There seems to be some dispute as to whether Mark Twain actually said this, no matter, it’s a brilliant quote.
It’s that time of the year again. When you start getting excited about Christmas, not because of the time off work, visits from family and friends or the presents under the tree, but because you know you’ve got 2 weeks where drinking to excess is fine. You can let those usual limits go, nobody will notice or judge you. You have probably had an inner discussion where you’ve justified this as normal festive cheer. Embrace Christmas – get hammered at any time of the day. Who doesn’t like a large Baileys or tumbler of whisky on top of a bottle of wine? It really is the best, isn’t it?
However, if like me, you may also have a nagging voice telling you that your drinking is a bit of problem. I mean, you know don’t you? Really?
Of course, I wasn’t an alcoholic or anything, I didn’t drink in the mornings or wake up in doorways. That’s what alcoholics do, isn’t it? The ‘alcoholic’ label doesn’t really help anyone, does it? There is nothing to benefit from asking yourself if you’re an alcoholic. Because you know if alcohol is a problem. That’s enough.
I had a problem with alcohol for many years. A familiar story – a slow creeping problem, a growing dependency on a daily bottle of wine and a lot more socially. An alcoholic sledgehammer at the end of the day. I am a single parent, which meant using alcohol to numb the stresses of the day and inevitable loneliness was an easy option.
Like Mark Twain, I gave up thousands of time, sometimes for one day, occasionally for 3 or 4, but never more. I never had a sober January, or February, or March come to that. I was completely unable to give up. I enjoyed the highs, although they became lower highs or perhaps higher lows? I coped with the daily rollercoaster alcohol offered – dehydration, headaches and tiredness in the morning, with a commitment to either give up drinking for that day or forever depending on how bad the hangover was. As the day progressed, the hangover went away just in time to enjoy a refreshing glass of wine. And, so it continued.
There wasn’t one day when I thought or knew I’d give up alcohol. More a series of very low lows. An ever-present realisation that alcohol was taking control of my emotions.
On July 12th, 2015 I took my daughter on a holiday and I thought I’d not drink for the first couple of days of the holiday. I NEVER resolved to give up completely. I resolved not to drink for a day or so and maybe see how it went. And with that small goal I gave up drinking day by day. I didn’t make grand statements about being sober, I didn’t seek congratulations or praise, I just didn’t drink. And quite frankly I would have given myself zero chance of continuing with alcohol-free days. I have no unique qualities that made giving up easy – I have no self-will at all (an unused gym membership), I took drugs in my twenties (and thoroughly enjoyed them), my father was abusive, I have attracted needy and troubled men – I have my demons, real and created, just like everyone else. Demons I could hang my alcohol problem on very easily.
But here I am 2 and half years later, sober.
Some of you may be contemplating giving up alcohol, you may even know that you need to at some point. You don’t have to do sober January – you just need to do one sober day followed by another. Is sobriety a world of happiness and good health? Not really, but it will give you some control back of your life and emotions. Quite frankly, if I can do it, then ANYONE can. I wish you every success. Peace.
- I have never written about giving up alcohol before and I know my experience isn’t universal, but I do hope, if you are having struggles it might give you some hope. Xx
My name is Sam Missingham and this is my website for book-lovers.