Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The point of change..

Had a super-lovely soberversary, lots of bloggy love and friends-and-family love and just a lovely day. Count the loves in that sentence! Here's another... LOVE!

Anyhoo got this comment from Bella on my last post and really wanted to address her question directly here. Be great if others could share their experiences as well to let her know what their point of change was.

Bella: "The one thing I really struggle with (as a mum-of-two who recently ruined 2 and a half years of sobriety with a 6 month bender, which to be honest hasn't finished yet ...) is precisely how and when and why people decide to stop drinking. Why don't we talk more about people's low points that catalyse their quitting? And why, even if we think we've hit a new low, do we sometimes uncork the bottle again? I know you often say about the memoirs that you've read, that they gloss over the actual recovery part and focus more on the lows. But I'm interested in the nexus between those two. Any thoughts?"

What is it that moves us to finally make the change from boozer (or user) to sober? Why do some people have to make the shift only once and others fall back and have to do it over and over?

My point of change came after two years of being hyper-aware of my worsening drinking problem and trying to moderate and control it unsuccessfully. The last straw was the night I secretly drank a bottle of wine while Mr D was out (despite us having agreed to an alcohol-free night) then knelt down to hide the bottle in the back of the cupboard so he didn't know I'd had it. My point of change came when my fucked up desire to drink brought lies and deception into my relationship. The next morning after that final miserable binge (we drank more after he got home) I got really fucking angry, really fiercely fucking angry and determined. This was my point of change. It came after two years of hard mental work and 8 hours after highly dysfunctional drinking behaviour.

That morning that I changed I had a very clear thought process. It went: "I have HAD ENOUGH of this shit (angry). This has GOT to stop. No-one else can do this for me. I have to do this. I have to change. If it's just me changing me then surely I can do it. I absolutely have to do it." I knew without a doubt that I was very very sick in my head regarding alcohol and there was no way that I could live happily with it in my life. Even now that image of my on my knees leaning into the back of the cupboard makes me shudder. I couldn't bear to continue down that path. I knew I had to take the alcohol away, had to learn how to live without it. I was very determined and I always thought to myself: "People do this. I can do this. I will do this. I will learn how to do this and I will do this."

(It's hard to make this brief but I'll stop now)

This is just my story. It might not be relatable to you. Read around other blogs and books (and hopefully some people will share here in comments their point of change story) until you figure out what it is that will work for you. I do believe everyone's drinking/using story is unique, just as everyone's point of change is unique and everyone's recovery plays out in a unique fashion.

I just read "Ninety Days" by Bill Clegg and the cliched "I got sick and tired of being sick and tired" is pretty much what finally triggered his move into long-term sobriety, the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion about his crack habit (it's a rip-snorter of a read and there's a lot in there about recovery - yay!). He went to 3+ meetings a day trying to stay sober, that didn't work for a long time but finally the exhaustion and wanting to be available to help a fellow addict stopped him from using.

I also recently read "Drunk Mum" by Jowita Bydlowska (also a rip-snorter, all about her crazy vodka-fuelled life, blackout after blackout, lots of sad & lonely boozing). This book really touched me. It is brutal and it is beautiful and unexpectedly quite poetic at the end (probably because she is so clearly not  wishy-washy, when her truth comes it is very touching).

She drinks and drinks and hides bottles and tries to cover the smell of booze and fights with her boyfriend and constantly has a crazy, angry, defensive, dialogue going on in her head and then after one last miserable binge and more lies and defensiveness "..there's silence. My own voice in my head just disappears. And once it disappears, there's an absolute, vast silence. It stops all. It stops me. It's not a moment per se. It's the invisible, non-existent pause between time's passing, one minute turning into the next one. It's so big that it contains everything else - around me and inside me. I see me and I am looking back, looking for help. And with that glimpse everything crumbles. I'm a liar. I'm a liar and I can't afford to lie anymore. I'm an alcoholic, I'm a liar and I've lied about everything."

