I am Sarah and I am an alcoholic. Not active, an ex alcoholic.
The first statement is one that many are familiar with, quoted millions of times at the famous AA meetings. Prior to my sobriety, those words always conjured up for me, an image of perhaps a down and out, skid row homeless person, that had sunk to the depths of depravity, more than likely male, late 50’s, bumming change on the streets of a city for next hit of Meths.
Not me. Smart, intelligent, woman of the world, highly functioning, attractive, beautiful family and beautiful home, living in the Golden Triangle of the gentile Harrogate area.
The best way I can describe my drinking career is to compare it to a doomed love affair. It started off with me in control, social drinking, a couple of glasses before dinner, and then maybe some more with the main, champagne with celebrations, something a little less fizzy for disasters. The love of my life was always there getting stronger, no matter the reason, to allow me to cope, my crutch, my habit. But he turned into something far more sinister and I was dying. Dying for a drink. I was not a ladette laying in the gutter with my knickers showing after a binge on Friday night, I was the woman you see in Aisle 4 at Marks and Spencer’s food hall.
The two glasses after the school run preparing dinner turned into a bottle, the bottle turned into a few, the few turned into anything I could get my hands on and still I functioned, in agony, shameful, often embarrassing, always guilt ridden.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease that I now understand. Eventually I surrendered, but not without a great deal of chaos and grief. The chaos came from losing my forever home, my mask of respectability and very nearly my family and my life.
I now am a counsellor, although I am not really keen on that title, more of a facilitator, that helps many women like me, just ordinary, everyday, Mums and or not, stay at home and professionals, cope with either problem drinking, or full blown alcoholism. As an ex alcoholic, I realise that although AA does a wonderful job, one size does not fit all, and I have yet to meet two alcohol abusers who are the same. Nor was I comfortable sharing with strangers who had only one common denominator, booze. This recovery process has to be selfish but at the same time filled with empathy. My partner helps the nearest and dearest, he was once one of them. For those that love you are the victims in all of this too.
By coming out of the wine cellar, and talking openly I hope to de-stigmatize this invidious disease and show that like many other life threatening illnesses this can be discussed with bravery and pride, instead of feeling like an object of mockery and scorn hidden and so afraid.
So join me on the life raft, there is plenty of room, without any judgement or anger even if you happen to capsize occasionally, this is not a straightforward voyage, just gentle support with some established steerage to change those habits and triggers that may lead you to despair, isolation and desolation. It can be done, I am your safety net.