It’s a few months on from my last post Living with panic attacks 'Point of No Return' I was battling with my panic attacks while driving which were putting me at risk of losing my newly launched business.
Looking back now this was a blessing not all at it was my ‘Point of No Return’ and I had to man up and face up to dealing with my life as the panic attacks were just the tip of the iceberg.
A big step taken and therapy booked. It was the right time as this time I did not adopt the usual teenage defiant behaviour of ‘whatever’. I was ready for it this time and I really wanted to get better as I was quite frankly exhausted with this brain of mine that used all of its energy in a very random and negative manner and was making my life and my nearest and dearest a misery. Much of my life has been focused on looking after and empowering others but I have seemed to bypassed myself.
I was sure all my what I like to call ‘challenges of life’ are linked. Well I hoped they were and I hoped that there was a magic switch the can be flicked so they will all go away in a blink of an eye.
Back in the real world I knew this was not going to happen. The only way to deal with my double life (good healthy living verses binging and alcohol and living with the dire effects of abusing my body) was to totally expose myself - well not in a taking my clothes off kind of way but to face up and admit my issue and main underlying problem that I am positive is the link to all my challenges - Alcohol.
Writing about this is an admittance of something I do feel shameful of but it’s also a relief to admit it and a start of dealing with a lifelong and hidden issue.
It took about 5 sessions of therapy to admit that it was alcohol that was my main issue. I knew it myself but I was still thought it might miraculously go away without my admittance of this horrible embarrassing addiction. My therapist is brilliant and I Hero Worship her but she cant help unless I am truthful
We dealt with my OCD, panic attacks, bulimia, lack of self-esteem and my issue with body image. My goodness, if I ever met the people who made my 4 years of secondary school hell through constant bullying I would love to put them through something similar as bullying seriously impacted my life in so many ways. ‘Get over it Lisa’ I can imagine people saying as it was years ago, unfortunately it is deeply embedded and the feelings can get out and attack at any time!
I was feeling better after these initial sessions but also a bit of a fraud as I glossed over the alcohol dependency. My therapist knew it was on my ‘list’ but I became selectively deaf when we broached the issue. My mind generally was on leaving the session and going to the shops on the way home for a recovery bottle of Chardonnay – the answer to everything in my world.
After all, it was not really impacting me, was it? I could not really be an alcoholic as I only drank wine (volume to be ignored) I led a very active life and to my friends and contacts I was a running and health freak and an inspiration to many. Oh, how little did they know that on many a run I was battling with all the hangover symptoms and feeling frustrated and angry about myself and my lack of control.
I have read about people being a high performing alcoholic, I thought I was like that as I managed to hold down many a demanding high powered job and climbed the corporate ladder at a swift rate at the same time nursing a daily hangover.
Almost, if not as bad was the guilt, depression and total paranoia of drinking and trying to hide the fact that I was drinking heavily. I would much rather stay at home on my own with a bottle (and a bit, and a bit more) of wine rather than go out and socialise. I do not do socialising very well due to the bullying experience so have to psyche myself up to go out. Usual pattern was to drink before I go out as I am nervous, go out drink more, be euphoric for about an hour, make a fool of myself. Then in the good old days wake up in the morning wondering how I got home. Then the paranoia and panic kicks in of what I have done, what I said and who saw me. Horrible, horrible, horrible
I am now veering down my alcoholic memory lane which could go on for ever with tales of horror and embarrassment so I need to get back to the present day.
The past year or so I have really been trying to control the drinking on my own but it was too big of a beast to deal with. I thought that my new lifestyle of running, circuit training and fitness would make me see sense. No, it just meant that I had to add exercising with a hangover into the equation and increase the abuse to my body as it had to deal with strenuous exercise, hydration, headache etc, etc.
I tried on numerous times not to drink on Monday through to Thursday. This would last a week or so then Wednesday would become the new Friday or I had a bad day so I would swap a Saturday for the Monday. As you can imagine this did not work in any shape or form and was far too stressful so back to Monday to Sunday - fully inclusive!