Bella, you will have your point of change. It will come and it will stick. People do this. You can do this too.

Love, Mrs D xxx


  1. Sobriety knocked on my bedroom window many mornings after I made the decision not to drink; only to end up binging every single night for most of my 20s. Each morning, I would wake up and promise myself not to go to the liquor store after work. However, as soon as I finished at my job, that promise was as gone as my will to become committed to a sober life.
    Life yourself, there were nights when I would guzzle down a few glasses of wine before my boyfriend got home so he wouldn't know how much I had before we had more wine with dinner. Now that I look back, almost two years later and sober, I think about how ridiculously stupid those decisions were. Not only was I endangering my health, but I was destroying my relationship by being drunk and blacking out all of the time. I also lost one of the most important people that I had shared a friendship and relationship with due to my alcoholism. Between fighting, cheating, police, getting kicked out of hotels we vacationed at, and crazy blackouts, something that began so beautifully completely and undeniably came to an end.
    My low was when my mother became sick with cirrhosis. I remember seeing her in the E.R. in this small hospital bed, unable to recognize me because of the ammonia that was going straight to her head. Her liver had gave up because she chose to drink her sorrows and guilt away. Seeing her lay there, with her eyes barely focused, skin yellow and breath wreaking of the foulest smell you can imagine...that was my low. My mother's helplessness and death sentence became my turning point by saving my life.
    Congratulations on your two year sobriety. Mine will be on my mother's birthday in February, 2014.

  2. Hi Mrs D, Congratulations on two years! (It seems I missed that post)
    I've been thinking about this point of change thing a lot recently . . . I have started many posts but deleted all of them. I keep coming back to read these sober Blogs as there is so much I can relate to. I am totally sick and tired of being sick and tired but I keep hearing in my head "you've got to really want this" . . . then I hear the other voice (the Heroin) laughing and saying "Ah but you don't really want it do you, because I've taken the ability to want anything (other than me) away from you . . . you need to (passionately) want to be clean . . . and you are so numb there is no passion left for anything . . . No fight"
    I feel so stuck with this. I'm sorry this is irrelevant to the post. I'm scared it will never change; I know only I can change it, but the "I" that I need to be to change it, doesn't seem to be here . . . Maybe I will try another post.
    Sending love x

  3. My turning point wasn't exactly one point. It's more like a few things that were getting worse and worse came together around the same time. About 18 months ago, I quit drinking for a semester so I could focus on school, because I was scared I was drinking too much and would start slipping in my classes. But it wasn't ever supposed to be a real quit, and I started drinking again at the end of the semester. Since then I have tried (a lot) to moderate, with no meaningful success.

    During this time, I was reading the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor (yes, I'm an egghead) about how to live a good life, and I thought, clearly, I am a fake. If I keep up this drinking, I will never live a life worth living, it will all just be me pretending. This was a devastating thought, and I lived with it for a long time, but I didn't act in a committed way on it. Then this summer, in June, I had a night of drinking too much, not much unlike any other, but the next day I felt an excruciating depression. I made a deal with myself; I called in sick to work--something I was not at all in the habit of doing because of the booze--and I tracked down a counsellor and made an appointment. (I have a history of deep depression, and I was afraid I was sliding into that again, headfirst.) After a few weeks talking with my new counsellor about mindfulness and so on (and she's lovely and helpful) I still thought, I'm a fake, the booze is the real problem, and nothing else is going to change until I get that under control. First I quit for 7 days, which I extended to 30, and now I'm on day 66 out of what is supposed to be 100, but I will not drink again after the 100 days are over. Taking the space to stop and really paying attention during that time, and reading, reading, reading about other people who stopped helped me change my mindset. I had never even realized I needed to change my thinking along with stopping drinking, but I did that this time and it is a part of why this time is different.

