They are suitably codependent and run circles around me and each other. When one fails its duty in keeping me off kilter, the other is eager and willing to take on the mantle of running riot. What? She’s feeling better? Not like death warmed up? asks Depression. Haven’t I kicked her arse far enough? Clearly not, replies Alcohol. Move over sunshine, I’m going to have my wicked way with her. She just loves it when I tell her to bend over and take it.
I am in the middle of maelstrom, like one of those cartoons with a cloud of scuffling, scrapping characters belting it out with only flailing legs and arms to be seen among the kerfuffle. Here, please take my mind, my body and my life. I know you plan to trample and thrash me (then laugh) but I choose to forget all about how you do that as I am so in love with the powerful promise you bring: you will love me, honour me and have FUN with me. You give me everything, though you also take it all away.
It’s a dysfunctional relationship, I know. But at times, usually for long stretches, it’s easier to deny the awful truth and stumble along pretending everything is okay. Because changing it, and maintaining that change, is one of the hardest things in the world for me to achieve.
I read somewhere recently that alcoholics are incredibly strong-willed people – they have to be to pretend they’re okay in the face of monumental hangovers and to cope with life. Oscar-winning performances, daily. Exhausting stuff. The idea, say recovery experts, is to transfer that iron will into good things, like stopping drinking, or achieving world peace.
Ah yes, the old stopping story. I know it well. I do it ALL the time. I’m actually quite good at it. I get quite drunk, then I stop. And I don’t drink again for a couple of days. Then, I stop. The problem is, when I feel better, I forget how horrible I have felt and I want another drink. I want to have FUN. I have worked hard. I have looked after everyone else, despite feeling like SHITE. Surely I deserve a drink? I don’t drink when I am miserable, only when I am happy!
So why do I keep coming back to wishing to stay stopped? I could just keep drinking and have the ‘fun’ I deserve, etc. The thing is , I am not having much fun. I am intensely miserable and I can’t hide it any more. I am sick of feeling numb, desperate, shaky, ill, anxious, paranoid and exhausted. I am over smoking cigarettes (only when I drink … in between stopping). I am sick of hiding how much I drink from others. I am horrified that my consumption and capacity seems to be increasing. My old ‘rules’ of never going beyond two bottles of wine and never drinking two nights in a row have been laughingly trodden all over. I have been drinking to feel better, or normal. I am mortified when realising I have forgotten what people have told me the night before. I am horrified at some of the really stupid things I have said and done whilst drinking. I am exasperated by having no energy and constantly failing to achieve the things I want and need to do every day. It’s not good enough. Nowhere near good enough. I’m beyond sad that I’m not reaching my potential, let along looking at my dreams.
I am in serious trouble with my drinking. Well, the staying stopped bit, anyway.
So, back to the alcohol and depression dance of death. Presently, Depression is doing a big ole boogie on my dance floor, gracefully and skilfully gliding its way around my mind, swishing around with confidence, its grooves well-worn and rhythm well-rehearsed. In some ways I am grateful for its performance as I l know that while it’s on, Alcohol (though ready and waiting) has not yet taken the stage. And I am frightened of that happening.
However for the next act, I have another performer lined up: Sobriety. It’s been here before and done well but ultimately was taken over by the devilish duo. It’s up to me to nourish and develop this star talent. I’m still frightened, but the show must go on.