Saturday 29 August 2015

Coming Out of the Closet

A belated, but heartfelt congratulations to the the wonderful LushNoMore who has not been a lush for SIX MONTHS! Well done LNM. You rock!

Most of us lie when we first stop drinking.

This is an entirely unfair state of affairs. When people stop smoking they shout about it! Everyone pats them on the back and supports them. Ditto dieting. How many conversations have you had with friends over the merits (or not) of the latest fad diet?

But, quit drinking, and we mumble about antibiotics, designated drivers and detoxes.

We are, quite justifiably, terrified of people's reactions. We worry that we will become pariahs at the time when we most need our friends around us. We know that in our drinking days we would treat non-drinkers with suspicion, possibly contempt.

I started off with the simple explanation: I've given up for Lent. I needed a detox! Could do with losing some weight.

This worked a treat. Lots of nods. Well done you's. No uncomfortable silences or tricky questions.

As Easter came and went, and people kept seeing me sober, my 'excuse' morphed into this one:

I gave up for Lent and it felt so brilliant that I've kept going for a bit. Who knows, I might even do a whole year!

This one leads to a lot more questions: what are the benefits? What are the downsides? etcetera. It makes people a bit more uncomfortable, but they can manage it.

The problem is that it's a lie. Plus, I'm concerned that every time I state out loud that I may start drinking again it gives a bit of life back to the Wine Witch (see my post on Neuro-Linguistic programming). I worry that I'll get to 365 days and she'll pipe up "There you go! One year, tick. Crack open the bubbly!"

So, what next?

What I'm not able to do is say this: I am an alcoholic in recovery. I am never drinking again.

Here's why: Firstly, as soon as you mention the A word, people imagine you are a horribly neglectful mother, pouring vodka on your cornflakes for breakfast and passing out nightly in a pool of vomit in front of your kids. It's not true, and it's not fair, but that's the way it is.

Secondly, I do not view myself as 'in recovery'. I don't believe that alcoholism is a disease - it's an addiction. (see Is Alcoholism a Disease?)

Thirdly, the reaction to the 'alcoholic in recovery' stuff is that people assume you are miserable. Taking one awful day at a time. Constantly yearning for the amber nectar that you can never reach for again. That's not me; I'm happier (after a fair few ups and downs) than I've been for years.

Fourthly, it makes people question their own (possibly addictive) behaviour, and they do not like this. We understand that, don't we?

Finally, it makes them uncomfortable drinking in front of us. As if we're going to forcibly wrestle their glass from their hands, down it and go on a three day bender.

So, for all of those reasons, I avoid that one like the plague.

Instead, I am playing with several different versions of the truth. Depending on my mood and who I'm talking to I wheel out one of the following:

1. The Allergy Story

I seem to have developed a sort of allergy to alcohol. It just doesn't agree with me any more. Perhaps it's age. Hormones. Whatever. But it makes me fat, depressed and unable to sleep. Bummer, but there it is. So, no more vino for me.

2. Been There, Done That

I have this theory that we are allocated a life time supply of vino at birth. I got a bit carried away, and I've drunk mine already! Hell, it was fun while it lasted, but I just can't do it any more. It doesn't agree with me. I don't agree with it. I've moved on.

3. All or Nothing

I ended up drinking more that I should and, you know me, all or nothing! I don't do stuff by halves. I find it easier not to drink at all than to drink one small glass of wine four times a week. It's like smoking - I had to quit that too when I ended up on more than a pack a day.

The reason these work for me is that (apart from number 2 which has to be used sparingly, choosing your audience, as it can make people think you're a little weird...) not only are they true for me, but they are also true for most of my friends.

Most people, I've discovered, find that alcohol agrees with them less and less as they get older. Most people, even 'normal drinkers' find moderation hard. Instead of thinking "ooh, she's an alcoholic! Not like me then!" they are nodding away and empathising.

And, it makes them think perhaps I should quit too.....

On the whole, these conversations convince people that I am happy! I am not 'recovering' from some terrible disease, pining for some past nirvana. I am okay. Better than that - I'm AWESOME.

And so are you, my friends.

Have a great weekend!

