Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Falling Off the Wagon

I've had a number of e-mails and comments on the blog recently from people who've found the lure of drinking in the sunshine just too tempting, and have fallen off the wagon. Sometimes after just a few days, sometimes after months or years.

If that's you, and you're thinking aarrrgghhhh! Now what do I do? Then this post is for you....

A dive off the sober wagon generally starts with the same thought process. It goes something like this:

It's really not fair that everyone else is drinking and I'm not. It's summer/Christmas/my birthday/a funeral (delete as appropriate). I really deserve to be able to celebrate/commiserate/de-stress (delete as appropriate).

It's been AGES since I had a drink. By now I'll have 'reset' my relationship with booze. I'll be able to moderate! It's not as if I was a 'proper' alcoholic. I'll just have one, then stop. I'm older and wiser now. I know the dangers.....

Sound familiar?

So you have that one drink.

Now there are two ways that this can go. The end result is the same, but the path there is different.

Scenario One

You have that one drink and it's like coming home.

You think hello, old friend. I've missed you. 

But one isn't enough. It's just a teasing reminder of what you were looking for. A peak-a-boo from behind the fingers. So you have another. And another.

Before you know it you're on a bender. You wake up in the morning feeling terrible - physically destroyed and emotionally distraught. You know there's only one thing that can fix this terrible black hole: more booze....

Scenario Two

You have that one drink and you don't even enjoy it that much.

It tastes a bit like vinegar. Mouldy socks.

You think blimey, was that what all the fuss was about? Then you think yay! I'm cured! I don't even like booze much any more!

So, a week later, at another party, you feel confident enough to have another one. Actually, two this time.

Before too long you're drinking a glass or two most nights, and a bottle at weekends. Before much longer you're back to exactly where you started, dazed and bemused and thinking how on earth did I let that happen?

I know you'll be reading this thinking ah, but I'm different. We ALL think that we are different. Yet the main thing I've learned from this blog is how spookily similar we all are, despite our variations in ages, locations, nationalities and backgrounds.

(If you don't believe me then look at this post: Relapse Stories).

So, if you've just fallen off the wagon, then here's what to do next...

Pick yourself off the highway, grab onto the chassis with both hands and haul yourself back up as quickly as you can.

The problem is that even one little drink kick starts the wine witch right back into action. After days, weeks, months or even years of training her to stay in her box and keep quiet, she's back with a vengeance.

In scenario one, she's saying: see! I told you so! You can moderate! You're a 'normal drinker'. Woo hoo. Carry on baby!

In scenario two, she's saying: oopsy daisy. You've really blown it now. Never mind, you might as well go for it for a day or two and quit again next week when you've re-gathered your strength. You know you can quit again - you've done it before. Easy peasy!

But the truth is the longer you carry on drinking, the stronger the wine witch gets, until before long quitting seems just as impossible a task as it did last time.

In fact, this time it's even harder to gather up the enthusiasm, the energy, the excitement. You know it's going to be tough and you just don't think you can face it right now.

(And now there's this little inner voice saying: you failed. You're useless. You'll never do this).

Perhaps next month, when things are a bit easier....

But if you climb right back on, as quickly as you can, you can treat it as a bump in the road, a cautionary tale, a salutary reminder. It'll be hard for a few days, maybe even a few weeks, but you won't be back at square one, not by a long shot.

Onwards and upwards (and sometimes a little bit sideways),

SM x

P.S If you're a serial falling-off-the-wagoner, and can't get past the first few weeks, then please, please read this post: The Obstacle Course

23 comments:

  1. Thank you. I needed this today. I was at 107 days and have experienced scenario 1 and 2 over the past 3 weeks. No lie, word for word you have described my thoughts and feelings exactly. I woke up this morning and I'm jumping back on the wagon and gonna hold on for dear life!

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    1. So today is my new Day 1 x

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    2. Oh I'm so sorry, Shazza! You were doing so well! But all is not lost - just forgive yourself and keep going!

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  2. Well scenario 2 was just like me, happened exactly the same every time. Lesson learnt. Am on day 103, finally made the 100 after a few false starts. Jus have to keep trying. More importantly have just returned from hols in France and did not have a drink at all. The first sober holiday ever ( and am over 50). If I am honest it was a bit flat for about 3/4 days then after that perfectly fine. You can get kronenberg alcohol free beer in all the supermarkets and instead of wine when out I had citron presse which they bring with allsorts of paraphernalia - sugar, water, ice, spoon, glass of juice. Felt like such a bon viveur! Best of all no hangovers. Best ever holiday - who knew!!

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    1. Awesome work Sharon! Bien fait! Amazing! Xxx

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  3. Perfect timing! I been on Scenario 2 for the past couple months, after beginning January with a great start; This month is my 54th birthday and I decided 8-1 to get back on track! I'm going to print this post and place it in my journal. Thanks SM!!!

