On the wagon – why I quit drinking

by | Feb 18, 2014 | ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION, Little Angie, Little Mental, Little Well-Being | 14 comments

I Quit

I am the social drinker.

In a family with addiction tendencies, I am the two-pot screamer, the lightweight, the one who hesitates before taking a second paracetamol.

My mother stopped drinking when I was 3. She went on to become a drug and alcohol counsellor. She is well versed in the disease of addiction. The way I drink has always amused her. How I might choose to have just one drink, how two drinks could make me very drunk and how I would just as often tip #3 down the sink than finish it.

I think she enjoyed my easy relationship with alcohol, my ability to take it or leave it, the way drinking was only ever about fun for me.

And yet, here I sit preparing to confess that I have given up drinking.

Actually, I quit about a month ago after a particularly reckless evening gave way to another spectacular, dead of night panic attack. This made for two panic attacks in the space of three weeks and the cumulative effect of anxiety is dangerous. Panic begets panic. I was raw.

I told my therapist I was quitting drinking. The link between getting drunk and panic episodes was undeniable. Alcohol was a trigger and completely avoidable if I eliminated it from my life.

I make plenty of references to wine and how necessary it is to survive motherhood but here’s a little secret: I don’t drink much. I do enjoy a glass of wine when the chaos of dinner prep gets too much and who doesn’t love a beer on a summer afternoon? But in the space of a month, Bren and I might drink 2-3 out of those 30-odd nights.

Maybe that’s why I have a tendency to wipe myself out at social gatherings. As a 37-year-old woman, I get shit-faced in a way I almost never did in my teens and early 20s. I appear to have lost the ability to regulate myself. I miss the cues.

Bear in mind, a big night for me might be a grand total of 4 drinks and if I’m feeling outrageous, 5. I have never had a great tolerance for any kind of drug and why would I need to when one drink makes me feel so damned fabulous?

One drink. This is the magic number. One champagne under my belt makes me feel incredible. So why do I persist on drinking more? I think because that fun and sexy feeling of one drink is at such odds with my daily reality as Mum. Throwing off the shackles feels so amazing that I want to maintain that feeling for as long as possible. But subsequent drinks don’t maintain that level so much as tip me right over it.

And those subsequent drinks, even the four of a “big night” is not unreasonable for an adult at a party. It hardly constitutes wild abandon. And I have to say, I am a gas during those four drinks. People who don’t care for me might say I am loud, but people who do might say I am naughty. Friends and family like drunk Angie. She’s funny.

But that’s not really the problem. No, the problem occurs some 3-4 hours after I have gone to bed when I wake to the jack-hammering of my heart. Wrenched from sleep, my bloodstream is coursing with adrenaline and though I am aware of what is happening to me, that it is just a panic attack and I am in no real danger, I spend the hours until dawn pacing my house like a ghost with unfinished business.

It wears me out. It fries my nervous system. As deep sleep cocoons my family, I am preparing for imaginary battle.

When I think back, I realise drinking has always disturbed my sleep. But back in the day, I would wake, skol a glass of water, maybe lash out on a couple of Panadol if I thought the morning was going to be particularly brutal and then crawl back into bed where I would stay until noon. Any residual hangover was best treated with Coke and grease.

I miss the simplicity of a fucking hangover.

Discussing the previous panic attack with my therapist, I knew that she thought I could have avoided it if I had chosen not to drink. It annoyed me.

“I should be able to drink like a normal person!” I wailed.

I knew I sounded like I was arguing for steak and chips after I’d had a heart attack but I felt ripped off. It would be nice to occasionally let my hair down and suffer no more than a sore head the next day. But that is no longer my reality.

So I gave up drinking for a month and I did not miss it.

Proud of my commitment, I felt I’d earned the glass of champagne I had after a Valentine’s dinner with Bren. And I certainly deserved the glass after that. As Bren readied himself to leave, I suggested number #3 and why alarm bells weren’t ringing by #4, I will never know.

My love and I, in a bar listening to great music, just like old times.

Except that these aren’t old times, it’s now and now means when I drink four champagnes in the space of 2 hours, I WILL be pacing my home by 3am.

Fuck, fuck, FUCK IT ALL.

I am so tired of my crazy mind. But it is the only one I have and I need to stop torturing it with known triggers.

So I didn’t so much as fall off the wagon as dive headfirst and the recovery is brutal. Only time can strengthen my mind against this kind of anxiety and the toughened exterior I have been building up since the last attack has been ripped clean off.

I am fragile. I need to protect myself.

So for now, the booze goes.

And I will slowly rebuild.

 

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Hello friends

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I’m Angie!  I mum. I write. I wife. My husband would say this is the correct order.  He’s so neeeedy. I live with my family in Melbourne, Australia, where I complain about the weather for 90% of the year – but I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Except maybe in Lake Como, waving to my neighbours George and Amal each morning.

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14 Comments

  1. Karen T

    It IS shitty that you can’t just have a few drinks without ramification… If Bren doesn’t drink much, surely that will make it easier?? Can he give you a gentle cue if you need it?

    Whenever we get to play in person, coffee and tea will be the order of the day 🙂

    Thinking of you xxx

    xxx

    Reply
  2. Karen T

    ps you looked bloody gorgeous and have a great pair of pins!!

    Reply
  3. melbo

    I hope it helps, Angie. It’s the right decision for you. I agree that it does interfere with sleep and anything that causes a 2am wakeup is a good thing to avoid.

    Except for kids, you can’t avoid those as well we know.

    I also talk a lot about wine but don’t actually drink much. Funny that, eh?

    Reply
  4. Kylie

    I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again today, sending loads of cuggles and love.

    Reply
  5. Zanni Louise

    Good on you for making a decision that reflects self respect and self love. I have a glass of nice wine every now and then, but like you don’t take much too well. I find it makes me feel depressed if I have too much, so why would I?
    xx

    Reply
  6. Madeleine

    Sounds like a wise decision, lovely. Good luck with it, and I hope it’s a big part of the solution for you. xx

    Reply
  7. tina

    Excuse me…. I stopped drinking when you were 9 months old

    Reply
  8. Angie @ The Little Mumma

    Yes, a spot of peppermint tea will do the job. It will just be nice to see your pretty face for reals!

    Thank you, honey. xx

    Reply
  9. Angie @ The Little Mumma

    Funny. I like wine and it HAS helped in many a stressful situation but mostly, the fridge is quite alcohol-free. I’ve always been that way really. More than anything, it’s exxy, right?

    But yep, feeling good about my decision and it’s pretty typical that I had to learn the hard way….

    Reply
  10. Angie @ The Little Mumma

    Yes, Zanni, it’s a terrible depressant and coupled with the recovery from the panic, it leaves me in a bad way. Not good.

    But I feel great about my choice and stronger every day. xx

    Reply
  11. Angie @ The Little Mumma

    Thanks, sweet. Yep, I think for now it is the only way to go. Maybe with time I can break the connection but until then, it just isn’t worth it.

    xx

    Reply

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