goodbye letter to alcohol

May, 2016

Dear Alcohol,

This is one of the hardest letters I have ever had to write – how can we possibly break up after 40 years together? – my life has involved changing countries, changing jobs, even changing husbands and friends but never changing you – you were always there as my constant companion.

We met when I was still a teenager – you gave me the courage I needed to get through college and to make and sustain relationships. We had some wonderful times together – I flirted with drugs but stayed faithful to you. You were the best – and made me feel special.

You gave me confidence – I was still “me” but just an amplified version. You helped me soothe the pain when things were not so good – why suffer with difficult emotions when you were there to erase them?

As I got into my twenties there were a few warning signs – do you remember that time I got so hammered I passed out in the bath and my flatmate had to ring the fire brigade to knock the door down? That was a great story to tell – especially the bit when I woke up in hospital with a shrink by my bedside. How we laughed at that one!

You were there when I met my first husband who also loved a drink – as did all our friends. I deserted you briefly when I became pregnant with my son but I still remember how much I missed you and how happy I was when we were re-united to toast the baby’s arrival.

You never prevented me from succeeding in my career – surrounded by heavy drinking colleagues we all believed in “work hard play hard” and anyone missing the weekly drinking session was viewed with great suspicion and written off as “boring”.

After more than 20 happy years together trouble came when I married for the second time. For some inexplicable reason my second husband hated you.

He was jealous and resentful of the hold you had over me and I realised that I would have to choose. Much to your fury I chose him.

He made me see that I was lost in you and that you could even kill me. I went through breast cancer but you convinced me you were innocent and I needed you even more to dull the fear of dying.

There followed a decade of trying to “moderate”. The thought of losing you completely was anathema to me but surely we could all live together if you and I were to “cool” our relationship.

This “ménage a trois” worked for a while. For months at a time we would all get along fine. Then you would suddenly exert your power and make sure that we had a crazy time together. Blackouts, injuries and terrible hangovers would follow and I would hate myself for giving in to you. You had become controlling and just wouldn’t let me go. The push and pull was becoming too much to bear.

I came to the jumping off place.

Blackout followed blackout while my husband watched helplessly. Sometimes I could easily drink a couple of bottles of wine and feel nothing at all. I finally realised this could not go on – there would be no going back if I continued on this path.

So on May 23rd 2015 I made my decision. I told you it was over. My heart was heavy but you were ruining my life. That was a whole year ago so I know it’s possible to live without you.

How you struggled at first – every day you harped on and on at me. I had no peace. You told me I would never survive a party or social event with you.

Evenings at home without you beside me were endless – painful and pointless. Socialising was difficult. I could not even get to sleep without you and lay awake for hours wondering if I had done the right thing. Without you to encourage me I felt depressed, angry and resentful of everyone still drinking. You told me I would never cope with the bad times without you – after all what experience did I have of dealing with my emotions?

How I missed the “buzz” – that beautiful high that came after a few glasses of wine (especially on an empty stomach). Never mind that after the high I would sometimes come crashing down and end up in tears.

But I hung on in there – and very slowly it got better. Your voice became fainter, my friends stuck with me and of course my long-suffering husband was thrilled.

I now realise that during all those years of trying to “moderate” our relationship was actually as strong as ever – your hold on me was ever present. You would allow me to “cool it” for a while but then come right back with a vengeance and cause havoc in my life.

You were right, it was hard –and sometimes it still is. Looking back on my year of sobriety I still remember the dismal birthday, Christmas and New Year “celebrations” – how could I celebrate without you beside me. But I am learning – and Year Two is going to be easier now that your power over me has diminished and I have experienced the joy of living without you.

So thanks for the memories – I will never forget you and often smile as I think back to those crazy times we had together – but it’s time for me to try a new life now – and for me to continue to live without you…

Yours sincerely,

Janet

Interview with Fiona McCosh, Sober & Sexy

 

Irish-born photographer, Fiona McCosh, launched her Sober & Sexy exhibition on 29 September in Cape Town. The models in the Sober & Sexy calendar are all in long term recovery and Fiona, who celebrates her 4th year of sobriety on 19 September 2015 – Fiona illustrates September.

Fiona told her story to Janet Gourand, Founder of World Without Wine (www.worldwithoutwine.com)

I come from a family with a history of alcoholism and depression. I always felt different and when I got drunk for the first time I took to it with such enthusiasm that I got alcohol poisoning! Later, I went to Art School and worked in a pub in the evenings. Speed, ecstacy and cocaine all featured in my life and boyfriends tended to share my enthusiasm for drugs and alcohol.

