I have long recognised my addictive personality. Some perspectives of addiction make me the brunt of my family’s humour. Over the past few years I have mastered Angry Birds in record time, had the best farm ever seen on Farmville and I am currently rocketing through Candy Crush.
Once I go past these addictions, things start to get ugly. One of my strongly held misconceptions was that ‘having = happy’. I shopped. I had an awesome wardrobe and most else of what I could have wanted. But I didn’t have happy. I now have a wardrobe full of clothes that no longer fit and I have ‘happy’. I really don’t need too much else.
I think that it may be easier to wear the label alcoholic than to tell my friends and acquaintances that I am choosing to no longer drink. To the statement, “I have given up alcohol for ever”, I get the response, “How long is forever?”, “How long will that last?” or “You just need to drink more slowly.” I can stand back from most people and allow them to say what they like. They cannot hurt me as I do not respect their opinions when it comes to my alcohol consumption but when G said, “You just need to drink more slowly,” I replied, “If you sabotage me in any way, I will leave you.” G and I have been (mostly) happily married for more than 31 years and leaving has never been an option for either of us. I doubt that we will have the conversation again.
I am happy to sit at a table with drinkers, happy for G to enjoy a good bottle of red or to join friends in celebratory champagne while I drink soda water. The only ask I have of my family is that until I am stronger, I don’t want open bottles left in the house after others have left.
To some that I socialise with, the admission of an issue would be a surprise. What they didn’t know was that when I came home I drank more. Sometimes I would fall asleep (in bed) with a glass of wine in my hand.
Another of my health issues was obesity and that is closely linked to both my depression and my alcohol consumption. Obesity does not sit well with me, either on my lips or on my hips. It is such an ugly word. One time when I was with my doctor, I read her computer screen with my notes, “Obese lady….” I remember being incensed. Then, when the anger dissipated, I believed that I was not worthy of any other label and I started to think of myself as ‘that obese woman.’
Along with obesity came pain, painful joints, painful muscles and a feeling that I was fast approaching very old. As the intensity of the pain increased I became more depressed and slept more. Some weekend days I would spend six to eight hours up and the rest of the time in bed. When I was at work I threw myself into it. I would come home exhausted and collapse in a heap. I was very tired and very disillusioned.
I have to say that in accepting awesome, I first dealt with depression, then obesity, then alcohol. I guess that there can be complex conversation around what came first, the chicken or the egg – obesity, alcoholism or depression. For me, no doubt depression, though I never had, right from my teenage years, a healthy relationship with alcohol.
As a teenager, alcohol allowed me to be someone that I thought I wanted to be. That is best explored when I tell you about my upbringing and by upbringing I mean by how I reacted to my upbringing because quite honestly my upbringing was filled with love and compassion. There was a fair dose of denial and secrecy in there but certainly no horror that some would associate with depression.
I am a perfectionist (wow, another topic) and am stubborn enough to believe that I can do anything. Rather than take on things that are achievable, I take on the hardest, most challenging tasks I can and then beat myself up because I don’t get the fairy tale ending.
The first time in my life that I recognised depression was 1998. Looking back, I also had a significant bout in 1980. The 1980 bout, though initially surrounding the temporary removal of G from my life, also coincided with the death of my father. I will talk more about dad, but long story short, I idolised him. He was an absolute gentleman with a depth of empathy and compassion that I would be proud to emulate.
1998 and the stars that collided were the slow and traumatic death of my mother after a significant battle with ovarian cancer and my children’s adolescence smacking me in the face. Their stories are not mine to tell but depression, bullying, exclusion and bad choices were the ‘highlights’. My children grew through adolescence to be awesome and I grew bigger and sadder and sadder and bigger. They moved on but I was crippled by a sense of failure. I believed that I had a fairy tale upbringing and they deserved nothing less from me. If mum had lived, I believe that we may have rationalised my childhood memories and I may have accepted that I was doing the best I could. It’s very recent that I can see that.
I can’t remember when alcohol became the problem that it has until recently been. Certainly for the last couple of years I’ve rarely gone a night without consuming a whole bottle of wine. I’d give up for a few days and then start again. Interestingly, one night recently my daughter, L and I sat down to dinner and polished off more than two bottles of wine. I looked into the face of one of the most important people in my world and said to myself, “Enough! I have taught her everything I know about everything I don’t wish for her.” The next day I gave up and will not go back. I don’t need to.