It’s been a difficult week this week for the Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate. Difficult conversations have been had, and there are many changes ahead. There is no longer a Mr RDP. Well, there is, but he’s not Mr RDP any more. While this blog was always by definition very personal, being about my year of giving up alcohol and trying to change my life, it was never meant to bare to all the private lives of those close to me, so we’ll just leave it with this; that it is sad, that we are sad about it, but that it is the right decision for both of us.
I’ve done all the usual things one does when one goes through a breakup. I’ve updated my relationship status on Facebook and made a heartfelt public statement to all of our friends. I’ve had a bit of a cry. I’ve scoured gumtree for places to live and rightmove for places to buy and despaired over the cost of property in London. I’ve broken the news to my disappointed family. I’ve deconstructed all the problems with my little sister and with my best friend. I’ve eaten my entire bodyweight in ice cream and ordered takeaway for myself. I’ve made a break up playlist on Spotify and starting seeing hidden meanings in unlikely songs. I’ve listened to Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” on repeat. I’ve poured my heart out to the cat. The one standard break up thing I haven’t done is go out and get shitfaced.
It feels strange to be facing upheaval and change without being able to resort to getting drunk in order to have a few hours of oblivion, away from the reality of the situation. I don’t think I’ve ever been through a break up which hasn’t led to several bottles of wine and large numbers of cocktails and shots. Often all on the same night. Such importance is alcohol in our relationships that the pirate formerly known as Mr RDP has received huge numbers of offers to get him drunk in consolation, whereas I have received many commiserating that I can’t get hammered. A few even asked if I would abandon my alcohol free pledge, or have suggested that if I were to go out and get trolleyed that it would be ok because it ‘wouldn’t count’ on this occasion.
I actually feel like facing this alcohol free is more of a blessing than a curse. I won’t have any mornings where I wake up with not only a skull crushing hangover but also the knowledge that I am a lonely single loser with no one to make me tea or stroke my head. I won’t have the horrible mind bending mood swings of a night out on the piss when one isn’t entirely emotionally stable. A night out drinking when you’re in a fragile state is not a reliable way to cheer you, or anyone else for that matter, up. You *might* get into a giggly state were everything is funny. You *might* dance like a complete banana to Generation X’s Dancing With Myself and feel pumped for the future. You *might* start dancing to Robyn’s Dancing On My Own and end up in hysterical tears in the middle of the dancefloor. You *might* end up totally maudlin, crying all over your friends and ruining everyone’s night. That’s the thing with alcohol, it’s not a predictable panacea for your emotional ills. It’s ultimately a depressant; and while it enhances your mood in small doses if your mood is low to changeable in the first place all it’s going to do is make you feel lower and more unstable. You then either face a hangover of apocalyptic proportions or you just keep drinking.
Whenever I look back over my old personal blog, particularly during the days when I was at my most mentally unwell, I am often struck by how important alcohol was to me, and how little insight I had into how it was trapping me in a cycle. So many posts about getting drunk and being hungover, interspersed with posts about my ongoing struggle with depression. I wonder now whether if I’d been able to escape the drunken high/hungover low cycle back then I would have faced my mental health demons sooner. I suspect not. I may have used alcohol as an escape from the relentless grind of my clinical depression, but my recovery was more down to a lot of therapy (most successfully CBT and then a few years later CAT) and several rounds of anti-depressants. Maybe some of my depressive episodes would have been less severe without the drinking, but my agoraphobia would have been worse as sometimes it was only the alcohol allowing me to leave the house. And yet it is pretty clear that on many occasions I dealt with hard times by trying to drown them. Breakups, fall outs, unhappy work situations and bereavements – all were propped up with drink. Whether that made them harder to deal with in the long run, or meant that I just avoided dealing with them at all, is a moot point. Drinking the problems away is not an option I have now.
To be in a position where even if I wanted to I couldn’t go out and drink until I fall on my face is actually very freeing. It means I have to face up to my situation fully present, fully mindful. Yes it means I have to face all of the difficult feelings this is going to bring up head on, but surely that can only be a good thing in the long run.
I no longer need alcohol to leave the house, or to have a good time. I’ve learned how to have fun without it. Now I need to learn to weather the hard times without it. I suspect that this will prove much easier.