There was no talk of ‘understanding why one has a drinking problem’ or ‘facing my character flaws and flogging myself yet again for all my failures’. Just lots of very practical advice and explanations for how I might feel in the early days of stopping drinking. I didn’t have to understand anything, just stay sober each day by putting things in place so I could achieve it. I had a podcast to listen to and homework to complete and had an email to read and respond to. I remember feeling so proud of myself because I got 15 days in a row, the most I had ever achieved (One of the most shameful parts of my drinking history is that I didn’t manage to stay sober during any of my 4 pregnancies). then did a few more stints and had a call with her ( which was included as part of the program). I was then thoroughly crushed when she spoke directly to me about why I kept relapsing and said that if I didn’t manage to succeed then I might end up needing rehab What a shocker! There was no ‘you are doing so well, don’t worry about the drinking bits, that’s normal’ Or indeed any sense that ‘it's ok to relapse, its an expected part of the journey No, no sips, no slips. That was the aim and that was what was expected. No messing around. I remember feeling so shocked! I’d be so proud of my achievements but here someone was saying that it wasn’t nearly good enough! Nobody had spoken to me like this before. (or maybe I hadn’t been in the place to hear it) Something in me rebelled and I thought “ I’m not that bad”. Strangely too, it made me start to think that I could actually maybe do this. I remember feeling a sense of digging deep inside myself and focussing totally on the goal of sobriety. It is hard to put into words exactly how it was, other than I knew that I had no option but to commit to this and make it my number one priority. I remember her saying that it got “easier” as time went on. I had certainly never envisaged that All I had imagined was to ‘forever’ experience these dreadful cravings and (what I know now to be ) the white- knuckling feeling …. I thought this was how my life would be from now on….. .

She even got me to time the cravings in the evening and said how they would get gradually shorter in length. Sure enough, to my surprise, they did! I began to just ‘put my head down, so to speak and continued to count my days. To not have any drink ….none, and the occasional “slip” just wasn’t an option. The aim was to do 100 days. This felt like an unmanageable goal and I told her so… I couldn’t pledge to do something that I wasn’t capable of doing….so instead she suggested I just aim for 30 days and then increase it. I still had a few more relapses…..however, instead of being proud of the few sober days I was getting, I began to not want to drink at all. She explained that I was doing the hardest bit over and over again. This had never occurred to me before either …every time I poured more booze into me I was reigniting the craving and was having to begin the process of going without all over again. I finally managed to string some sober days together and I think I hit 35 days and then relapsed. It was approaching Christmas and I was very worried. Drink had always been a big part of Christmas for me. The idea of not having any seemed to be unrealistic and that wasn’t even a ‘normal’ thing to do. Surely I could just have a few and then continue my sober journey in the new year. I began to listen to podcasts on moderation and apparently how ‘nobody’ could ever achieve this after having an overdrinking issue. Maybe I was the exception to the rule. The holiday period continued around me and I felt deprived and resentful that my family were allowed to enjoy drinking as part of the festivities. I just had to sit on the sidelines and feel miserable (!). I think it helped that I was able to express all these thoughts and feelings to belle in email and get it out. Her responses were always very level headed and cut right across my whining. They put the reality of drinking very much in its true colours and I began to realise just how distorted my thinking was. It was around about this time I began to experience a build-up of frustration and anger inside. I remembered this feeling as a child and it resembled being unable to get something that I desperately wanted and feeling completely bewildered and backed into a corner. One day I was so filled with all this energy and pent up the confusion that I (very randomly) decided I had to get out of the house and run. I still to this day have no idea why … it felt like some kind of primitive instinct.

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