For longer than I’d like to acknowledge – though one of the features of this blog is that I’m going to have to acknowledge a few things I’d rather not – I’ve had a troubled relationship with alcohol.
I would never have identified as an alcoholic, mostly because of the culturally entrenched image of what being an alcoholic is.
I’ve never had a ‘rock bottom’. I haven’t lost my partner, house or kids. I don’t drink in the working day and I’ve never lost a job, or even missed a day of work or study, because of drinking. I’ve never lost my license, or even driven drunk.
These are the things that we expect of an alcoholic, and the things that happened to someone very close to me before he went – with little success – through years of rehab and AA. But that’s not my story to tell.
It does feed in to mine though. I watched from the side lines as everything that we are led to believe is the only option for alcoholics didn’t work for him, and I knew it wouldn’t work for me.
The media and popular culture, as well as our health service and justice system, all know that AA is where you go if you have a drink problem. The only solution is to find a group, and to never drink again.
You admit you are powerless, and you hand over responsibility to god, or God, or some other god as you understand it, and then never drink again. Or you do all that and do drink again, in which case you have done it wrong.
That was never going to work for me. For a start I don’t believe in God, so I am going to run in to problems pretty early in the steps. I also don’t think that telling someone that they are powerless is a very empowering message. I don’t believe you can ever give a person control over an area of their life that they are struggling to control by telling them that they can’t control it.
I don’t think AA is without some significant merits, but I know it’s not a good fit for me.
It is hard for any alcoholic to admit they have a problem with alcohol, but it is even more difficult to allow yourself to acknowledge it when you know that the only solution – the only hope - is not going to work for you. Why would someone even bother?
So I have always found ways of masking it. Through my twenties I surrounded myself with a heavy drinking and hard partying crowd. It was always ‘social drinking’, but we were very sociable, and within that group I was definitely amongst the most sociable of all.
As we hit our thirties and started having kids people broke off from that scene, and I did the same, but what I didn’t realise is that while everyone else had changed their lives in the time I wasn’t with them, I was still drinking just as much, more even, but doing it at home, on my own, usually after my partner and kids had gone to bed.
I’d stay up to do the dishes, and laundry, and make the packed lunches, while quietly putting away a bottle or two of wine every night.
When we had company there’d be wine on the table, but there’d always be a separate bottle or two stashed in the kitchen. I’d either keep topping up my glass so it wasn’t so obvious I was a bottle or more ahead of everyone else, or I’d just keep pace in one room, and be drinking straight from the bottle in the other.
When we went for drinks after work I’d always have a can between work and the pub, just to get started. And I’d never consider a trip to the pub without a four-pack in my bag, just in case.
And it turns out that this isn’t how most people drink.
I think I might have always suspected.
And then, completely by chance, I stumbled in to The Sinclair Method and embarked on a journey that I am documenting here.
I hope that one day this might be useful to someone else.
I am tweeting using @NickyKatz where I’ve been keeping my drink diary, and recording my most immediate thoughts and experiences as I’ve been going through this process. It’s riddled with typos and the immediacy means it’s also poorly curated, but it is honest.
This blog, on the other hand, is something that I hope will be more considered. I want this to be a place where I can take some of the issues that crop up on the twitter account and flesh them out a bit. Somewhere where I can add some context and explore the complexities a bit more thoroughly. A place where I can challenge myself, and document the process and experience of changing my drinking using The Sinclair Method.
Above all, I want this to offer some hope. I want anyone who reads it to know there are alternatives. Alternatives to AA, alternatives to identifying yourself as powerless and inherently flawed as being the best you can hope for, alternatives to handing responsibility for yourself over to God (or a god), alternatives to the binary state where either abstinence or problem drinking are the only two routes available.
There is something else, in fact there are a number of other things, and I am doing one of them.