I always had a full list of justifications and reasons to use to drink. If we were out and about and there was no wine in the house I would suddenly remember that we urgently needed something non-essential from the shop which allowed me to pass the wine aisle and drop it in the basket without notice. The panic of having no wine at home and the relief of the bottle going into the shopping basket was a definite trigger point for me to realise I was alcoholic. Sometimes its not the volume you drink it’s the about the amount of space it takes up in your mind daily.
My general mood was pretty turbulent all the time. This was never apparent at work as I am great at always being in a sunny disposition and nothing is ever too much trouble. This is totally true with regards to work but how much better would it be if my mind was totally free of these unnecessary negative thoughts I put onto myself?
One evening of secret drinking and bulimia (yes, of night on my own the control gremlin wins and I do scare myself with my actions but cannot stop myself) I wrote a note to my partner who was at work and left it for him to read when he got home as I would be asleep and writing it down was easy that speaking.
I needed to put it in writing although he knew everything and I needed to do something before I did any further damage. I committed to going three months without drinking. A scary thought and my security blanket taken away but I had to do it.
It started on 1st Jan and I have set myself until 9th April which is the day of the Brighton Marathon I am training for. 31st Dec we went on an eating and drinking tour of the East End which I thoroughly recommend and I went to town on this as it almost felt like my last day of normality when in fact 1st Jan would be my first day of normality.
Panic, low mood, not really talking and ‘what is the point of life’ were the topics in my head for the first 5 days. nothing really worth living for now. that is how much control alcohol had over me. I was not a joy to live with by any stretch of the imagination and to deal with it I went to bed very early as it was all a little bit too much to face. I slept and slept and slept. My body was probably in a very confused state and was probably waiting for the next hit of feeling crap, dehydration, bloating and sluggishness.
At this point I was not sure if my goal was just wishful thinking.
It is now day 49 and my body has been treated to a little holiday and not a drop of wine has passed my lips. Do I miss it? Yes and no. My mind misses it sometimes but my body is doing a victory dance as it can do so much more!
It is a novelty to sleep through the night and not wake up with racing heart, dehydration and feeling of humiliation that I have ‘done it again’ and let myself down. I love the feeling of waking up in the morning with all my memories intact and enjoying that first cup of coffee rather than using coffee for medicinal purposes. I feel like a grown up and the feeling of not being paranoid or guilty for doing something wrong is the best feeling ever.
Energy levels at optimum which meant a newly painted kitchen and bathroom and my training runs faster per mile by 40 seconds compare to last year without even trying.
Its strange to have that feeling of being pleased with myself rather than feeling ashamed. I am proud of myself and enjoying different ways of getting the ‘high’ I crave through my exercise achievements and developing my business.
I do have days where it is very hard and would give anything to hear the wine glugging into the glass and know there was a backup bottle in the fridge. When I am dog walking and pass a pub, I feel like putting my hand through the window and picking up that lady’s glass of wine. I don’t, obviously or I would be arrested but more importantly I won’t because I have given my word and I know I have become a better person who is giving her body a chance to function properly again.
I will always have an additive personality and with the absence of alcohol I have focused maybe a little too much on controlling my food intake and exercise. I don’t need to lose weight (I never thought I would ever say that in my life!) as no alcohol mean I’m millions of calories in credit and I lost weight. Now I have a mild to medium obsession of getting to a certain weight which is unnecessary but I will live with that for now.
Depression? It is still rearing its ugly head and still to be dealt with. I can think clearer now and without the without the fuzziness and obsession of making sure there is a plentiful stock of wine in the fridge I will get to grips with this as well. One thing at a time I think!
I have my goal of 3 months and then revaluate. If I am honest I am looking to the end of this time with trepidation as I have a feeling in my bones, no, a panic that I will revert straight back to my old habits. As with dieting I am great at achieving my goal but trying to maintain is another story.
Can I drink in moderation now I have experienced the life changing mental and physical benefits I have achieved? I am not sure. For now, I am concentrating on meeting my first goal and then the big decision of shall I, or shan’t I?
I am not out of the woods yet but certainly more than a chink of light coming through those trees!