Drinking was dangerous for me from my very first sip. Why? I was already in a very bleak headspace, the walls were closing in around me in a claustrophobic dark room which had no light switches, and suddenly, it was like someone had created a magic chute in the corner of the room for me to escape through. ‘Aha, I thought, this is brilliant,’ as I spiralled off into a brand new land where I no longer had to deal with the dark cards of doom my mind kept dealing me.
Often, an overload of emotion or heavy fog of despair is what drives people to seek oblivion in the first place; to feel good, or at least feel better.
The trouble is, when you fling yourself down the magic chute, you discover a brand new land that isn’t full of angst, pain leaves you alone for a while, and all the wrongs in the world fade away.
It’s hardly surprising that the brand new land is so seductive; diving through the chute is easier than facing challenges head on or dealing with problems toe to toe.
I wish more people would understand that those struggling with addiction aren’t ‘bad people’, they are ‘sick people’ trying to get better. Getting better isn’t just about putting down your substance of choice, whatever that may be.
When you accept that you have to nail the magic chute firmly shut and walk away from it forever, you grieve for the loss of that speedy escapism. You’re now stuck in the same dark room that you hated before you first discovered the chute.
As if abstinence isn’t hard enough, the other prickly challenge laying ahead is achieving emotional sobriety; learning to control your behaviour and maintain a positive outlook even when life lobs lemons at you. It’s not easy. No, more than that, it’s really fu**ing hard. And it’s difficult for those around you too because they watch you trying to ride out the rocky emotional course on your new bike without stabilisers. They too have to attempt to remain calm as they watch a chaotic crash here and hear a bloodcurdling scream there until you find your balance. It doesn’t happen overnight and it takes daily practise. It’s not easy – but it’s worth it.
Identifying and avoiding your emotional triggers wherever possible in early sobriety is so crucial to give yourself a fighting chance and give your brain time to alter its patterns. If stress is a trigger for instance, avoid it as much as you possibly can.
Learning new coping skills is vitally important so you’re not tempted to go back down the magic chute. You’ve said goodbye to that now and nailed it shut.
Stay away from the chute, you’re not garbage, you don’t belong down there…
Corrine Barraclough is a writer and former magazine editor now living on Gold Coast, Australia. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.