Today is Day 40! Woo hoo - the big FOUR OH. Have a glass of veuve cliquot to celebrate! Oh, whoops - perhaps best not....
I used to be - and still am - obsessed with those quizzes called things like 'are you an alcoholic?' or 'signs that you're a problem drinker.' The problem is that I always found them too reassuring, despite the fact that I was drinking at least one bottle of wine a day.
I would happily stick crosses against questions like: Do you get the shakes in the morning? Do you get blackouts? Have your friends and/or family asked you to cut down? And, until 41 days ago (see Secret Drinker Hits the High Bottom) I confidently shook my head to 'Have you ever drunk in the morning? and Do you hide alcohol?'
But these questions were providing a false sense of security. We all have different 'ah ha' moments - those things that, in the middle of the night when we're wrestling the demons and sweating out the Chablis, make us realise that our drinking is actually a bit of a problem.
So, in the interests of honesty, and so that I have a written record to remind myself what life was like BS (before sober), here were my five signs. Please do, for the benefit of any worried drinkers reading this, add your own in the comments below...
(1) Dealing with hangovers
I started to notice that most people who wake up with chronic hangovers have the reaction 'Oh my God, I am never, ever, going to drink again'. And, indeed, they manage not to for at least a day or two. My reaction to a hangover had become 'Oh my God, I am never going to feel better until I can legitimately (i.e. after 12pm) have another drink.' This, I eventually realised was a sign.
(2) Trying, and failing, to 'moderate'
Problem drinkers all desperately want to be able to moderate. We do all sorts of deals with ourselves. Do any of these sound familiar: I will not drink on school nights? I will not drink before 6pm/before dinner/at lunch times? I will not drink alone/at home? I will not drink spirits/wine? I made many of these deals with the wine witch over the year or two before I quit and I was never able to keep to them for more than a week or two. This was another sign.
I started to spend more and more time thinking about drinking. For example, an hour or so before 'wine o'clock' I would start to obsessively check my watch. I would check my fridge daily to see how much wine was available, and plan my shopping trips around school runs accordingly. If the husband and I were 'sharing' a bottle I would constantly check that I was getting at least my share (hopefully more). Spending lots of time thinking about drinking is not a good sign.
(4) Physical and Mental Health
I was never hospitalised. I never blacked out or threw up. My doctor never twigged how much I was drinking (I 'fessed up' to 14 units a week - lol). But I had a terrible wine belly. I was overweight and puffy. I had debilitating insomnia (see sleep, glorious sleep), and I was miserable and stuck in a rut. It took a long time to twig that these were all signs.
I have always prided myself on being really open and honest, but towards the end of my glittering drinking career I started to lie. I lied to myself - constantly - about how much I was drinking. I lied to my GP (see above). I 'confessed' to my friends to drinking 'oooh, about half a bottle a day - isn't that terrible?' And then I started to hide half full bottles of wine in the cupboard so that when the husband came home I could pretend that I hadn't started drinking yet. For me, this soul destroying deception was the final sign.
So, next time the wine witch whispers in my ear that 'I wasn't so bad really. I've done 40 days without wine already, surely I can have just one?' I can re-read this post and remind myself how much better life is without all of that stuff.
If you're a drinker and recognise yourself in any of this then please do join me on this rollercoaster of sobriety. It's worth it.
Love SM x