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Recovery diaries: The hell of stopping and starting drinking every day

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

It starts about 2am, when I'm jolted awake by something I can't fathom. Was it a bad dream? Was it a sound that woke me? Is it because my head is pounding or could it be because I am thirsty. My god, I am so thirsty.

I reach for water and gulp like I've been in the desert for days without a drop to drink.

Painkillers come next and an attempt to sleep again, without success. My body is wired but tired with my eyes scratchy, limbs restless and a mind that will not shut up.

My main train of thought is, 'I never want to drink again. This has got to stop.'

The resolution that this is the day that I will stop floods my brain, giving some relief to the insanity I feel. Everything's going to be alright because this time, I will kick alcohol for good, I vow.

Broken resolutions

I slip into a restless half-sleep filled with disturbing dreams and wake again to a morning filled with the promise of sobriety. That feels good, even though I feel physically awful. It makes me get out of bed to face the day.

Fuelled by more painkillers, water and a greasy breakfast to soak up last night's booze, I shakily get on with my morning. I can't wait to be free of hangovers and the anxiety that comes with them. I want to feel healthy and energetic again, and not have to drag myself through life.

Trudging through the day like treacle, lunchtime comes around and what little energy I have flags. My nerves are clanging because everything seems so loud and invasive. I can't be around people and noise anymore, so I leave work to sit in my car to eat lunch.

A full stomach prompts the quick nap I need to face the afternoon's demands. I set my alarm so I wake up in time to get back to work.

This is the day that you don't drink. You don't want to go through the endless cycle of drinking and hangovers anymore. Just. Stop.

Slipping into a bottle

The phone alarm rattles me out of my snooze. I feel so jittery, like I'm shaking on the inside. I felt sweaty and anxious. I want a drink, I think. I need one, just one. It would make me feel so much better and quickly take the edge off, just so I could get through the afternoon.

No, the saner side of my brain shouts. This is the day that you don't drink. You don't want to go through the endless cycle of drinking and hangovers anymore. Just. Stop.

Before that thought ends, it's replaced with the screaming of another part of me which cuts through any common sense. 'Get the bottle that's hidden under the seat. Just a few sips.'

Next thing I know, I'm necking wine until I had to stop and breathe. I had been holding my breath for what seemed like hours.

A warm rush rose out of my stomach and spread to every part of my shaking body as I recovered my breath. I drank again, breathed more and felt a flood of relief and wellbeing slip through me like a balm. I looked ahead and thought about returning to work but before I did, just a few sips more were needed to make sure my jagged edges stayed smooth.

As I tipped the bottle back one final time, I realised it was empty, which triggered a fresh wave of anxiety. I'd have to get another one on the way home, or maybe I would need yet another before then? I was already thinking about the next time I could sneak out of work to have a cheeky sip as a pick-me-up in my car during the afternoon.

That was a typical day for me, which carried on with more sneaky drinks during until I could get home and drink properly. Sometimes I attempted to cook a meal but mostly, a bag of chips or cheese and crackers were on the menu.

Driving was impossible so I couldn't go out but even if I could, I didn't want to. The stress of being around people who could see how I drank was too much. At the same time I was lonely and craved company, so I'd make phone calls to friends when I'd embarrass myself by talking a bunch of drunken rubbish. Social media was where I'd always end up, connecting to people in a way that I could hide. I'd often have no memory of what I'd said the next day and was mortified when I'd read what drivel I'd come out with.

Oblivion came when I'd pass out, mostly in bed but sometimes in a chair, until I'd wake around 2am. Again.

That was the 24-hour cycle of my drinking, of my broken promises to myself, of my failed attempts to give up drinking for good.

Reaching out for help

Today, I'm so glad that I have a 24-hour cycle of sobriety, where my resolution is to stay away from the first drink, no matter what.

For me to get to the place where I could escape the hell of compulsively drinking alcohol, I needed professional help – there was no way I could do it on my own. I had to admit that before any recovery could start.

If you're in the brutal cycle of being unable to stop drinking and constantly breaking yur resolutions to get sober, my wish for you is that you find the strength to reach out and ask for help. When do that, you can start to heal and live the healthy and liberating life you deserve.

*Recovery diaries is written by an Ocean Hills staffer, who kindly provides extarcts from their recovery journal they wrote in as part of getting and staying sober.

If you're worried about your drinking or that of someone you love, call Elaine on 027 573 7744 for a confidential and compassionate chat. You're never alone.

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