When I got married last September, my best man Ben and his lovely missus Hattie bought us the coolest of wedding gifts – a private cinema screening of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which is one of mine and Emma’s favourite movies to watch together. Actually, it’s pretty much the only movie we both agree on. I like PROPER films like Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction and Kickboxer – stuff where folk get to kick the fuck out of each other and shoot big guns – and she likes obscure Japanese romcoms with bizarre theme tunes that sound like kids sweetie adverts.
The private screening was booked for mid-January at a cool little old-fashioned cinema up in Leeds, and we were allowed to invite up to 30 guests so we used it as an opportunity to catch up with my northern mates that I don’t see much of since emigrating south. Private screening in the morning, lunch at a Thai restaurant, then back on the M1 by 3pm. Bosh!
The whole thing was very cool, especially having an entire cinema blasting out immense comic book violence for just us and our mates at ear-splitting volume, but also I got a chance to catch up with my mate O-Dogg (not as gangster as he sounds) and meet his lovely new girlfriend Debbie – who happens to be a fan of SoberPunks! Turns out Debbie is four years sober, which is an amazing achievement! I’m always keen to hear a fellow non-drinker’s story and understand what led them to such a decision – so instead of just asking her about it like a normal person would, I asked her to write about it for SoberPunks. And what an epic and inspiring story it is…
I am 1500 days sober today.
This is the first time I’ve ever thought about, let alone been asked, to write my story. I didn’t think it would be so hard… I mean, where do you start? Where do you stop?! Do you censor it for other people’s sake? Should I be funny? Do I need to research addiction, and all the latest theories? I considered all the above, but in the end, I thought fuck it, I’ll just start typing and see what comes out, how bad can it be?! Ha. So be warned people – it won’t be pretty, it definitely won’t be eloquent, but it will be real.
I’ve always felt very disconnect from my body, like it was to blame for everything that went wrong in my life. At 8yrs old, I was fat. I was bullied. I found solace being tucked away in my bedroom-world, and soothed myself with food. Lovely lovely food. At 14, food turned into booze. At 17, booze turned into boys. At 21, boys turned into cocaine.
I pretty much used a combination of these four coping mechanisms to get through the whole of my 20s (which, by the way, had some pretty awesome highs; i lived in New Zealand, traveled to Australia, moved to London, bought a house, sold a house, got my tits done… and all whilst holding down semi-sensible jobs). I functioned. I was a classic binge drinker. A weekend wine warrior, and one hell of a blackout artist. The aim was to get as messed up as possible, to drink and snort my way through life. There’s a lot of stories that would bring on serious panic attacks for my parents if they were told, so I’ll keep it PG here, but the most scary of these are the ones that always felt like an early morning riddle I had to solve …..How did I get home? Whose house am I in? Why are there 50 missed calls from friends/boyfs/parents? How have I spent £300? Why is my car outside? Why have I only got one shoe, and no house key???? Who are you??
2012 was my breaking-point. I was 33, tipping the scales at 21 stone, in a long-term, sexless relationship and feeling more alone than ever. I knew I’d had enough of this so-called life. Things were out of control. I hated this version of myself.
2013 was going to be different though. It started well. I found the courage to ditch the deadbeat boyfriend just after a New Years Eve. I got my arse moving and was well on my way to losing 5 stone by June. I’d got my mojo back… or so I thought! But by the end of the year I was barely 10 stone, struggling to eat anything without it filling me with guilt, drinking copious amounts of wine, and was out ALL the time with an assortment of different “friends”. On the outside I portrayed a happy, thin, fun single girl. On the inside I was struggling with a crippling eating disorder, drinking to have the confidence to show up in the world, and would do anything – or anyone – for confirmation I was attractive and lovable. Self-hatred manifested into self-destruction.
