I’m not one for putting restrictions on my life but this one has become more of a need than a want.
How we associate ourselves with alcohol can differ so greatly. We all turn to it for different reasons but I never found myself thinking about why I turned to it previously and why it effects me so negatively now. Not until my diagnosis with PTSD last year.
I drank a lot as a teenager. From around the age of 14. Before my diagnoses last year and before I received counselling to uncover a lot of cold truths – I believed I did it for fun. I was a reckless teenager. As an adult looking back, I now see a very different reason.
Alcohol numbed me, it made me lose control and it allowed me to soften the situations I often knew I’d face as a night went on. Alcohol enabled another to take control and I allowed it because alcohol numbed the reality of my life back then. The unfathomable pain I carried from losing my dad and the devastation that was then left in our home. Alcohol and drugs were my way out. I could completely lose myself.
I remember one of my early Christmas dances, I was scared and so incredibly unconfident in myself. Who would ever pick me to dance with them? I remember the cold walk I took away from the dance hall that night in my pretty little dress, I remember feeling ashamed and so scared. I was just a kid. I remember thinking about how my mother would feel when she found I’d not went or how disappointed she’d be that we’d picked this beautiful dress together and I chose not to go. I had let her down. I remember receiving a letter in my school playground that week with an opportunity not to go, that there was a way to avoid this humiliation. This is one of many incidents that only now at 28 years of age, I remember the other part to these stories. The part that was too painful to hold images of for all those years. I was given a way out, I was invited to drink instead in a place away from my reality. So I did but I was abused too. I did not want to stand at the side of a hall and be humiliated when in my head, I’d be the last girl to be picked. I was a girl stripped of confidence, I was a girl nobody wanted and I most prominently didn’t fit in. I was broken, I was scared to be around anybody that resembled ‘normal’. So I said yes to alcohol, to my way out.
That became my life for a number of years, I took every opportunity I could to be away from ‘normal’ and that led me to a very sad existence which included a long spell of sexual abuse, depression and self harm. That is why my opinions about raising my children with confidence are so strong and so important to me. My lack of it left me unable to know my worth. I lost my voice. I lost myself entirely.
In my late teens I grew older and somewhat wiser to the rights and wrongs of the world – I had determined that a lot of my early teenage years were wrong but I had done this by telling myself it was a series of bad choices, choices I made and I had to own. I had no knowledge of grooming, of abuse or mental illness. I lay it on myself to be my doing, my fault and I moved forward with my life. Little did I know putting that all on me would later begin to ruin my future.
For a number of years alcohol from that point was for fun, I used it like so many of us do at that age. A little recklessly but for enjoyment. There were definitely a number of occasions that would be a cause for concern but always, it was just the drink talking.
Then I met my Teetotal husband-to-be. The man whom had never touched a drop of alcohol in his life. Somewhere from then to having our children I began to have massive anxiety attacks after drinking alcohol. I’d call it the ‘fear‘ that so many of us get. Yet this was different. I’d spend my hangovers feeling dirty, guilty and ashamed. The images in my head were unspeakable. Nearly always, I had this feeling related to sex but it wasn’t in relation to my husband – it had no words I just felt this powerful feeling of betrayal. I struggled to look at him. Not once would I ever dream of explaining these feelings to him, I tried to convince myself it was simply ‘the drink talking’ and within a few days I was able to rationalize my evening with friends and remind myself that I would never be capable of cheating on who I knew, was my soulmate. It still deeply hurt me and confused me that I had these feelings. It frustrated me to the depth of my heart that this pure love I had with him was being tainted by these ugly and unforgiving thoughts.
Then last year, after the help of counseling I began to match images with these feelings – I realized that my consumption of alcohol was making me relive these multiple traumas over and over again. I very quickly was able to establish what my PTSD was. I identified why even in my later years, I always wanted to drink before sex. The thought of being sober petrified me. I never questioned those feelings because that was my normal, I thought that was normal. Then not long before I was diagnosed, I had become engulfed with this fear and it was too extreme to hide – my husband knew too. That’s when I went for help. In 10 minutes my doctor very confidently asked me the question “Have you heard of PTSD?” I walked home, I shared those four letters to my husband and it wasn’t sadness we felt, it was relief. It was the beginning of a whole new life for me, for us all. A life that would eventually lead me to be fully present and fully at peace but first this meant going through all that pain, again.
Presently, I am still suffering from PTSD. In fact, at the beginning of my counseling sessions last May, it got worse – which was when I opted to combine medicinal help with the counseling. It is part of healing from a trauma or repetitive traumas in my case. In order to free your mind, you must first unopen every box you have worked so incredibly hard to close and bury away. For a while, I was sitting with images so ugly, so petrifying that there was no way without some form of medication I would be able to get on with my every day life as a mother, as a friend and as a wife. I needed something that would soften the blow and I look back and don’t regret for a second taking this option. I only had the time for a single hour session a week and when that hour finished, I was left having to bottle up all these new emotions that had been resurfaced and carry on as if my heart wasn’t breaking into a million pieces. When did I suffer the most during this time? Well, whenever I allowed myself a glass of wine with friends. Alcohol made me worse. The pattern was continuing.
In September last year, I made the decision to come off my medication. I knew I had to be gentle with myself and I knew alcohol had to be dealt with responsibility. Alcohol could very easily tip me. I feel information in regards of coming off medication for anxiety and depression is something I should keep separate to this topic but it was hard. Once the withdrawals had subsided I was beginning to feel the most present I had ever felt. I was so fresh. I felt stronger and so proud to be veering closer to the finish line of this illness – I could see the end.
Then alcohol got involved. On more than a few occasions, I had let slip. I had one more than my usual two. On every occasion I had severe panic attacks. My regular followers will have seen my husband and I had a little retreat recently in Cornwall for an overnight. We had dinner and the most romantic evening. I had one more than my usual. I fell asleep so incredibly contented and happy. At 3am, I tipped. I was sick, I was shaking and I had no idea where I was. My first feelings were to get out of the bed I did not recognize and away from the figure next to me. All these feelings happened within seconds. I quickly established the figure was my husband but the physical feelings took much longer to fix. I needed windows open, I needed air and I needed light. I felt strangled. This was alcohol weakening me at a time where I was fragile, alcohol was ruining this rare, invaluable time with my soulmate.
Only a few weeks ago I experienced a similar experience after spending time with a friend – it was then I realized my relationship with alcohol was toxic. It had to stop.
Here I am, confident with the decision I have made and ready for the foreseeable future to enjoy life without the vino. I know this journey with PTSD is nearing an end but I also know that I am not rid of it yet.
So that’s why I’m Teetotal. For now.
Please feel free to discuss your own relationships with alcohol in the below comments! It would be really interesting to hear some other experiences on either becoming teetotal or considering the switch.