SM x


  1. So true, I too use a combination of these explanations to people, most often the doesn't agree with r any more and gives me palpitations (true but not the real reason). I'm also a bit suspicious of my motives sometimes though, and worry that part of me is subconsciously wording it so people won't be surprised if at some point I do have a drink in the future - the only person who knows the full story is my partner.
    Just wanted to say thank you for blogging so regularly - I'm at 100 days today and your blog has been a huge help and inspiration through it all. I was just thinking similar thoughts to you this morning that had it been smoking, a diet etc I'd have been happy to say publicly to people; as things stand, it has to be my own private victory. x

    1. Not that private, SB! We are here saying WOO HOO 100 days! That's amazing. You're amazing. Go shopping - celebrate! It's all much easier now. Huge hugs SM x

    2. Aww thanks SM! I certainly feel proud of myself. It's still a challenge but with more firsts being ticked off (currently on my 1st sober all inclusive holiday. Thank the Lord they have AF beer!) it's slowly getting easier. I look forward to celebrating your milestone in a couple of days. Big hugs LNM x

    3. Oopsies! I think I've tagged this onto another comment x

  2. I'm starting out again on Day One after 2 sober weeks, and a year of stop/start blogging before that (and sober trial and error before that! Aaaarrrggh). I'm going to start reading your blog from the start. Thanks for being here. Annie x

    1. Hi Annie! I've been reading your blog for months. I love your writing and your honesty. But what really stands out is your vulnerability and your sadness. You know that will all go away if you can just get past those first few months. Hung in there. We're all with you. Sending you big virtual hug xxx

  3. Yeah I say i have quite bad anxiety (which I do!) and drinking was making it worse (which it was). People are so taken with the honesty they just node in agreement and think its a great idea to stop drinking if that is the case. Its so simple and so easy. The problem now is 'curing' my anxiety...great post. Kats xx

    1. I tell people this often. Because it's true. although I still have some dpaerious anxiety, at least it's deal-able

  4. Reversal of shame. We're ashamed of our drinking, we're ashamed of not drinking. How F'd up is that.
    I use #2 a lot, I tend to laugh things off. I rarely say that I'm a recoverealcoholic, although I'm definitely not ashamed of the title, but as you say, everyone has their own perception. BTW, I preferred bourbon on my cornflakes.

  5. I've found that people (in the main) have been supportive - and not very surprised! Only one person has said "Oh God, you're a boring teetotaller now". A few friends have looked thoughtful and asked a lot of questions about how much I was drinking, how hard it was to stop...etc..etc. I've tried very hard not to be constantly banging on about how great sober life is, and not to be 'evangelical" about it. Just casual. I just say now, 'i don't drink anymore. i was drinking too much and decided to stop, and I'm much happier now" No one can be judgmental about your happiness can they?

    1. This boggles the mind. Drunks are tedious.

  6. Most people do not care if we drink or not. I hardly drank at all until I was 32 (made up for lost time though!) and would just say "no thanks" occasionally people would press a bit so I would say "maybe later" but they were too busy getting wellied themselves to notice anyone else when "later" came around.

    Well done LushNoMore!

  7. congrats LNM! well done! I've taken the line to just tell people. I do however have to make sure I start the conversation with 'it's not like I was drinking first thing in the morning though'....So yes there is alot of ideas about addictive behaviour out there and it's not all correct!

  8. I feel like the novelty trick these days as I'm introduced as 'my teetotal friend, you know, the one I was telling you about. ...' I've spent most of this weekend explaining/justifying why I'm not drinking. A friend even asked if I was pregnant! I mostly just say I've stopped for a bit as was drinking too much and so far have no desire to drink again so am sticking with it. Like mtts I do overexplain a bit and make sure no one thinks I'm an alcoholic who has had to stop. I also don't admit to all the tears and sadness that come with stopping but I do tell how much I enjoy being sober. Some are surprised as I've always been known as someone who loves her wine but EVERYONE is supportive and, as I usually say I don't know how long it'll last for, most people encourage me to keep going and that maybe they'll join me.

  9. Most of us were such good "hiders" that it was not obvious to all how dire the situation had become. And to that end, I am having a hard time getting people to take me seriously and they keep suggesting that I might enjoy a margarita or such. Um, no, I don't think I'll do that. Whatevs.
    #2 has a simplicity to it and is also true- not working out for me. It's "problematic".