    So that's too many words, but what I'm saying is there was a kind of crisis--existential terror in a hangover--but nothing all that different than what I had dealt with before. For me, it was more the cumulative effect of 18 months of serious thinking about how much I was drinking and how I wanted to live, on top of years of sort of thinking about that once in a while. I'm a bit cerebral, so that might not help, but on the other hand, not everyone has big dramatic moments. My determination is no less for the lack of drama, though! Best wishes to Mrs D, and Bella, and to all who are sober or are trying to be.

  4. Great post Mrs. D and thank you for sharing Bella's comment. I think first of all, it is very hard, at least for me to talk about my low point when I finally had enough. I mean I mention it - I was flat on the kitchen floor, face down, still bit drunk and wondering what day it was - but really there was something else, I can’t quite explain it, I didn't get it from being in jail or rehab or lost jobs or passed out at random places! BUT that morning I felt emotionally bankrupt, I was just disgusted with myself and what drinking has brought me down to. See, when I started drinking that time, there was nothing wrong, I actually felt happy and pretty confident that I would not get out of control, and I certainly didn’t know that this was going to be my last time! But when I realized that I was in a blackout for almost 3 days and I had no recollections of what has transpired - that was so freaking scary to me! I remember thinking, I cannot do this anymore, this is pathetic, this is not who I want to be. And I do remember making the decision to get sober - that’s it, no questions, no pondering, no am I, or not, this was it, I was DONE.

    So I think you are very right, everyone has a different journey that gets them to sobriety and that Bella’s point of change will come too! All the best Bella! We are rooting for you! You can do this! HUGS.

  5. As others have posted here and in other recovery blogs, I had many years of trying to quit drinking, debating whether I truly had a problem, deciding if I was as bad as all that etc. I actually had a "light bulb" moment. As most nights of my life, I retreated to my bedroom with my 4th or so glass of wine to email, surf the net, facebook and other nonsense and fell asleep at my computer. My husband came in to check on me and I was in a semi black out when he entered the room. Somehow I knew he was there and I tried to act normal as if I was getting ready for bed after finishing up emails etc. and stood up (very unsteadily) and held up my wine glass under my reading lamp. He asked me what I was doing and I said getting my water (I always take a glass of water to bed with me). So there I stood holding my glass under the lamp trying to get water out of the lampshade. Yup - class act all the way! He kind of shook his head and laughed a bit and said, "Oh boy... better get you to bed". I actually didn't remember this until the next morning when he said, "You were pretty funny last night trying to get water out of the lamp". Yikes!! Busted. So that was my point of change... my light bulb moment. Almost 180 days ago. And I thank that moment of clarity every day.

  6. Who knows we all have different low points. Mine came after a year of utter madness trying repeatedly to stop, control, moderate etc. my drinking. In all that year I kept believing I could get back to "normal drinking". (Side note - once sober and with some reflection I never drank normally and I can't drink safely or normally so it was a lost cause for me)

    Then one day I went off drinking again, because something good had happened but instantly in my head I projected the failure of the next thing and the depression of my life came in on me. Actually my life was and is brilliant in all honesty but that wasn't how I viewed it then.

    So I toddled off to rehab as a professional suggested it. I got there with no real idea what to expect etc. but was open to it. That worked for me, soon I realised as I say I could not drink normally or safely that if I didn't start drinking I didn't have the issue over getting drunk and also I'd not have the issue of stopping / controlling / reducing again.

    I know many people who stopped drinking one day with one decision and went to rehab, AA, or just did it on their own. I know also many people who have stopped and started repeatedly many times and the finally stopped again some of those had repeated rehab visits or were in and out of AA or went to AA even though they were still drinking.

    So there is no one answer - what is the rock bottom for any individual? Mine was that I just couldn't go on the way I was I hated it, I hated myself, I hated the drink and I just couldn't live with it or without at that point. I consider myself lucky I had that moment when I took action and was given advise and found a programme that worked for me.

