Saturday 20 October 2018
One of the keys to beating addiction is understanding the wine witch.
If you've ever been addicted to anything, you'll know instinctively what I mean. If you've never had an issue with moderation (lucky you), then this post may help you to get inside the head of those who do.
I really can't remember when I first met the wine witch. I think it must have been sometime around my late twenties. I know that when I was at University I would drink sometimes, and not drink at other times, and not think about it at all in-between. It just wasn't on my mind.
But, at some point, a little voice started to take up residence in my head. At first, it was barely noticeable, it felt just like another regular thought. It would say things like ooh, she looks fun, looks like she enjoys a drink or two. You should make friends with her! or Hey, it's still early! Why not have one for the road?
So far, so normal.
The problem with addiction is that it's progressive. Those thoughts which used to float by once in a while start to appear more often. You begin to be familiar with better buy an extra bottle, just in case you run out and what about a wine box? So much more cost efficient!
By the time I quit drinking, the wine witch was a permanent resident in my head, fretting about when I was going to drink next, how much I was going to drink, where I was going to buy the drink from, how many bottles were in the recycling bin, and so on.
Sharing your head with all of that on a daily basis is exhausting, as well as totally distracting. It's difficult to achieve anything else in your life when you're dealing with all the constant chatter.
So I quit.
The problem was, that when you start to fight your addiction, the internal monologue initially gets WORSE.
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING? YOU FEEL AWFUL! YOU NEED MORE WINE! YOU ARE BORING WITHOUT IT! LIFE IS BORING WITHOUT IT!
You start to feel like you're going a little crazy. You know logically, with your conscious mind, that the booze has to go, that it's no good for you, but your sub-conscious mind is still addicted - it hasn't caught up. You're effectively waging an ongoing battle in your own head.
This is where the wine witch comes in.
You need to give that voice a name, a personality, so that you realise it's NOT YOU. It's your addiction. And once you separate that voice from yourself, you can understand it, and you can beat it. You can't keep fighting yourself for very long, but you can fight an evil enemy.
Addicts choose different names and personifications for their addict brains. I love the wine witch, because wine was my thing. Alan Carr talks about a snake which has taken residence in your belly. George Michael sang about The Monkey.
Why can't you do it?
Why can't you set your monkey free?
Always giving in to it.
Do you love the monkey, or do you love me?
As soon as I named and pictured my enemy, I knew I could kill her. I understood that she would try every trick in the book to try to persuade me to drink, because that was how she gained her strength. I knew that the only way to destroy her was to deprive her of alcohol.
I would imagine blasting the witch with a machine gun. I'd fry her with my dragons (thank you, Game of Thrones). I'd clobber her around the head with my stiletto heels. I was The Bride in Kill Bill, wreaking furious vengeance whenever that witch stuck her head over the parapet and started bleating about just one won't do any harm...
The longer you go without a drink/drug, the weaker the wine witch or monkey becomes, their voice less strident, less insistent. But just one drink brings them back to life with a vengeance.
It takes a while to kill the witch. For me, it was about 100 days until she started quieting down, and six months before she really shut up.
Then, one day, I realised that I hadn't heard from her at all for some time. I was free. I had tapped my red shoes together and gone back to Kansas with Toto.
And that silence, that freedom, is the most magical feeling in the world.
To find out more about the ups and downs of the first year sober, read The Sober Diaries here (UK) and here (USA) in hardback, Kindle or audio.
I also post daily information and inspiration on the SoberMummy Facebook Page ('like' page to stay updated) and you can follow me on Instagram, @clare_pooley and Twitter, @cpooleywriter.
Love to you all,