Does depression make you drink too much, or is it the other way round? There’s lots written on this topic – ‘dual diagnosis’ – some of it even by me. I have a personal interest: my heavy drinking started in early teens and kept going. Over the past 20 years or so I have unsuccessfully tried many times and many methods to stop drinking. These include public pledges of sobriety, bribes, competitive cycling, antabuse (bought online), baclofen (again, bought from the internet, having read The End of My Addiction), counselling, hypnotherapy, naltrexone (internet again), AA, giving up work, shaving my head to shame myself into stopping. All failed beyond a few days.
However, since my depression has improved, I have been able to remain alcohol free from 1st January 2014, thanks in no small degree to peer support from the ‘sobersphere’, particularly Soberistas and Belle. Turns out there are many, many women like me who, whilst not being physically dependent on alcohol, are hooked all the same.
What is different this time, such that my decision to stop on New Year’s Day actually stuck? Here are some thoughts:
- I was ready; I wanted to live. My determined efforts to beat my lifelong depression were only working up to a point. Drinking was not helping.
- The New Year was a symbolic, easy-to-aim for starting point. A discussion thread (on Soberistas.com) about stopping drinking on 1st Jan popped out of the universe and I signed up with a public declaration on it. I now felt that bit more accountable.
- I told my nearest and dearest what I was doing. They have heard it all before but were kind and supportive as ever.
- I took it dead seriously and gave it top priority. Being alcohol free is more important right now than losing weight, working, housework, my in-tray, going out etc etc.
- I read and liked The Sober Revolution, Glass Half Full, Ice and a Slice, Sober is my new Drunk, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It. Plus lots of things on Soberistas.com and various sober blogs.
- I ate lots of chocolate initially. Less so now.
- In the early days I went to the Sobersitas chatroom to help cope with cravings.
- I bought a huge stash of alcohol free beer and wine from The Alcohol Free Shop. Nearly all the beer and some of the red wine is v nice.
- I started running after reading Run Fat Bitch Run.
- I made myself post on the Soberistas discussion, as mentioned above. I am not comfortable talking about myself or trying to engage with strangers but it has got much easier. Quite a few are no longer strangers; more like friends.
- The engagement and support on Soberistas is much more powerful than I expected. Knowing I am not alone in this struggle and that people I respect are struggling too makes me feel less of a useless shitbag.
- I still look at Soberistas.com and read sober blogs most days. I don’t allow myself to think about whether that is healthy or not.
- After a couple of months I signed up to Belle’s 100 Day Challenge, and then her Team 180 and Team 365 challenges. I try not to think beyond that, it is still too daunting to consider being alcohol free forever (although I know that’s what I need).
- Belle says you need treats when you go alcohol free. My treats were fresh cut flowers from the market twice a week in the early days, and playing jazz on my trombone more often. Now I have monthly treats. My treat for being alcohol free for a year will be a woodburning stove in the sitting room. I have always wanted one.
The NHS doesn’t deal well with ‘dual diagnosis’. My thoughts on this will follow at some point.