  7. I'm so sorry that I'm late on congratulating you on you Soberversay!! Congratulations, my sober buddy!! Only two more days to go for me and I'll be at 2 years also. Yay!
    My point of change? I took so much longer than most of you here in the blog world to finally wake up to the fact the booze was devouring my life, my heart, my soul. Actually, that's not true, I knew it was but I did nothing about it until it started seriously effecting my health and functionality. By then I had wasted half of my life. But I kept telling myself that I could learn to "manage" my drinking because I really couldn't see my life, as I knew it, surviving without alcohol. Of course, I'd been trying to manage my drinking my whole drinking career and had failed miserably but I decided to give moderation management a try. I think a lot of people need to answer the question of whether they can learn to successfully moderate before they fully embrace sobriety. But that is just my own belief and I know it doesn't correlate with some of the traditional recovery programs. So for a year I tried to moderate by the guidelines of the moderation management, and once again, I failed miserably. But what I did gain was a lot of abstinence days and I hadn't had those many days sober in 30 years and I was able to see that those sober days were a hell of a lot better, they were miracles, than my drinking days. But that still didn't convince me. Then one day I was writing on the Women For Sobriety message board, I was back to another Day 1 of sobriety after an excruciating binge, and a woman responded that reading about all my Day 1's was exhausting her. That pissed me off. So I went back and read through my blog for the entire year I'd been trying to moderate and saw that she was right. I hadn't made any strides in being able to moderate, I kept repeating the same pattern, abs for a couple of weeks, moderate for about a week and then binge. Rinse and repeat. I finally had to admit that I could not learn to moderate, but I realized that days without booze were freaking fantastic. At that point, it was a no brainer, but it still wasn't easy. That was two years ago.

  8. It took 6 words from my husband one night. I actually hadn't really been drinking very much that particular night...probably only 1 1/2 bottles of wine instead of my usual 2 1/2. But I came to bed and tried to engage him in what I'm sure would have ended up being an argument and he said sternly, "I think you're drinking too much." It was like a cold slap in the face. This man who is my greatest supporter, the one who always has my back and is my rock, finally said what I'd known all along...I had to quit drinking.

    Here the thing - I already knew it...I was just in denial so deep only he could have pulled me out. I've known all my adult life that I didn't drink like normal people. I've always known that the voice inside my head that cried more, more, more and stressed and worried about there being "enough" wasn't normal.

  9. Never quite sure what the exact breaking point was, only that like many, it came slowly and surely over time and more reliably and uncomfortably at the end. The decision to stop itself feels mysterious and so like a gift, and it is helpful to be reminded never to be complacent...that time doesn't keep us safe and that we have to make a decision every day not to drink. I thank Bella for her thought-provoking comment and for this open post.

  10. On my computer at last and can now comment! I wrote a congratulation in my blog to you dear mrs D, on your two years of sobriety. But now I can congratulate you in your own blog - CONGRATULATIONS!! I'm following in your footsteps and hope to celebrate two years too in a few months :)

    To Bella;

    The last time I decided to break up with alcohol, I found myself sitting in my bed with a bag-in-box of wine on the bedside table, a glass of wine in my hand and time was like 7 in the morning. I was drunk, I was unemployed, I was supposed to find myself a new job, my house was a mess, I was a TOTAL mess! And suddenly, in my drunken mind, I saw it clearly - I was falling towards the deepest bottom that I could ever imagine and it scared the living hell out of me.

    I have always been the good girl, always managed on my own, worked well and hard, and there I was - boozing my life away. If I didn't get a job, I would'nt be able to provide for myself, to pay my bills and eventually I would get kicked out of my home. I had to do something ANYTHING! A day or a couple of days after, I was going to the local train station. But instead of going to the station my feet turned and I walked another way. My legs took me to Rehab and from there my sobriety started all over again. I could'nt break my addiction on my own, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to quit drinking. My the very core of what is ME, for the sake of my survival, forced me to action. And that was when I started my blog as well.

