When I told everyone I was in alcohol recovery, a lot of people in my life were shocked. To many, my alcohol use seemed pretty normal, and I guess that’s where the problem laid.
I wasn’t someone who would drink massive quantities and could live without a drink. I was a typical weekend drinker, but I almost always overdid it. I easily drank three to six bottles of wine myself from Friday to Sunday.
But then, this pattern started to bleed into the week, too. It became 4 days of wine in the week, then 5, until it was almost all of them. I was also noticing how this was changing who I was as a person. I spent most of my time hungover. I lost all my motivation.
My writing career was basically nonexistent at this point. The booze fueled my anxiety and self-pity, causing me to drink more. I thought I drank, because I couldn’t write. But I only learned after I stopped drinking that I couldn’t write because I drank.
Most worryingly, I was becoming angrier and caused more arguments with my now husband. I knew if I kept drinking, our relationship wouldn’t survive. But, again, nobody thought I had a problem because of how normalized casual drinking is.
Everyone drinks a little too much wine and shouts at their partner, right? Well, maybe they shouldn’t.
The final straw came on my wedding day, when I drank far too much, having barely eaten all day. I made an absolute fool of myself and started screaming at my new husband in front of our closest friends. The next day, he made me promise I would stop drinking. Hours before, though, I’d already downloaded a sobriety tracker.
That was 2 years ago, and every year on our wedding anniversary, I renew my pledge to him and myself.
How do you define sobriety?
To me, sobriety is totally abstaining from alcohol. It’s the only way it works for me. I tried moderation and only having a couple every so often, but that doesn’t work for me.
I also avoid drinks that smell and taste like alcohol, because they can trigger me.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself in recovery?
The biggest thing I’ve learned about myself in recovery is that I’m actually an introvert. I always thought I was a big bubbly extrovert who was the life of the party and loved dancing and shouting, but it turns out that was the booze talking.
Now that I’m sober, I much prefer seeing people in small groups and relaxing with a lovely cup of tea.
Was there an element of recovery that was harder than you expected it to be?
As a woman who can’t have children, constantly being asked if I wasn’t drinking because I was pregnant was especially hard. It’s such an insensitive assumption — not to mention one that can really hurt.
Was there an element of recovery that turned out to be easier than you expected?
I thought I’d really have a hard time with still hanging out with friends and having fun without the drink. But I ended up having an even better time. I was more present in conversations and remembered everything that happened. It made me a better friend.
Was there a popular approach or strategy that ended up not being helpful for you?
I’m really not a fan of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), as I find it quite misogynistic and privileged in its belief that we need to surrender and give ourselves over to something bigger than us before we can recover.
As a disabled woman, I’ve been doing that all my life. But I know it helps so many others, so I won’t detract from that.
If you could tell your pre-recovery self one thing, what would it be?
That 2 years after getting sober, you’ll have carved out an amazing life for yourself. It’ll be everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
Rachel Charlton-Dailey is a freelance journalist focusing on health and disability. Their work has featured on Verywell, Huffpost and Business Insider. She is also the founder of The Unwritten, a publication for disabled people, by disabled people. When not writing they can be found walking their dachshund, Rusty.
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