Sobriety Suits Me
I wasn’t the sort of girl who’d spend a Friday night swigging a cuppa with a biccie and a
big book of what I thought was bullshit. In fact, when I went (translation: was forced) to
my first recovery meeting, I top to toed the room. It was that split second when all I
valued was the outside. The surface overruled me and it was harsh – deadly, you might
They were diseased and I did not want to catch what they have.
Well, it caught me. If I’ve had alcoholism since pre birth, then I was at least hoping I
could pop a fuck off pill and brush it under a pretty Persian carpet. I can’t. My carpet’s
been a bit like Aladdin’s – some great views, but a full and fast flight can mask a lot of
dirt beneath it.
I have had to do some serious sweeping. I now attend the aforementioned recovery
meetings because I want to, and I’ll keep coming back. Some people achieve sobriety in
‘the rooms’ alone. I believe I needed long term rehabilitation because it put me around
sobriety almost 24/7. The meetings are one component of my programme here and they
don’t keep me sober per se – it’s the fellowship I’ve found in them.
It’s not as if I didn’t try to cut down or cut out alcohol by myself. I even sought all types
of help. Following my first hospital detox, I stayed sober for three months, one of which I
had to look after the family dog. My Dad’s good at surprises. It was to be my four legged
brother Brutus and I in the huge family home, in the tiny town of Woodville, whilst Dad
took his first girlfriend since Mum died to the other side of the world.
Brutus wasn’t much of a guard dog but he was great cardio. He took me on long walks
down – and sometimes on – State Highway 1. I had a radio show. Joined a country
music club. Dated a cowboy. Things were good. Until my personal sobriety plan didn’t
work. Why? Because it came with a drinking one. I decided that because three was
Mum’s favourite number, it was therefore mine. Thus three months of sobriety would be
a good time to begin again and win again.
I lost. Badly. I found myself in increasingly frequent and worse life threatening
situations, including 11 hospital visits in a year, mostly by ambulance. Just like my
disease got me, so too did my solution.
I could’ve gone to pretty much any rehab I wanted and had consultations with a few.
Some seemed like prison and others like paradise sans the swim up bar. So I went to
the bar downstairs instead. On March 17 – and on my fourth glass of bubbles, alone
and at 8am – my phone rang. I’d normally ignore a number I didn’t recognise but my
sixth sense told me to pick up the phone and not another drink.
There was here – the only treatment centre that had consistently called me back. That
is in turn a real reflection of the level of treatment I’ve received here. The CEO,
Christine, and her team, didn’t give up on me. Despite relapsing, I was instead given
another chance to show myself and them that I am worth it. If I’d been shown the door,
I’d probably be dead. Medics have told me so. But the care here is also different from
other rehabs in a way that has had a huge impact on my recovery – most but not all of
the staff are addicts in long term, stable recovery themselves. I don’t believe an addict is
ever fully recovered and neither do they. They have both trained and life experience. So
they get it – get me.
I was able to come in straight away. I said that I was really sick. In reality, I was the
sickest I’ve ever been without really knowing. Upon arrival, I could barely mobilise,
gripping to an assistant’s tall and slim frame as he aided me to reception. His glasses
make him look wise. He is. I thought I looked drunk. I was. I blew 1400 on the
breathalyzer he handed me. That’s more than five times the legal driving limit. Luckily, I
came via cab. My previous evening’s ethanol level on top of my morning tipple clearly
wasn’t enough to cure my withdrawl. I tried to focus on the goldfish swimming in the
tranquil pond outside and not my swimming head.
I was taken to a doctor immediately and then to the facility’s detox room. Shortly
afterwards, I lost my ability to walk altogether. I had a 24/7 minder for four days who still
describes my case as the worst she’s ever detoxed here.
I tried to hold off going to the toilet for as long as possible, sipping tentatively at the
Powerade my dehydrated body was in dire need of. Eventually, it was a huge effort to
get me there, little by very little. I have clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder and OCD,
which at times has been crippling. When I emerged, I had a panic attack. I completely
seized up and grabbed the handle of the door to my bedroom. I started collapsing onto
the floor, screaming pierce, shrill cries of total terror. It took three people to get me to
bed. My minder accessed adult nappies and put them on me for the night so I wouldn’t
have to get up again.
I hadn’t eaten and couldn’t, until my minder fed me a mouthful of banana like a baby
stuck somewhere between a high chair and a wheelchair.
She administered me a relatively low, decreasing dosage of diazepam, designed to
reduce the potential effects of alcohol withdrawl. They can include cravings, headaches,
nausea, tremors, hallucinations, sweating, loss of appetite, fast heart rate,
disorientation, insomnia and seizure. Or worse.
My mood was that of constant anxiousness and nervousness. I felt restless, irritable and
discontent. Although these are common traits of the recovering alcoholic, I seldom let
them show. I remained positive about my situation and myself.
Slowly, but surely, I started to improve and entered my rehab’s 30 day Primary Care
programme. I took one look at the schedule and immediately thought that as soon as I
could confidently walk again, I’d walk straight out the gates. There were groups,
therapies and meetings from 8am until around 9pm, Monday - Friday, and weekend
commitments as well.
But I didn’t walk out. Whilst some people bounce back quite quickly, others take a
couple of weeks, depending on the severity of how their body reacts with alcohol and
detoxing. It took me almost three weeks before I could get off the floor without the aid of
a windowsill, tent pole or a helping hand. Somewhere, during that time, I found myself
learning the tools I need for lifelong recovery – and how to use them. Initially, I didn’t.
That is my responsibility, not my rehab’s, nor that of any other person, place or thing.
I still have the tools that I acquired here about six months ago, before I took that
dangerous experiment of the first drink. The difference now is that my tools, whilst still
shiny, are used on a daily basis. I am now part of an ongoing sober living programme,
another unique offering of my rehab whereby I am able to live on site within the facility’s
framework, whilst steadily transitioning back into the ‘real world’.
I never thought I’d fall in love with recovery. But it’s one of few things that has never
broken my heart. Not only has it gotten me sober, it’s also gotten me the best version of
I still can’t believe this place is a charity and it will remain my chosen one for as long as
it exists. As I said, I sought neither prison or posh. The real value here lies in the people
and the care they give. It is priceless and they have treated my life is such. Now, I know
how to treat it the same.
This place has taught me to look beyond the surface of material matters and into what
matters most. I’d been standing inside the apparent togetherness of my own home
without realising that I was also standing in the broken one inside myself. The staff and
guests alike have all been knocked down by both ourselves and others, and needed
renovation. A life makeover. Different as we all may be as individuals, we are bound
together by one powerful entity: addiction.
I remember the staff here telling me on day one that they’d love me until I learned to
love myself. I thought I did. But I didn’t. Not at all. Healthy self love has taken me a long
time and a lot of hard work. The staff remain true to their word and have loved me
through all of it. Christine, the CEO, has the daily challenge of calling some very difficult
shots – tough calls that at times people’s lives depend on. I honestly believe that my
Mum worked through her to save mine and there’s forever a special place in it for her,
for this place and everyone who’s been here, is here and will come here.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my
blog, and for the feedback I’ve received. Whilst I have kept the names of certain people,
places and things confidential, and although I am not a trained professional, I can point
you in the right direction. I respond to all emails regarding my recovery so please feel
free to reach out at email@example.com