There are two questions I get asked a lot about the fact that I don’t drink. People who have no problem with alcohol tend to ask, “What made you decide to stop drinking?” This question is usually accompanied by raised eyebrows and a baffled, bemused or sometimes horrified expression. People who are trying to quit, or thinking about it, ask a slightly more nuanced question, “How did you know it was time to quit drinking?”
Both questions are usually asked out of genuine interest. My response – and the level of detail – depends on the person asking the question and what they know about me and about alcoholism. Behind each question is the expectation that at some point, I reached rock bottom. That I had an epiphany, after coming round in a prison cell, or the back of an ambulance, or a stranger’s bed. That I was lying in the gutter, having blown my liver and all my worldly possessions.
But the honest answer is rather more boring than that. I have what people in recovery call a “high bottom”. (I hate that term by the way – it makes me think of Kim Kardashian’s super bum) What it actually means is that I stopped drinking before the shit really hit the fan. I got a grip on alcohol before it got me. I stopped before the really bad stuff started to happen more often.
It’s hard to articulate a neat set of warning signs as there wasn’t one big thing – rather an accumulation of many small red flags. Some I knew were warning signs, others I only recognised in hindsight:
– I enjoyed drinking on my own.
– I was regularly blacking out.
– I was always concerned about having enough alcohol on hand but in public I made sure I was only seen to be drinking a ‘normal’ amount.
– Being very agitated if my plans to drink were disrupted – being asked to drive, for example.
– Spending hours debating whether or not to have ‘a drink or two’ in the evening, knowing it would be more like 7 or 8.
– Buying miniature bottles of wine to try and control my intake, but buying so many it was the equivalent of several bottles of wine.
– Replacing meals with wine.
– Taking and retaking tests for alcoholism online.
That last bullet point made me grimace. Oh, the time I wasted redoing those tests, inputting different answers until I got the ‘ok’ result that I wanted. I knew it was ridiculous at the time, but we do strange things when we’re in denial! Looking back over this list now, with over two years of sobriety behind me, it seems obvious that every warning sign was actually a huge red flag. But that’s the benefit of hindsight…
The Sober School
Work with Kate
Get Started Now
Download my pep talk for a dose of inspiration to keep you on track tonight.