Gaz asked me one Saturday a few weeks back — as I ordered a vodka cocktail — whether or not I’d given up on the ‘not drinking’ thing. A fair question, given the ‘ordering a cocktail’ thing.
Sobriety was going really, really well. I had managed to get through several months without a drink, battling some immense cravings (which peak around ovulation, bizarrely) along the way. I ‘slipped’ on a couple of social occasions but was able to get back into it with ease. And then my brother died, and not only did I smash through a few bottles of red wine in a short space of time but it brought on a crisis. What am I fucking doing? Why can’t I just be “normal” and enjoy a drink with friends without getting utterly wasted? Why can’t I have a healthy relationship with this addictive drug (ha ha ha)? Am I going to end up like my brother?
It wasn’t pretty, and the more I thought about it the worse it got, and the worse the cravings got, and the more I felt useless and like a failure… a vicious circle of self-loathing ensued which, for someone used to self-medicating their problems with a glass or 5 of wine, potentially only had one way of ending. (Because only I could be so stressed about drinking that I need a drink to de-stress which causes me to stress about my drinking… & so on.)
So, I tried to be rational. I tried to think about what my “goals” were if I wasn’t going to be 100% sober:
- Enjoy a drink on a special occasion, e.g. birthdays, celebrations etc, without it being “weird”.
- Be able to order one drink and no more. Or, order a soft drink around people who were drinking without feeling left out.
- Not put on the weight that I lost by giving up.
- Not drink for the sake of drinking.
- Most importantly, to not get into a cycle of drinking to ease problems, which worsens my anxiety and depression symptoms caused by PMDD, which causes me to drink more.
With these goals in mind, I have been able to concoct a vague plan, and ultimately relax about it. Relaxing calms the stressy voices which immediately reduces cravings. This, combined with the pressure of knowing what I have to lose if I regress (my sanity, my relative happiness with my body), and seeing the impact of sobriety on my mental health, means I have been able to better make ‘mindful’ decisions about where and when to drink. To just ‘be chill’ about it.
So far so I’ve successfully navigated a couple of birthdays, a weekend with friends, several games nights and other social occasions:
I have chosen to drink, and to not drink, in equal measure. I have interspersed water with wine. I have picked low alcohol ciders over double vodkas. (And I’ve got pretty drunk and felt like shit the next day, which served as an excellent reminder of what not to do.)
I am feeling OK with where I’m at right now. It might not last; I might lose my shit and drink far too much, or… I might go sober again. I don’t know. But it’ll do for now.