    Dear Bella, you asked "And why, even if we think we've hit a new low, do we sometimes uncork the bottle again?" And my answer is that I believe that we have something inside of us, something very complex, many things tangled, that makes us unhappy. As long as that root to unhappiness is allowed to linger untreated, undealt with, untangled - the alcohol will always be a welcome form of self-medication.

    You relapsed, you are not yet finished with your drinking. Complete your bender, you have tasted sobriety and will find your way back to it once more. Keep trying, no matter how many times it takes. Just never give up on trying.

    You are not alone, sending you lots of strength and love! HUGS

  11. Hi Mrs D and everyone else - thanks for your honesty & insights - it feels good to know that there are other people who've been in this situation and have fought their way out of it. I've learned a lot from hearing people's real stories, and I appreciate everyone being so candid about it - especially when I can barely admit to myself, let alone the people around me, how much of a problem I have. And yet the courage and wisdom you all show makes me think that one day I'll get there (again). Kary May, your comment about people needing to learn whether they can moderate has really given me pause - moderation is a bit of a fiction, isn't it, particularly when you tell yourself that you can just have that one drink socially ... and then end up back where you were, downing a bottle of wine a night. I know Mrs D has written a lot about the social pressure to drink, and I look forward to hearing more about that in her book (& on this blog of course) as to me it has been the trickiest thing to navigate!! Bella

  12. Hi Bella,
    I stopped and started drinking for years and years, but I have now stopped for good, and I don't really think it was about hitting a specific low. The difference for me this time (I'm almost at 1 year sober and committed for life) is three-fold:

    This time I found a community for support -- that's this blogging community. I started reading sober blogs on my last day 1, and I read them every time I thought about uncorking the bottle -- which was often. These bloggers didn't even know I was there, but I felt connected to other humans going through the same struggle, and that sense of not being alone was massive for me. I still go to the blogs when I get boozy pangs after work.

    The second major help was when I stopped kidding myself that I could drink "normally" or moderate my drinking. I can't. I tried for 30 years, and I always drank more than I intended to and wanted to. At first this was really hard to accept, made me angry and lonely and hopeless feeling. But in the past few months it's become the best news I've ever had in my life. I actually never have to drink alcohol again. Thank god for that!

    And the third thing that's been a real help, is that every day I make myself write down at least one thing I'm grateful for about being sober... I do this because I don't want to forget how miserable I was when I was busy uncorking those bottles. It can be good therapy to remind yourself why you're sober, and what's so great about it.

    Sending you lots of love for your journey.


  13. Hi All - First ever post though I have signed up to the 100 club and been e-mailing Belle 'Tired of thinking about drinking'. What made me stop? - lots of things and nothing in particular. I couldn't moderate - didn't really try. Lost count of the number of times hubby said 'Can't you just have 2 glasses of wine with diner and stop?' I couldn't and I didn't want to. When I have stopped before for a week/month - never made it - basically because I didn't want to and I would get really arsey about having to justify what I did to anyone that mentioned, usually very neutrally, thought you were off it at the moment. But I knew and I told people 'I'll stop one day - I will', tho' I said this with a glass in my hand. The final point was this summer when I drank a LOT, much more than before, which was a bottle of wine a night minimum - I drank every night, a bottle easily before dinner and then lots more after - I would down a large glass on way up to bed. Duduring my away from work holidays I'd drinl all day. I forgot lots of things - conversations, arrangements, arguments, whole afternoons/evenings/nights. I know it's been saId before but I was tired of it - ALL of it!!! One day as I was pouring my 1st of the day and knocking it back I actually said out loud to myself 'I don't want this' ; then had another'. It was my time!!

    Day 18 now and still counting!!!

    1. Congratulations on 18 days! Sounds like you were a bit like me and almost drank ourselves to the point of stopping.. my last week was a very intense week and it was almost like I was pushing myself to give up by just pounding it so hard. Fabulous stuff..xxx