I remember when I finally admitted I had a major problem with alcohol.
No. I mean the real time. Not the occasions I'd woken up with the worst head injuries or biggest blackouts and tried to frighten myself into sobriety. I mean the actual, proper real time. The one where I unequivocally knew I was totally f*cked if I drank again. The solid truth of it. The total anti-climax of acceptance. There's really only one thing that makes my lightbulb moment any different from most.
I was 10 months sober when it happened.
That's another story for another time though.
Upon this realisation I decided I needed lots of support incase I forgot that I had a problem. (I remembered enough about my drinking to recall that I was incredibly fast at having major realisations about my drinking behaviour, then just as swiftly forgetting them in favour of a pint or 10. The Usain Bolt of drinking epiphanies, if you will.) So I had a bit of a google about and joined an online resource called Women For Sobriety.
Lesson 1. Sobriety Forums are like Oxford Street; unflattering reflections of ourselves everywhere.This makes them superb tools for breaking down any form of lingering denial that you might have a drinking problem. Self-delusion is a form of extreme sport to most addicts, but a quick perusal of recovery forums soon knocks any notions of our issues being exclusive only to us.
There is nothing scarier or more liberating than people typing out verbatim everything we have ever felt about our drinking. Even the stuff we won't say out loud. Especially the stuff we don't say out loud. Because if we didn't say it then how do they know?
It's a truly freaky sensation. Not just the emotive words. But when someone cites how much they drink. Where they do it. How they cover it up. There's something about seeing all of this written down that is so effective. So powerful. Impossible to deny. For this reason alone it is worth joining a sobriety forum short-term to blow all notions that you don't have a problem right out of the water.
Lesson 2. It's not the posts that give us the insight into our drinking behaviour; it's the replies Seeing how women react to other drinking. How they respond in fights. And yes, there are fights. You stick a load of women together who have decided to use alcohol as a tool instead of building real coping mechanisms for life other people have and what do you get? Huge emotional outbursts. Aggression. Snide remarks. The whole spectrum of dramatic overreaction teenagers trapped in women's bodies are prone to. These are a real-eye openers. How fecking alike we all are.
Lesson 3. If it's online and I don't like it? It's not real. There was a woman I knew online. A regular poster, she'd been on the merry-go-round of alcohol abuse for years. This time she'd been sober a few months. then gone on a 10 day binge. She had posted to keep herself accountable. Told everyone she was determined to really do it this time. That she hadn't had a drink that day and was going to go stay at her dad's tomorrow and sort herself out.
The next day her dad let himself into her flat and found her dead.
This is not unusual. Women don't tend to have long drawn-out alcohol-related deaths. We go quickly. With not a lot of warning. Sometimes none, But the women on the forum completely lost it. Refused to believe it had happened. Someone had broken into her account. They were lying. Where was the proof she was really dead?
If something is online and you don't like it? You can skip that part. Pretend it isn't happening. Go to the next page. And really anyone who abuses alcohol has already mastered the art of sticking their La-La fingers in their ears and having a good sing-song in real life. They definitely don't need the technology that makes the online equivalent even easier.
So. Getting sober online? Fine. But staying sober online is not an option.
Because it's just the same conversations over and over. Same issues. Same guidance. Same bitching and disagreements.
And whilst drinking thrives on staying the same. Same routine. Thoughts. Actions. Sobriety thrives on change. Forming new beliefs. Acting in different ways. Getting new hobbies. Seeking out new friends and social situations.
Living in the outside world.
Abusive drinking needs isolation and routine to survive. If you can smash through both of these? Drinking is much harder. Harder to fall back on. Harder to be enthralled by. Once the width of life is explored, the narrowness of drinking is a paltry second best.
It can't be experienced online though. That's like googling images of your favourite holiday destination and then telling yourself that you've now been.
So take advantage of these online facilities where people speak your heart. (I recommend Soberistas because I like the cut of their jib.) See for yourself the absolute evidence that you are alike. Stick around and read their stories, take their guidance if it opens up new ways of thinking for you.
Leave and practise it in the real world.