I took my last sip of wine, in the bath, on Jan 3rd 2014. It was my way of self-medicating, in an attempt to stop the excruciating pain erupting inside my body. Pain I knew was the direct result of a huge Christmas binge. An alcohol, coke and cigarette fueled binge (menthol cigs though, so they don’t make me a real smoker do they?). After several hours of this I admitted defeat and drove myself to A&E, where I was admitted for almost a week after being diagnosed with pancreatitis and a deranged liver. Let me tell you, that shit hurts!! Some would say this was my “rock-bottom” but I’m not sure it was. I’m not sure you have to have a rock bottom to realise you have a problem. It was however, a great big reality-brick to the face, the wake-up call that what I had been doing to my body all this time was actually having a negative impact, and if continued, could kill me!
I’ll be honest, the first six months of sobriety are difficult for me to recall. Not totally unlike the morning after a big session, I struggle to remember the detail. I think I hibernated; hid away from the world, from temptation, and consequently from life. My circle of friends plummeted to less than a handful, and I could only concentrate on the basics. Work. Sleep. Gym. Coffee. Repeat.
I tried going to NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings, which was an awe-inspiring experience. The people in that group were true diamonds, they welcomed me unreservedly, they’d overcome the worst abuse and trauma, but I couldn’t relate to their stories. Twelve Steps hasn’t been part of my recovery. Relapse hasn’t either, but to be clear, I have huge respect for any way people choose to recover.
Sobriety is a journey, honestly, I know how cliché that sounds, but there’s no other way to describe it. When I was drinking I was under the illusion that it was a choice. I could stop if I really wanted to, but what I didn’t realise is that my life was a rollercoaster then, one I physically couldn’t get off because I was going too bloody fast. I chased those exciting, adrenaline filled highs, and wallowed in the muddy, self-pity puddles laying in the seedy underbelly of the ride. I thought this was the only way to live, I didn’t know that the alternative would be so god damn serene. There was no magic cure for me. Just one day at a time. Avoiding people. Avoiding places. Breaking the habits. The healing came later. These are a few of the things that have helped me recover:
- Baths – I fucking love baths. This basic thing would act like a pause button between the thought and the action. And it’s all about the self-love in sobriety.
- Exercise – I purposely booked a 6pm Body Pump class every Friday night -without fail. I was so buzzed after a class, and far too sweaty to consider going out drinking.
- Nature – Solo, early morning walks are still my favourite time to reflect and get some perspective on the world. As an ex-fat kid, it’s really nice to feel small every now and again.
- Podcasts – I lost a lot of friends, but through podcasts and social media groups/blogs like this one I connected to a greater, more powerful tribe where I developed a true sense of belonging.
- Kundalini Yoga – as taught by Yogi Bhajan, this has been fundamental for me. “It targets the whole body system to develop awareness, consciousness and spiritual strength” ..seriously – try a class. You won’t regret it!!
I didn’t know at the time, but all these things were bringing me back to re-connect with myself; to learn to love the body that I spent so long loathing. The beauty of being sober, for me, is that I am very rational now. I think in a new way. I don’t have erratic thoughts, uncontrollable impulses or the devilish desire for mischief.
I still have days where I struggle – where destructive, negative thoughts seem to resurface for no reason – but I am so fucking appreciative of my body. It’s been through a lot, its totally imperfect, but it has been on one hell of a ride!
I can’t help but gravitate towards, and be inspired by, people like Debbie. Anyone who has undertaken the journey of messy drunken bastard to full-time abstainer is, as defined by their actions, a focused, headstrong, and driven individual. The pitfalls and easy-outs on this kind of journey are aplenty, and so to be able to reach four years of sobriety – as Debbie has done – is a huge achievement. What’s even more encouraging and inspiring is that it wasn’t undertaken as a ‘dry January then I’ll get back to it’ kind of a deal. It was do-or-die, and it was tackled with positivity and gusto.
Just like Scott Pilgrim, if sobriety is your own personal Ramona Flowers then you have to fight on in the face of adversity. Destroy the evil exes (for the sake of this crappy analogy they are Castlemaine XXXX okay), earn the POWER OF SELF RESPECT, and then at the end of the movie you get to beat up a wanker and win the girl.
Cheers Debbie for sharing your epic story!
There hasn’t been enough swearing in today’s blog post.
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