At the age of 36, someone introduced me to GHB. I used this drug to try to moderate my alcohol intake. For four years I was using alcohol and GHB (which is also called the ‘date rape’ drug as it causes users to pass out). One day, I dropped some GHB on my laptop and it melted the keyboard!

My ‘rock bottom’ lasted for about a year. I was living with a boyfriend and we would be awake for about two hours at a time – get high – then pass out again. We didn’t wash or clean our teeth or go out.

One day, I rang my mother who was so shocked by my appearance that she took me straight to the Priory – a rehab centre in the UK.

The Priory didn’t work for me but they suggested a rehab in South Africa. After 28 days in the South African rehab I was still a mess so I extended my stay for three months. After another two months in a sober house, I relapsed and managed to nip down the road and drink a bottle of vodka. There then followed a further four months of ‘research’ into why I needed to put down the red wine.

It took yet another stay in one more rehab centre in SA for me to finally get clean. The relapse had given me the necessary rude awakening I needed and I was able to work the “12 steps”. I still go to about four meetings a week and have an addiction counsellor but I have absolutely no cravings now and feel totally secure in my sobriety. I can socialise with people who drink although most of my friends are in recovery. I appreciate the laughter of people who have ‘suffered’ – somehow it’s more authentic. Cape Town has a vibrant recovery community and I now live here permanently. I feel like I have been given a new lease of life – a second chance.

Last year, I had the idea for the calendar. My passion for photography has been re-ignited and I was inspired by the Calendar Girls story based on women posing nude for a calendar in order to raise funds for a cancer charity. I actually had no trouble finding people to pose for me, so will probably publish a calendar every year!

My passion with the calendar is to spread a message of hope. If I can get clean, then anybody can! I want to raise awareness as well as money for a good cause. I am grateful for the gift of recovery and want to start a dialogue and encourage people to seek help. I am hoping that the Sober is Sexy show and calendar will help make it clear that there is a solution, that recovery is not only possible, but pleasurable – and even sexy sometimes!

Proceeds will be donated to the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre.


World Without Wine is a social network
that enables men and women to successfully moderate their drinking and become sober by developing tools to support their journey to sobriety. Workshops, sobriety coaching and support groups all work together to provide the encouragement needed.

 

For more information:
Website: www.worldwithoutwine.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/worldwithoutwine
Twitter: @WorldWoutWine

 

 

For more information contact:-

Fiona McCosh at Sober & Sexy on info@soberandsexy.co.za / 079 127 5357
or Dougie Dudgeon at Cape Town Recovery on bfd@butterflyeffect.co.za / 082 560 2296
or Janet Gourand at World Without Wine on janet@worldwithoutwine.com / 072 213 6064

Janet’s Story

I started drinking at college. Then as a career girl convinced myself that “work hard, play hard” was the way forward. Marriage to a fellow “bon viveur” meant that a bottle of Jack Daniels and some decent wine was always included in the “Saturday Shop”. Dinner parties with friends would often go on until 3am. Only time I stopped was for nine months when pregnant. Remember being thoroughly bored at parties and dinners and longing for the day when I could drink again.

In my forties I got divorced and remarried. Husband number two (who is French) not impressed by Brits drinking their heads off so tried to tone it down a bit. Not easy. He genuinely could not understand why I couldn’t stop after a couple of drinks (like he did) but just not possible for me. I didn’t mind the hangovers (a price worth paying for a good night out?) but what I hated was the memory loss. Is there anything worse than not knowing what you did or said the night before?

At the age of fifty-five I got breast cancer. Mastectomy, chemo and radiotherapy followed. Latest research suggests that there was probably a link between my alcohol consumption and cancer although I was strongly in denial at the time. Not an easy journey but I got through it. Now am eight years cancer-free – yay!

In 2003 we relocated from London to Cape Town. For ten years I ran my own business which was huge fun but involved plenty of travelling, staying in hotels etc – always a reason to reward hard work with drinks all round!

I have now sold my business and am doing pro-bono work so a lot of the pressure is gone. We make the most of Cape Town’s fabulous restaurants and are always out for lunch, dinner, cocktails etc. I was always trying to “cut down” to the elusive “fourteen units a week” but usually notched these up after just a few days.

After one particularly hectic week of partying I decided to “STOP DRINKING ALTOGETHER!” as I was feeling distinctly queasy and starting to worry about my liver.

That was just 100 days ago!