Kate's Blog

How I knew it was time to stop drinking

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…

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


15 Responses

  1. Hi Kate,
    Love what you’re doing here.
    I like the one about drinking alone – it sounds so sad and lonely, but when you are doing it it’s as thought it is heaven and nirvana and peace all rolled into one. I couldn’t wait to get everything sorted so I could concentrate on drinking alone. But then, that was the problem…

    1. Drinking alone right now. Will most likely have the last on the pack after this one as rationale for it not being here tomorrow. I love booze. My father loves booze. How will I be any fun without it?

    2. That is exactly how I felt when drinking alone. Thanks for putting it into words. It really was crazy. It was like my church.

  2. Your signs are all too familiar. And I know I have a problem. Monday mornings full of regrets only to be followed by Wednesdays “I got this” attitude and back to square one by Monday. Same story. Nobody really knows. Terrified life without it will be strange, weird and empty. I look forward to reading your blog.

  3. It’s like reading about my life! I’ve tried numerous times to stop and I always get 3 weeks in then I start drinking again. I’m desperate to stop but I fail and fail every time. I have a great partner but the one thing stopping us from progressing is my drinking. I don’t get roaring drunk ever and I hold down a successful career but I drink a bottle of wine a night, more on my weekends and it’s a habit I want rid of. I have not drank alcohol today and my new tactic is to try one day at a time…Hope I succeed this time….

    1. You’ve summed up my life perfectly here Yvonne! I gave up for a month last year, but haven’t managed more than a day or two since. It seems inevitable that booze will regain its grip on my life each time I stop. My partner just can’t get his head around my need to keep rinsing a bottle of wine through my system every evening and it’s driving a wedge between us.
      Today is my day one (again) too and it’s bloody scary, but at least we’re giving it a go! Good luck to you x

  4. Hi, like Yvonne said this story is the same as mine. I drink 1 1/2 bottles of wine a week five nights a week, usually weekends. I have just been diagnosed with a severe alcohol dependency at an alcohol and drug dependency unit. It was a terrifying place to walk into but I’m so glad I did. I didn’t think I drank much, just knew it was affecting my life. Alcohol killed my Mother, it’s thought this addiction can run in families. I’m yet to see this disproved. I attended my first AA meeting last week with all sorts of thoughts about I’m not religious, I’m not an alcoholic, I don’t need this, I can do it on my own. Well, they are not religious which was a total mind bend, I do need them I cannot do this alone or I will just carry on. The best thing I heard this week is you have stopped ‘not yet’. When going into the meeting and also when going to be accessed I was saying well I don’t drink in the mornings, I don’t beat people up, I haven’t been in the gutter, I haven’t lost my job. I don’t abuse my child. These are all the ‘not Yets’ but given time and carry on with the drinking and all these will come true. I have no intention of letting this go any further and I know I’ve put the right foundation down to my new start. I’m scared stupid but also I’m excited to get there. I’m only one week sober but with support and this great blog (thank god I’ve found you there is so little out there for us without the patronising) things are looking so much brighter. X

    1. Thanks Dan – just wanted to wish you good luck. It’s great that you’re stopping now. It will change your life! x

      1. I lived through similar issues and problems. The biggest thing I learned is that something has to happen and give the motivation and stop. I got very ill one weekend and for some reason started to really think that if I continue drinking, my life could end quicker than I thought.

  5. Oh my gosh , I am on day 4 and have an old friend coming to visit that I can’t cancel. They are expecting me to drink and I’ve written ahead to say I’m ‘on antibiotics’ so can’t, but I’m so worried that I’ll crack. This blog has given me some serious perspective, thank you. Yopu’ve reminded me why I decided to do this 4 days ago when, on looking in the mirror after a 6 day drinking binge, I realised there was ALWAYS going to be another rock bottom a bit lower down I could find. There’s no need to get there, or to try to find it tonight, if I just stop NOW. Thank you X

  6. Hi to all of you great people
    We can do it … I used to drink at least twice a week …. and always drank until I was legless black out , to oblivion … whichever term you like to use … I did it
    I drank alone or with friends but always nearly the same outcome ….. drunk
    There was always a reason ,,, ooo I haven’t had a drink for four days , it’s the middle of the week , it’s the end of the week , I’m sad , I’m happy , I’m stressed , just fancy a session.
    You name it we did it
    There is always an excuse
    Why is it I can’t just have a couple of drinks then stop ? Was the question I heard from people who genuinely cared for me ( usually family )
    I frequently told them I’d stop , usually after there’d been a particularly bad outcome ie having massive loud rows with my ex , waking everyone up by blasting music until the early hours, telling everyone to just ,leave me alone ( with my bottle) I’m not hurting anyone’
    I would plead or maybe get angry …. my family used to say ‘the other woman is here not my mam’ ….. but still you make your embarrassing painful gut wretching apologies and tell them you’re going to stop you’re going to try harder you’re going to cut down and only have a couple…. one week later you’re on that phone arranging a hook up with your drinking buddy …. after all you’ve been good for a week and you know your limit you won’t get lary and drunk …. and so it goes on
    You wake up that god awful feeling again you feel stinking your head is going to explode you need to drink water eat and usually phone in sick to work and sleep the day away..
    The shame of it …. if any of you on here have family spare a thought for them they don’t want to see you like that … how embarrassing for them to know everyone has seen you drunk
    When I first gave up I used to think back to all the times I’d had drink and ended up drunk and I would say in my head drunk drunk drunk drunk drunk drunk drunk etc it’s quite terrible to realise the number of times you’ve been drunk
    It’s an awful place to be
    Good luck to everyone in kicking this badass habit to the kerb …. coz that’s just what it is…. a habit and habits can be broken

  7. This is a great blog. So resonant to my experience. How’s this for one to add to the “things that might make you realize it’s time to stop” list?
    Do you ever drink more than you might otherwise, because you tell yourself you need to finish all the alcohol in the house to give yourself a better chance of not drinking the next day? (I think I’ve done this at least twice in the last two weeks.)
    I actually never thought about how pathological that rationale is, until I read your blog and mentally parsed out my drinking behavior along these lines. Many thanks for the simple wisdom.

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