Sarah's Story - Living in Recovery!
"Now, I was turning to God – asking Him to give me the strength to turn my back on the drink. But the alcohol had complete control over me – I was powerless. " ... Sarah Page bravely tells how she stayed in recovery from her alcohol addiction... Sarah works for Ipswich based charity, Talitha Koum where she now helps other women
Living in Recovery
Accepting that I was totally powerless over alcohol was the first step in my recovery – and after years of denial I had finally accepted that fact. I went down on bended knee and turned to the God I had ignored for so long. I literally cried out for help. I was frightened and had no idea how I was going to cope without the drink. I was consumed with fear. I had used alcohol for so many years to give me a courage and confidence I hadn't naturally felt – and it had been my constant companion for far too long. Now, I was turning to God – asking Him to give me the strength to turn my back on the drink. The alcohol had complete control over me – I was powerless.
The denial that I had a problem had been almost as relentless as the craving for alcohol. For years, as I crawled into bed, or was put to bed by my long suffering husband, I would think “It will be different tomorrow, I won't have a drink”. But the need for a drink was more powerful than any good intention I might have had when I went to bed. I made some vague attempts to control my drinking, but towards the end I had absolutely no control. In fact, if I am totally honest, I'd had no control for a very long time. As someone recently said to me “Why would you try to 'control' something unless you already thought it was a problem?”.
Early recovery was literally a matter of taking 'one day at a time'. I was, for the first time in many years, actually putting my head on my pillow at the end of the day, without having picked up a drink since I woke up. I learned and began to understand that I had been suffering from an illness, and that for me, it wasn't the drink two-thirds of the way down the bottle that had been the problem, it was the first drink I picked up – or even the first sip. Once I had put that glass to my lips, any thoughts of an alcohol free day, or even any attempt to drink less than usual, went out of the window. The outcome was inevitable. I now understand that I cannot drink 'normally' – whatever that may be! It's got to be 'No' to any alcoholic drink for the rest of my life. A scary thought – but with God's help, one day at a time, it has been manageable thus far.
Somehow one day without a drink became two, which became three, four and so on. I felt exhilarated and free. Every day without a drink was such an achievement. I was on cloud nine! I hadn't realised how sluggish I had become. I had been drinking so heavily for so many years that I had been functioning in a mechanical way. I had become a 'functioning alcoholic'. Drinking had become so much a part of every single day, that I was just on 'top up' all the while. What had started out as a drink that I 'deserved' after a hard day at work, somehow became two drinks and then three. Alcoholism, as with most addictions, is progressive – and oh so powerful. Where one drink 10 years ago would have given me a warm glow, a mellow feeling, 5 years ago that had gradually crept up and I was drinking two or three times as much to get the same relaxed, chilled-out effect.
And sadly, that slow but steady increase in the amount I was drinking on a daily basis came to a head in November 2013. There were no niceties any longer – I was swigging out of the bottle, hiding bottles anywhere and everywhere, finding excuses to pop into the kitchen, out to the garage, or upstairs to put away some clothes. I was hiding the amount I was drinking from everyone – and always telling myself I could stop or cut down whenever I wanted to. Now was never the right time – it would always be tomorrow, or next week, or after a birthday, Christmas or the New Year.
Like most alcoholics, when one type of drink no longer gave me the desired effect, which was to significantly change the way I felt (and felt about myself) I would try a different drink. I remember one year on holiday, when wine no longer ticked the box for me, I discovered that a generous measures of gin in a gin and tonic, as was quite usual (and still is, I believe) served in Mediterranean tourist resorts, gave me the sought after feeling. That worked for a while – but like everything else, it didn't last. I shudder when I recall the poisonous cocktail of alcohol I was consuming on a daily basis towards the end of my drinking. It is truly a miracle I am alive today. I have no doubt whatsoever that had I continued drinking I would not be here to be writing this today.
It seems quite strange to me that when I finally put the drink down, it was only 6 days before my husband and I went on a mini cruise to the Christmas markets in France and Belgium, only 3 weeks until Christmas itself, and only a month before the New Year. Holidays, Christmas and New Year had all been very good reasons for drinking even more than usual ….....and here I was, filled with a courage and determination I'd never had before.
It's scary, actually, that the longer I am in sobriety, the further back I am remembering times when alcohol was far too important to me. I know that many years ago I was appalled at a corporate function that there were some people who were making the most of the 'free' drinks that their company had laid on. I thought they had already had more than enough! How could I be so judgemental? I became so much worse than those people I had silently criticised. They weren't alcoholics – they were just making the most of an opportunity to enjoy themselves. Years later, an alcoholic – I had never ever had enough.
It wasn't until I finally put the drink down that I realised how ill I had been. Not only did the physical craving leave me overnight, the mental obsession was lifted from me too. I know it is not like that for everyone. We are all different – but I was incredibly blessed not to have any withdrawal symptoms. Given that I was drinking at least a litre and a half of sherry every single day – and had been for some time – I have since learned that it is potentially life threatening to stop drinking completely without medical intervention, and to do so could be fatal. Praise God for his amazing grace.
During the early days of my recovery I experienced a sense of euphoria that no drink had ever give me! I hadn't felt this well for many many years. I had used drink for a variety of reasons, some of which I will explore in greater detail, but nothing the drink had ever given me could compare with what I was experiencing having put it down for the last time. I felt free – gloriously, wonderfully free.
Over the next three or four months I gradually began to recover both physically and mentally. All the symptoms that I had consulted the doctor, quite frequently about, and for which I took so many tablets, settled down. The headaches, the early morning nausea and sickness, the heartburn, poor sleep, night sweats, cramps and irritable bowel – all improved and I gradually came off all the medication I had been taking. I had mental clarity – I hadn't realised just what a 'fog' I had been trapped in.
One of the biggest joys in early recovery was, and still is today, waking up in the morning, instead of just coming to. I welcomed each new day, with my wakening thought a silent prayer to God thanking him for my sobriety. I began to notice, and truly appreciate the sunrise, the sound of the birdsong welcoming in the day. I was no longer just existing, I was truly LIVING.
As I gradually settled into my 'new skin' I became more comfortable with the huge changes God had brought about in my life. With the help and support of my sponsor, who herself had been in sobriety for nearly four years, I began to realise that there were some fairly deep underlying issues which needed to be explored and laid to rest if I was to achieve a complete journey to freedom.
...Watch for other blogs by Sarah on the Heart 4 Ipswich website
Sarah Page works for Ipswich based charity, Talitha Koum (TK) working with others to help women caught in addiction
Sarah's Story is being serialed and reprinted by kind permission every Monday in as her personal blog
If you want to talk to someone about this article or the issues it raises please contact Talitha Koum (details below).
If you need more information on the charity, giving or the Women Together program please do contact the TK office:.email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01473 857432 or visit their website at www.talithakoum.org.uk