there IS life after drink.