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  4. Day 116 and I still need to read posts like this. Good reminder that we are often so similar. This is exactly how I think when the wine witch calls.

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  5. Sorry to be a bore I know I have told this story as many times as I have stopped drinking but..... I made it to day 139 and thought I'll have one last goodbye session and then get back on the wagon. Unfortunately it took me 14 months to get back on for any length of time. Day 74 for me today and I have had everything from pink cloud to white knuckles but I am staying on co I know how hard I have had to fight this time. SM is right, get right back on the wagon cos the witch does get stronger and louder the more days you are off.

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  6. You have such a perfect way of putting things.

    I have thought about both scenarios over the past few years. In the end, I don't want a drink, I want to get drunk....and that says it all.

    Best to hold on to my joy and vitality. Happiness isn't that easy to find. Why risk it?!

    Anne

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  7. I think this will be a long battle. I was in London today and even went onboard the Tattersall Castle on the Thames for a drink (softie) but later went up around Berkeley Square. Sun shining, lots of people spilling out onto the pavements with their beer and wine - all very fine and a scene that I used to be a fully paid up member of; usually first in and one of the last to leave. I'm 7 months into this thing now but days like today are still hard and all the self talk and logical reasoning does little to assuage the feeling that all I really wanted to do was join the rest of the merry throng. Still, I'm here, back in my home away from home, listening to the wind, sober. I've told myself that I'll be the smug one in the morning - going to the gym before breakfast, without a hangover but right now - I wouldn't mind the hangover. Sorry, not very encouraging but there it is. I'll be turning the light out soon and putting an end to another day.

    Justonemore

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    1. Well done Justonemore! I bet you're so glad now you stuck with it, however tricky.... I worked in Berkeley Square for ten years - fond memories. Xx

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  8. I was in London & Brighton last weekend for my daughters graduation ceremony. It was a tough call - the sunshine, the champagne, the pimms... All the lovely soho lunches and evening pub crawls left me feeling a little nostalgic. In fact at one point I burst into tears at my perceived unfairness of it all. Why do I have to be different to everyone else? Why can't j just have one glass of champagne at my daughter's prize giving? Why me? I felt so left out. I have 160 days in the bag today. I will keep strong.

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    1. I know I know I know! There are often moments like that, but increasingly they're outweighed by the good times. You're doing great!

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  9. Morning SM and fellow travellers...I hear you loud and clear...thank you....I too recognise the nostalgic and somewhat irritating call to join in...I went to Malmaison in Oxford for a reunion with old friends from my expat days in Nigeria...where a close bond was made and many fun times were fuelled by alcohol....that evening .Mohijtos, champagne, wine with dinner, the reminiscing went on til early hours..I was the only one on water and peppermint tea...but I have not laughed so much in a long time, and did not envy them their heads the next morning at breakfast,, it is a challenge...suspect it always will be...I still have the card I wrote with the pros and cons of drinking In my handbag,,,it winks at me whenever I reach for a lipstick.....I am just beginning to see the the changes in my skin, hair, face, stomach etc...in my fifth month AF.....I am slowly having an effect on those around me who, without my judgement are choosing to drink less....as you say SM onwards and upwards..x

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    1. Great idea keeping the list in the handbag! Glad you're laughing!

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  10. Great post SM! Timely for so many of us. I find it hard to let go of my idea of the person I used to be. And I do feel so much more boring living a sober life. That is particularly the case on social occasions. But the benefits so outweigh these considerations. It's a new phase of life. I must expect to wobble for a while. Hope you're hanging together SM? Thinking of you. X

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  11. Hi SM thanks for this. I'm a scenario 2 person. Been there more than once, it all starts off ok and then I'm back where I started! I'm in day 100 today! Thanks for your blog posts they are s great support to me.

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    1. Congratulations on 100 days Putting Down the Glass!! That is fantastic, u must be so pleased with urself & deservedly so!! x

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    2. Huge congrats on 100 days PDTG! Awesome!

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  12. As always wise words. Deep down I think we all know moderation does not work for us - but we wish it did. I am very lucky to have had a few holidays this summer and have had a couple of wobbles. It has been tricky but reading this blog has made me realise that one drink will be one too many. Lost count on number of days AF - but over seven months - most definitely couldn't have done it without SM and this community.

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  13. I am a complete scenario 2 person.. I will go a month.. two months...and then watch it all slide away. Its that age old FOMO feeling and the warm weather does nothing to dispel it. That said, I believe a drinker can find any excuse for a drink.. too happy/sad/scared/angry, too wet/sunny/snowy/ celebrating, commiserating, its all the same. To be free and liberated is a goal worth aspiring to. xx

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  14. I needed this today! I am on vacation alone with my husband and it is very hard not to drink! Today I even asked him if he thinks I could go back without a problem! Of course he said "no!" But it's so hard sometimes! Xo

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