Releasing my book Camino: Walking Through Emotions was a challenge not just because writing an emotionally charged book is was difficult enough but in light of the fact I revealed to my wider social circle for the first time that I have been sober for over 11 years. I battled fear for months about letting my extended group of friends and former work colleagues know that I was woman in recovery from alcohol addiction.
Alcoholism is messy, inherently more so for a women. A man can be a fall down drunk but he is still a man. A woman who is a fall down drunk is viewed as nothing more than a filthy tramp. We are more likely to be frowned upon than a man with our struggles with addiction. How is that for gender imbalance? Even in addiction we are treated less than!
I was a newly promoted Sergeant in the Australian Army when I got sober. How the bloody hell could a 28 year old female, newly promoted Sergeant be an alcoholic? Sure I was just loosing my marbles. How the hell could alcohol be my problem. That was my solution. Alcohol was my faithful lover and companion When everyone else ‘abandoned’ me he was there.
He comforted me and loved me. At least that it was I thought up until the fateful day that I finally said; ‘I think I have a problem with alcohol’. The truth is my story began long before that.
I first drank problematically as a teenager after my parents had period of seperation. I thought all week about how I was going to get a flask of wine, it was cheap and would last me the entire weekend. Luckily or unluckily, I hung out at the local pool hall and older boys or girls would buy the alcohol for me and the other misfit young kids that hung around.
Over the years drugs crept into and out of my story but it was always alcohol that held my heart. It was there when my world was good, bad, sad, indifferent, crazy, hectic, calm. You name a situation and alcohol was there!
I don’t really know when the chaos of my drinking progressed and past the line of safe to problematic. Was it when I was vomiting in nightclub toilets or cheating on my partner after boozing up for days while he was away. Was it when I drank drove to the bottle shop to get my alcohol because I didn’t want to walk there. That would take up too much time. Was it when my relationships started to end early because my drinking made me jealous and paranoid.
What I do know is during one particularly dark periods of my life that included heavy drug use and drinking I knew I needed help but that tore the page out of the phone book that listed all the support networks.
I didn’t want to be alcoholic even if I couldn’t say the words out loud or even admit it to myself. I just wanted to feel normal, whatever normal was.
I watched the movie Girl, Interrupted that I thought to myself ‘maybe I could go to a mental institution and just rest’. Now that was my best thinking at the time. I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired but I didn’t even remotely think alcohol was the problem. Rather it was my solution and a few weeks to sleep and get away from everything was what I needed. Crazy right!
So why did I make the decision to break my addictive cycle? The night that became the catalyst for my recovery is coming up in Part 2.