There was always ambivalence in the past. For a second I would consider how easy it would be to slide back into the social norm; that glass of wine after work, joining a group of old friends for a night out. I would spend time contemplating how much easier my day or my work week would be overall if I just drank cocktail after cocktail until I blacked out and woke up in (usually a complete stranger’s) bed.
That procrastination was always enough for me to stop, to think about my life as a sober woman. To think about my successes in my career, in my personal life. I got married sober, I went to parties sober. I walked down the street sober. Overall, I did life sober without a second thought.
The crack in the ice
I read somewhere once that a relapse happens months before the actual event. Maybe you stopped doing the work the helped keep you on track, you lost that organisation that kept you in line, you took on that extra work that had no impact on anything except your stress levels, you purposefully lost contact with your sober crew, or – like in my case- it could have been planning a wedding with a mixed family from across the world (!!) It really could be anything.
On August the 4th 2018 the ambivalence to stay sober smashed into a million pieces over. What actually happened isn’t even worth writing about, there was no trauma, no breakup, no death in the family. What can only be described as workplace hearsay, not dealt with by overworked management. (I was one of those overworked managers, but we’ll come back that another time). That was the crack in the ice that finally broke me.
What’s important for this next part is how highly I regard loyalty. I firmly believe in employees working for managers they love, not jobs they hate. I believed I had that with my employees. I believed I had a trusting open relationship with my people that if there was an issue they would come to me. No one else.
So when I started to hear the odd workplace comment about “not having her team prepared” or “she doesn’t understand what this project looks like anymore” my anxiety hit the roof. Not even 200mg of Sertraline could calm this beast down.
When I confronted my manager, she said she had “heard” things but considered them hearsay. She chose not to do anything about it as she believed “people gossip about their managers all the time”. However, this wasn’t good enough for me. I demanded that the 5 of us sit in a room and talk about what has been said. That way, in my mind, my people would say point blank that the whole scenario was fabricated and my pristine work could go back to perfect.
However, it was quite clear to those around me and in my own mind that I was mad. Violently mad. The next part I remember is just seeing red. I couldn’t calm down. I had to get out of my office, immediately, before something happened that I could regret in my career/life.
So I did the right thing and I left. I walked out of the office. I walked straight into the local Sainsbury’s at Leeds Station and I bought a quarter bottle of Russian standard vodka. I then walked into the ladies toilet, sat down, and drank the entire thing. I drank it like it was some kind of magic water that would shut my mind up. And it did. The world is a noisy place but all of the sudden it was silent.
I walked/stumbled to get my train, I found a seat, I sat down and cried. I cried because I allowed a situation to control me, I cried because I let my anger show at my work, I cried because the people I thought most loyal to me had turned their back….but mostly, I cried because I didn’t get a bigger bottle of vodka to get me through this journey.
By the time my wife arrived home from work, I had sobered enough to keep what I considered “a slip” a secret. No one needed to know. It was a bad day. Everyone has them – even us alcoholics and addicts.
The slip – continued
I then attended a social event on the Sunday following. There was alcohol everywhere. There were people everywhere. The manager I spoke about earlier, she was there. Again, I could feel the anxiety kicking in; my mind was loud and the ambivalence kicked in.
I could go home. I could get on a train and go. I still remember my brains rationale – “you’ve already slipped once, why not consider it the same slip and move on?”
So that’s what I did – I went back to what I consider “old Jess” and I drank until I ran out of money. I then convinced someone to keep buying drinks for me. I danced, I fell, I stumbled, I was thrown out of 4 different clubs.
When I finally reached home, thanks to some friends who found me at Leeds station, there was no hiding the state I was in from my wife. In the 4 years we’ve been together she has never seen me drink or take drugs. She’s only known Sober Jess. Better Jess. This was a side to me I can’t put into words because they’re hers to describe and, I’ll be honest, I didn’t and still don’t want to hear them.
As it stands – I’m currently under the care of an addiction therapist at Addaction (who have been amazing), and I am lucky to be still married to a very supportive wife. I have a very supportive wife
As of today, I have been sober for 75 days!
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