My fiancee, Em, was with me from before I made the decision to quit the lovely brown booze. She’s been there through my struggles, wobbles, and moodswings, and was kind enough to offer support by quitting at the same time as me. I asked her if she’d mind writing a blog about the experience from her side of the table, and so here you go 🙂
I’ve never been much of a drinker. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely been that person who’s throwing up and pissing in public on a Saturday night having drunk most of the beer in Lloyds Number One, but it’s never been a lifestyle or cultural thing for me. Even before this whole chapter of my life I chose to be sober a lot of the time and am well practised at being able to filter out 2000 people gurning their faces off on MDMA so I can get on with dancing to music that I love, or successfully ignoring a club full of pissed up metal heads so I can head bang without falling over. Trust me, it takes years of practice.
When I met Jon I was well aware of his reputation as a drink monster, it’s how we met after all. His band and my band played the same festival together so I had seen him in all his beer filled glory more than once, but it never occurred to me that it was anything more than having a laugh. We all do it and its fun. Of course it’s fun or we wouldn’t do it!
At the beginning of our relationship it was all about getting to know each other, sharing stories about our pasts, understanding each other’s quirks and favourite foods. Drink didn’t really come into it as we had much more to focus on. But the first time I really witnessed the extent of Jon’s drinking skills, which was about 4 months into our relationship, I have to admit, I didn’t like it. In his defence he was never aggressive, angry, violent or cruel, but he changed and it happened as soon as that first drink passed his lips. The way he spoke to me, the way he behaved, the way he tried to show me affection, they were all different and it quickly became clear that drunk Jon wasn’t someone that I liked. He was annoying, difficult and quite simply a liability that I didn’t want to be responsible for.
I know what you’re thinking – all drunk people are like that! Well, yes, they are. But when that person is your boyfriend and its every single weekend then the impact is different. We had a long distance relationship for 9 months and so weekends were the only time we saw each other, and most of that time was either spent with Jon drunk or hungover. Not the ideal use of precious time together.
We tried a few different ways of managing how much he drank: putting a limit of the number of drinks, drinking at the same pace as me (snail’s pace), not drinking altogether, but no matter what we tried as soon as he’d had one there was no stopping him. Nights out turned into arguments and I lost count of the amount of times I called it a night earlier than I wanted to just so he wouldn’t drink anymore. Nothing worked and I started to question whether this was the kind of person I wanted to be with.
I can remember clear as day arguing on the way home from a gig because, yet again, Jon was totally hammered. He declared passionately that it was part of who he was, he couldn’t help it and he wasn’t going to change. This induced my rage beyond anything before. Drinking is not part of a person, it’s a choice they make. No-one is born with a bottle of wine in their hand. They choose to drink and for some people it becomes a problem, but it’s not who they are. But of course, trying to get this across to drunk Jon was about as pointless as me trying to do quadratic equations.
That fateful night after our lovely holiday to France was the tipping point (see https://soberpunks.co.uk/2016/08/11/tipping-point/). Jon lied to me to try and cover up his drinking and that was a step too far. I am not a very tolerant or patient person, I don’t mince my words and I don’t suffer bullshit. That’s from previous experiences of bad people but its created a very strong sense of self preservation and I am very good at protecting myself. That horrible day my defensive wall flew up and I decided I couldn’t continue with our relationship. I was deeply in love with Jon but I wasn’t going to accept this as my life. What I never wanted to do was give him an ultimatum because if someone doesn’t want to quit addiction for their own sake then the threats of others will achieve nothing. So I simply told him I didn’t want to be with someone who put alcohol before their loved ones. And I meant it. I was ready to walk away and leave him to it. You may accuse me of being unsupportive or selfish but my staying wasn’t going to save him, he had to do it himself.
And you know what? He did. And most importantly he did it because he could see how bad things were and that something had to give. Not for me, but for him.
The following weeks were tough. I didn’t know if the damage that he been done could be repaired and I had no idea what to expect from someone trying to overcome addiction. But I knew I wanted it to work, and to prove it I decided to quit drinking too. It wasn’t a big deal for me, but I wanted to show Jon that I wanted to support him and we’re now 14 months sober together.
There have been learning curves along the way. Some social situations are off limits because they’re just not fun if you’re the only sober one and it’s not really your kinda night out. But that’s OK. I still go to those nights out and Jon keeps the bed warm and the guinea pig company. There were periods of time where he was snappy, stressy and very irritating, but quitting alcohol isn’t just about getting it out of your blood stream. It’s about getting it out of your brain. Even between drinking sessions your poor brain is still trying to get back on track and that kind of up and down cycle isn’t easy to get out of.
Some events were harder than others. Sometimes Jon would say he wanted to have a few drinks because the reality of being in certain situations sober was a bit too unfamiliar and truthfully quite intimidating. But not once did he give in. My response was always the same, “you drink if you want but I am staying sober.” That gave him the freedom of choice to do what he thought was right rather than me telling him what to do which is something I will never do. He’s not a child, he’s an adult (most of the time).
Despite all of this I don’t really have any advice for a partner in the same situation. Addiction comes in many different guises. Drink problems are not just black and white, they are complicated and personal and effect everyone differently. I wouldn’t change the way I dealt with it. If Jon hadn’t have quit then I still would have walked away because my remaining wouldn’t have helped him. Like I said, if someone is going to quit it’s not because of threats and ultimatums from loved ones. It’s because they’ve finally reached the point where they know its best thing they can do for their own sake. I guess in our case it was good timing or we wouldn’t now be planning our wedding.
I’ve always been an active and adventuring type of person and now I have someone to share it with. Now that Jon’s focus isn’t on where the next drink is coming from a whole new world of possibilities has opened up and he wants to do everything under the sun. He’s the most productive and proactive person I know! And that’s just fine by me because it feels like we’re making the most of life rather than drowning our time in alcohol.
I’ll sign off by saying how unbelievably proud I am of Jon and how far he’s come. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it would happen but I can’t put into words how glad I am that it did because I’ve got my Pokemon back.
Peace, love and happiness, people
I left this unedited despite the Pokemon bit. If anyone calls me Pokemon they’re getting shanked in the bits.