Last night a familiar thought process formed in my mind. It formed as I sat in an AA meeting. If it can get to me there, it can get to me anywhere. I didn’t want to go, not one part of me wanted to be there and that was before the devil sunk its claws into me. I knew I didn’t want to drink and I knew I didn’t want to go to the meeting. But I got my tired self on the bus and I’m glad I did because the woman I first saw in last week’s meeting was there – I had wanted to say hello, she was new having moved here from abroad, but she was surrounded by others and I had to rush off anyway. So I was really chuffed that we ended up chatting and I regretted being there a little less.
Once again I listened to the chair and then to others sharing their experiences. A common theme is emerging. Actually, it’s not emerging as such, it’s the overwhelmingly dominant theme each time: this is hard, this is a difficult journey and we are lost without AA. Over and over again, with each meeting. I didn’t share, only listened. If I’d spoken I would have told the chair her background and how alcohol first affected her was all identical to my story. To that point, it could have been my story she’d told: childhood and upbringing without any trace of alcoholism or abuse, silver spoon nicely in mouth, all very lovely and loving and secure and safe. And of course the clincher: she had never been able to have a drink without bingeing and most drinking would result in black-out. Snap! I could have shared that but didn’t. Others did anyway.
If we for one moment peel away the fact that us drunks have an abnormal reaction to alcohol in that we can’t stop if we have ANY, I reckon most five-yearolds could tell you that drinking and getting drunk is bad for you. Right? And here’s what I’m discovering. I’m an alcoholic and for whatever reason a mental obsession that is so powerful it’s almost impossible to resist takes over the moment I so much as THINK of having a drink. This I know for a fact and if it’s a disease, mental illness or I’m just an awful and weak excuse for a human being I don’t actually care about. I don’t care about – not really – what exactly it is or why it’s there, I just know it IS. Obviously I know that alcohol (and in particular alcohol abuse) is bad for you and like any other person – a teetotal, a drunk or your average social drinker – I could tell you about the reasons why we shouldn’t drink. I could tell you that we’re all, whether we have a problem with alcohol or not, better off not drinking alcohol.
That’s not what I’m trying to get at. Again, a child could tell me the reasons why I shouldn’t drink. What I need to work out are the reasons why I do drink and once I have, set about to work on those.
In AA meetings I feel alcohol is magnified, feared and actually bowed down to. I declare myself powerless. And so last night, when my old friend the devil was suddenly perching on my shoulder, I needed to demonstrate that I run this show. I wasn’t about to wait for a higher power to give me a sign strong enough for me to see it or frenetically call all the names in my phone with ‘AA’ next to them. Poor Sparks, I imagine she’d roll her eyes if she read this. I imagine a lot of the ladies I’ve got to know might roll their eyes. Actually, they’d probably just wish me luck (and mean it) but inside think to themselves I’m taking the wrong path and they’ll see me again next year when I’ve relapsed and got myself to an even darker place. Who knows. They’re wonderful people so I do know that whatever they’d think they’d as always have love in their hearts. But back to last night. I needed to put myself through it. I needed to know that the muscle power to get myself through this is my own. I needed to know that. I needed to know that my desire to be sober is greater than my desire to drink and I needed to face the beast head on. Mark my words – when I went into battle there was not a single part of me that thought I’d make it through.
With the devil whispering in my ear I got off the bus earlier. I needed to get home to make dinner for my son but I still got off the bus, adding a half hour to dinner time. Nothing else mattered. In my head I knew I was going to get wine. A box and a bottle of soda water. I allowed the thought to take hold and gave in to it. I walked along the river for half a mile before turning up the high street. I was powerless, my feet taking me a familiar route. Rounding the bend opposite where I prefer to get wine I suddenly knew just what I’m up against. I couldn’t tell you what happened but I didn’t cross the street, I kept walking. When I realised I was actually walking past tears spilled over. Thank God it’s February and still very dark at 7.30pm and no one saw. I was walking past and I kept walking. I hadn’t thought I’d be able to, not with the devil on my shoulder again. My mind instead started to focus and plan for the last shop up at the other end where I sometimes go but don’t like their boxed wines as much. It’d do. Still a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, just not my favourite one. My feet and mind worked in unison and further up I crossed the street so I’d be on the “right” side this time. I knew I was going in, I knew I was getting wine and the devil served up delicious images of drink that were so enticing I could feel the bubbles from the soda fizzling with the Sauv on my tongue.
I was going in. I had given in and up. Ten yards away I already started to veer to the left side of the sidewalk. But I didn’t. I fucking didn’t. And I couldn’t tell you how if happened because I was THERE. I was right in that moment when I’d be powerless (and I thought I was), when I’d give in, when I’d drink. I’d completely resigned myself to it. I also knew my son’s eyes would be sad again, that my husband would also feel sad and mostly for me when I’d tell him I’d drunk, that Sparks and anyone else from AA would know because I’d tell them, and most of all I knew I’d wake up Friday morning feeling worse than perhaps I ever have. I’d made peace with all these things because my alkie brain doesn’t care when it’s busy making plans with the devil. It’s cruel, but show me the alcoholic who stopped drinking because the desire to drink was overcome by a reluctance to hurt anyone including herself. Just show me that one drunk.
Somehow my feet kept walking, I veered slightly towards the door but then straightened my line of travel again. I walked past. I still can’t tell you how that happened. I don’t know how. Who knew that the high street would ever feel like I’d been slaying dragons the whole way home. There I was, walking the last half mile to our front door. I felt like there should be some majestic soundtrack, something classical and powerful like in Braveheart. For a moment, as I walked that last half mile I pictured my husband’s face, again like it could have been a scene out of some epic movie. His face and how his eyes would sparkle – those incredible, big, blue eyes – when he’d see me in the distance against all odds, how he’d run towards me and scoop me up in his arms because somehow I’d made it through when he’d thought he’d lost me. I pictured my son’s face, imagined his pride at having this warrior queen for a mother and how she’d slayed dragons to get to him. Yep, that’s what walking the length of the high street was like for this drunk when she had the devil on her shoulder.
Point is, I did that. Yes, it was the hardest thing and I’m still quite baffled that not only did I make it home without getting any wine, I didn’t drink (because there’s still plenty of stuff at home I could drink if I decided to even if I didn’t get any Sauv: red wine, whisky, lemoncelli, champagne and various other liqour) and I woke up without a hangover this morning. When I walked through the door my son sauntered past me with a “hey mum”. He obviously had no clue that the high street this evening had been harder and more violent than all his Xbox games put together, nor could he see all my bleeding wounds from dragons’ claws and teeth or how fire had tinged my hair and clothes. He couldn’t see my sword and shield either, that I’d dropped at my feet when I closed the door behind me. He didn’t know I’d fought for my life to get home alive.
“I need a hug,” I told him and did my best to hold back the tears and he dutifully wrapped his arms around me and I knew I was safe.
Hell, if I can fight off several dragons, I can hold back a few tears. I allowed them to spill over and find their release when I finally heard my husband’s voice on the phone. I told him about the dragons and I told him how I fought a fight to the death to get home. He told me ‘poor bunny‘ and how he’s proud of me. So yeah, he’s very much my real life epic movie love, running towards me when I appear on the horizon of a battle field strewn with bodies and lives lost. I also told Sparks about all the dragon business and she advised to never keep things inside. Thing is though, this I needed to do. I needed to face this beast off alone in order to understand my strength.
It is exactly one month today. A month sober! And today I won’t drink.