I’ve always had a compulsive nature.
Growing up as an only child I remember feeling extremely lonely. This was compounded by my parents happiness. An awkward relationship with my step father and his love was conditional. Things had to be done his way. Children were seen and not heard so my outgoing personality had to be suppressed from a young age if I was going to get by.
I was always a bit of a liar. Probably because I was a people pleaser. I wanted people to like me. I would massively exaggerate everything which instead of making people like me made them distrust me. I am still an exaggerater to this day, its so strongly built within my personality.
I could never really identify with anyone. I had half siblings but they were older, my father wasn’t my own and I knew he longed for his own child. I had moved as a child and was settling into a new school. I suppose for as long as I remember I had issues with my identity. I just couldn’t seem to work out where would fit in. I never felt quite right.
One of my best friends said to me when I was 15, 18 (and again when I was 22) ‘Zoe, most people know who they are are by now and have got their own style’. She didn’t mean it in a nasty way but it preyed on my insecurities about my identity and further confirmed my unhappiness at not feeling right in my own skin. Of.course there are a lot of people who don’t really know who they are at that age.
Growing up my parents didn’t really drink. The odd glass of Muscadet at Sunday lunch or a beer with a curry on a Saturday night. From being tiny I remember having a thumb full of wine at special lunches. I relished feeling grown up. My father firmly treated me as a child and I enjoyed feeling like an adult.
In my mid teens at Christmas time we would go to the local pub and I would be allowed 1 glass of perry and I would always try to get another one through manipulation. Usually unsuccessfully. I remember my drinking really took off just as I started college. The day I got my GCSE’s I went to to the pub with my then boyfriend (who was older than me with older friends) and I felt really sophisticated. I didnt feel alone.
Drinking = not being lonely and good times.
When I was about 19 I split with my long term boyfriend. I was devastated. In hindsight that was probably the time that my depression kicked in. All I knew was that drinking helped me to stop the pain and the hurt that I felt so acutely.
From that point my drinking escalated. Within a period of a year or so I went from drinking 1/2 a bottle of white wine a night to 2.5 bottles. I knew this wasn’t right but the only way I felt settled was being on my own in my room drinking, smoking and reflecting. The feelings of remorse started to kick in. I would wake up feeling bad, drive to work still half cut, regretful and sad and feeling empty, vowing not to drink that night. By early to mid afternoon I would start to feel better and I would be looking forward to a glass of wine that evening. This cycle continued for years. I couldn’t escape it.
I didn’t seem to have a choice in the matter. If the thought came into my head that I wanted a drink, there was nothing that could deter me from that course of action.
In my early twenties I found out that my real father had died. He was aan alcoholic and died of liver cirrhosis. Something changed in me. Subconsciously it was almost like a green light for my drinking. That this would be my downfall so I may as well embrace it. A self fulfilling prophecy.
The years that followed were fairly car crash. I lost relationships that mattered to me as none were more important than my relationship with alcohol. I couldn’t function at work, my depression was bad but antidepressants didn’t work because the booze was counter acting them as a depressant. I was having debilitating panic attacks. Not just on a daily basis but my whole life was a panic attack caused by the remnants of a hangover of which I would drink to feel normal so the whole cycle never ended.
This went on for years. I dropped friends who weren’t interested in pubs and drinking and made new friends who had drinking problems themselves but to us we thought we were just drinking all day Saturday or on any day off because that’s what ‘young people do’ and that actually we were very sophisticated. Not so sophisticated when I was waking up choking on my own sick or acting out because I wasn’t in control of myself. I found a job working for a company who actively encouraged drinking. I loved the jaunts away where drinking commenced at 7am but that was OK because we were successful sales people.
I was sad. Really sad. The drinking stopped me feeling lonely for a few minutes then made it so much worse. It didn’t matter about friends or family I was lonely in my heart. I wanted a family.
I stopped drinking throughout pregnancy. After my babies were born it started slowly on a Friday night, then moving into Sat, Sun, thurs and fri. Not to the extent it had been previously but I was unable to drink certain drinks because my body was intolerant to them after years of imbibing them.
I couldn’t not do it but I didn’t want to do it. It was a compulsion. I had no choice. I would write notes after drinking to read when sober about how awful I felt. How miserable I felt. Ironically, whilst I was drinking I knew how much I didn’t want to be doing it but when sober it was the other way round. Behaviour that I would have said I would never do became acceptable. I was a prisoner.
I’d always been fairly open about drinking to excess (yes, I had hidden bottles as well though) and I think my openness was a cry for help. For someone to tell me that actually its not normal. I was given a situation where I had to stop or there was too much at stake.
To date its taken a lot of educating myself about addiction. Its not just alcohol. It’s relationships, friendships, hobbies, exercise, sex, food. I have an addictive personality. It’s all or nothing with me. I feel everything or nothing.
All I knew and all that I had ever known was that my desire to live and watch my children grow was the strongest desire of all. So for now I have to fight myself but I have great support and mechanisms in place to help me.
I choose life.