I thought seriously about taking my own life once. Twice actually. It was a long time ago and I had Post Natal Depression. However, no matter how black and endless life seemed at that moment, the thought of never seeing my children again stopped me from going through with it. As I write this I am sitting in the bus station in Almeria, Spain with tears in my eyes, trying not to make eye contact with anyone in the cafe in case they come and ask me if I’m okay. I shouldn’t actually be here right now. I should have gotten another bus but my lack of Spanish meant that I got on the wrong bus, at the wrong bus station and ended up with an hour to spare. I love the way life works out sometimes.
It happened thirty years ago and over the years I’ve always been pretty pragmatic about those black nine months. ‘I had Post Natal Depression and thought about taking my life.’ Of course, there were times when I told the story with all of the gory, weird detail that goes with that particular level of blackness but overall it just became part of my back story. Part of the unhappy childhood/acrimonious divorce/stressful jobs/broken relationships story that accounted for my frequent low moods, my overeating and my drinking. I mean, I had all this awful ‘trauma’ to share, and it made me special, interesting and different from you because – well – you had a happy childhood didn’t you? You didn’t suffer like I did, did you?
Of course, logically, I always knew that you had suffered some sort of trauma too because most of us do in some form or another. But I was special. I was different. I had lots of trauma, so many awful things that gave me the opportunity to show you how strong I was. I wore my Poor Me/Strong Me badge with such pride. Such ego. Such fantastical, inflated ego.
Now that I am free from alcohol, I can clearly see who I am. The veil has finally fallen from my eyes, and I can see all the good and bad that I have done to get through the days. Have I had moments like this before? Definitely, and I have celebrated each one of those as another question that’s been answered or another realisation that hits like a bolt of lightning. But, then I would go and drink again and that moment of clarity would fog up in yet another hangover, never quite going away but never quite fulfilling it’s potential. This is different. This is a joyful, freeing moment, which acknowledges that whilst those ‘traumas’ will always be part of my stories, they are not the excuses that hold me back or drive me forward any longer.
What drives me now is life. Living it, loving it, and seeing everything with a childlike enthusiasm that’s addictive.
But what about you, your traumas, your stories? Do you think alcohol helps you cope with your sexual abuse, your broken marriage, your debt, your lost love? I promise you it doesn’t. But you already know that, don’t you? You know that alcohol is the anaesthetic that dulls the pain of the knife that’s in your heart. It’s the thing that keeps that pain in a sufficiently soporific state so it doesn’t have the energy to rear its ugly head long enough for you to have to deal with it once and for all. Maybe that’s because you’re not ready, and that’s totally fine. You need to do whatever it takes to make your life have meaning and purpose, in whichever way you see fit. If that’s drinking alcohol, taking drugs, running around naked, knitting yoghurt and you’ve found your thing – then great. Keep doing that. Obviously, there are consequences to every choice we make, some more severe than others and whilst I would never encourage you to do anything that would ultimately harm you, I respect your right to choose your own coping method.
However, my guess is that maybe because you’ve found this page, you’re beginning to realise that alcohol just isn’t helping anymore. Maybe there is some ugly little troll of fear that’s sitting in a corner of your heart, whispering that you can’t do without it, that you won’t be able to tell your stories, that you won’t know who you are, that you won’t be interesting anymore, that your support network will disappear overnight.
I am not saying that you can just stop drinking and ‘hey presto’, it’s all fixed.
But it might be.
I think it was Alan Watts who said the biggest sadness of the human experience is that we spend a lifetime searching for the answers which we can actually know in an instant. Sounds easy I suppose, but I think our own instantaneous moment will come to us only when we are ready, and that’s all part of the process.
Are you ready to change the story? When I stopped drinking I decided to stop for 30 days and, most importantly, I also decided not to change anything else. I carried on with all my other crutches and bad habits to make sure I didn’t overwhelm myself and, ultimately, fail. I have spoken to quite a few women who have responded to this advice with ‘well I’ve given up for a month before so I know I can do it’ and if you’re in the same situation and want to try again I would suggest that this time, you set yourself a different intention.
It’s easy to give up something for 30 days knowing that you can start again. So, this time, set your expectations that you are trying 30 days alcohol free with the intention that you are exploring life without it permanently. Every day ask yourself….
How do I feel today, knowing I will never drink alcohol again?
Perhaps, in the early days, you will have some withdrawal symptoms that make clear thinking a bit of a struggle. So just leave that question for a better day, because there will be one. Only you will know whether the answers that come to you are the right ones.
I no longer have the desire to drown, anaesthetise or blind myself to my problems. Clear and sober, my issues have not lost their significance but they have been re-framed so that they are put in their proper place – in the past. It’s time to accept this gift of life, be grateful for it every day and do what I can to help you. Because, you are now my purpose, via Sobersistas.
Our Sobersistas Closed Group on Facebook is a closed, safe space where you can explore the possibility of sobriety, without judgement. Everyone in the group is caring, loving and supportive and will be there for you in the same way that you will be there for your fellow Sobersistas when you can.
I know that overcoming your depression may not be solved by sobriety but if you think it’s part of the reason then I can only say that you deserve to try 30 days to see how you feel at the end of it. Obviously, it’s important to consult your doctor to ensure that you will be safe during this time.
In re-framing my depression I can now say a joyful thank you to my two amazing children for saving my life. I know it’s taken 30 years to understand this but I will be grateful to them both forever.
I’m changing my story. Do you want to change yours?
With love, Jules xx
P.S. If you’re ready to change your story you can join us in my private membership group, The Sacred Circle. Find out more here.