Natalie thought she’d miss alcohol forever. But more than two years later, life is better than it’s ever been.
On my day one of giving up alcohol, my eldest daughter was in hospital with anorexia, my youngest was an angry nine-year-old, my finances were a mess, my career was just hanging in there, and anxiety and depression were taking turns to lead this whole miserable dance.
I was in my mid-40s and had been binge drinking most weekends since my early 20s. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I started drinking at home, away from social activities. That was the most problematic drinking for me.
By my 40s, drinking had become a compulsion. When I wasn’t drinking I felt empty, as if I was rudderless.
I knew for a long time my drinking wasn’t making me a better parent. I wasn’t on my A-game. My mother would tell me that—and she was so right. But I thought drinking was good for me. So I figured if I made up for it with my kids in other areas that would be okay.
It wasn’t until my daughter was admitted to hospital with anorexia that I realised something was undeniably wrong. She’d been losing weight and I hadn’t even noticed. I Googled ‘help for alcoholism’ and The Salvation Army Bridge came up. So I phoned and talked to someone. It wasn’t at all scary having that conversation, and they encouraged me to come in and check them out.
I knew I needed to create enough space to sort myself out and the Bridge gave me that space. I became a day client. I was really lucky because Mum moved in to look after the kids.
One of the most important lessons I learnt on the Bridge programme was that what I thought alcohol was, a myth—alcohol had fooled me into thinking it was doing good things for me, when the opposite was true. I also picked up some good psychological tools to change my behaviour—people there helped me immeasurably!
Not drinking got easier. It really did!
The funny thing is, all the things that had made me drink—the anxiety, bouts of depression, feeling unworthy or that life had dealt me a bad hand —when I stopped drinking, they went away. Before, I was good at things but didn’t have a lot of passion for them. But now I feel good and like I’m making a difference.
I’ve had two-and-a-half years of sobriety, and to say life has turned around is was one hell of an understatement. My daughter is now at healthy weight and eats anything and well. She’s as happy as a teenager can be. My youngest is extraordinary, content and really happy at school. This year I’ve presented in a board room to some of the industry leaders where I work as a health and safety consultant, looking after six different plants across the country.
I’ve discovered my default setting is to be largely free of anxiety and depression, and that my true nature is one of happiness and positivity. I thought I would miss alcohol forever and have this huge gap where the bottle used to be. I’m lucky I got to discover that isn’t the case.
Who do I have to thank for this new life? Well, me—because I decided to make a change. But also my wonderful family and the amazing people at The Salvation Army Bridge.
Want to assess your drinking? | www.salvationarmy.org.nz/Bridge
Image: Stock photo
by Natalie (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 15 July 2017, p11
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