This Naked Mind, The Alcohol Experiment, and the 100 Days of Lasting Change were pivotal in Rosa realizing the true cost of alcohol in her life. Read on to see what freedom from it has brought her!
Alcohol was always there
I can’t say that alcohol was a problem during my childhood. Although, probably, starting with that phrase is already, in itself, a problem. Alcohol has always been a normal thing at home and in the family. As far as I can remember, no one drank to excess, but the adults ate and dined with wine, and if they went out, they drank beers or vermouths. Nothing in excess, but it was always there. The maternal family was from a great wine area (something possible in Spain, a wine country). Therefore, the preparation of homemade liquors, giving wine as gifts, visiting wineries, and all this type of thing, was the most normal thing.
My childhood, therefore, was spent enjoying a few “sips” on special occasions and knowing, moreover, that as an adult I would be on that side of the group.
My personal relationship with alcohol
But, my personal relationship with alcohol did not start there. It started as a teenager, around 16 years old. That is when I discovered that the only way to fit in with the group was by drinking. I don’t remember if I liked it the first time I tried it or not. What I remember is that I stopped being afraid of making a fool of myself. I was daring, I laughed a lot and I felt that, finally, everything was working. All the fears I had as a result of overprotective parents disappeared. Even more so if, on top of that, throughout childhood, I was the studious, fat girl with glasses in the class. Come on, the perfect target. The ideal breeding ground for alcohol to become my “best friend” as a teenager.
Difficulties, problems fitting in with peers, insecurity, and shame seemed to disappear completely. Or maybe the drunkenness was so bad that I couldn’t remember if it was all there or gone.
What was clear was that, in the cost-benefit balance, for me, at that time, alcohol had many more benefits than costs.
A normal drinker for a bit
As I entered the adult world, having finished my degree and entering the world of work, alcohol took a back seat. Without leaving, obviously, he remained in that line of “normality”. Perhaps because, oh, surprise!, the chosen career was Psychology (I know, who would have thought, right?) and the love of work took the place that, until that moment, alcohol had.
If at some point in my adolescence I could have doubted how I used alcohol, obviously, at that time, as a good psychologist that I was (and, modesty aside, I was), having a problem with alcohol was unthinkable. What’s more, I treated some cases of people with addiction problems. I couldn’t be in that group at all.
Unaware of the cost of alcohol
Unfortunately, I didn’t seem to realize that working seven days a week and drinking at the end of the shifts (since the work was emotionally very intense) to disconnect, was still a problem. Denial and inability to face many of the fears and insecurities not only continued, but also grew. For me, however, it was impossible to see that there could be a problem. As good as I was at fixing other people’s lives, how could I have a problem? I spent all day at work, it was not so essential to change anything. I confirmed then that there was no longer any problem.
What was certain was that, whether I saw it or did not want to see it, unfortunately, there was a problem (and it was not a small one). Both, work and alcohol, served to not think, not feel, not have to look.
The saying goes that man plans and fate laughs. I would not know if this is really the case. What I do know is that life presented me with a neurodegenerative disease that expelled me suddenly from the world of work.
Now the fronts are multiplying. I have to manage a complete change: physical symptoms, fear of the future, losing what I have, seeing my friends go on with their lives and realize that mine had stopped, feeling lonely, and above all, experiencing absolute loss. of identity. The main element of my life vanishes in the blink of an eye.
I suppose that, without realizing it, when work leaves the equation, alcohol assumes the role of occupying its place (and incidentally, recovering the one it already had years ago). Let’s say, the downhill slope starts to get steeper.
Rebuilding my life
Even so, fortunately, I have enough inner strength left so that the goal of rebuilding my life is so powerful that all of me is focused on moving forward. The problem is that, despite that, the alcohol, without making more noise than necessary, continued to occupy the space. Being more and more present, as if waiting for the perfect moment to be more protagonist. It was as if one part of me was straining to go up and the other part was pulling down, falling deeper and deeper, without realizing it.
When in all this new vital creation something fails and I am forced to slow down, it is when I realize that alcohol is present in my life continuously.
When I reach that awareness and acceptance that something is not right, the psychologist that I have inside appears and takes the reins. Big mistake, by the way. Convincing myself that with the force of will I was going to stop this strange madness into which I seemed to have entered was the worst decision in the world.
Alcohol became my entire life
If alcohol was a constant in my life back then, at that moment it became my ENTIRE life. It was a recurring thought that I could never get out of my head. I don’t know if it was because I was in the struggle of trying not to drink, because I was in the moment of giving up and drinking, or because I was in the moment of absolute anger at myself for letting that happen. Sometimes I look back at that moment and I don’t know how, despite everything, I kept going with my studies and work. I guess, fortunately, something inside me was afloat and I was clear about where I had to go.
Either way, the more I wanted to get alcohol out of my head and out of my life, the more into it I was.
Slowly realizing the true cost of alcohol in my life
Not to mention that, as a good psychologist, this could not be happening to me. And as a good psychologist too, I knew that drinking was wrong. Which activated the most impressive creativity to get alcohol without being noticed. Going out several times in a row to go to different stores and never buying excess alcohol in any of them, and the like. Exhausting, it must be said. Now, with the distance, I can only think that, if I had used that creative talent for good, I would have invented something successful, for sure.
Jokes aside, unfortunately, it was not like that. Each time I was traveling more and more of the way to the bottom. Each week began with great resolutions that, unfortunately, only lasted through Monday. Perhaps, in a good week, they lasted Tuesday as well.
Now I would also add how did nobody notice? Because, to be honest, I drank more with people than alone. Either I knew how to do it very well and hid a lot. Or really, I was drinking the normal “amount”. Even though I knew it wasn’t. I guess you know it’s not normal when, no matter how much you tell yourself you want to stop, you can’t. A great madness!
What is alcohol costing me?
In all this transit, I begin to accept that maybe (just maybe, eh?) I might have a problem. The terror of asking yourself if you are an alcoholic is tremendous. It’s terrifying to ask yourself the big question: am I an alcoholic? Personally, I couldn’t do it. But at least I was able to start reading a book about addictions in general. Obviously, it didn’t do me any good, but as the first step towards recognition, it was something.
I finally made up my mind and bought Annie’s book. Buying it electronically was, in itself, a bad move. I am one to read on paper. If I buy it electronically, I mentally do not place it in the same order of importance. So it was. I read it, yes. But skipping the annoying chapters. I already knew that alcohol is bad, why read it? And things like that. In spite of everything, my feeling was one of pride for having bought it and, in addition, I registered on the web.
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Drinking to cope
At that time, my dog (my best friend, with whom I had an amazing connection), whom I had adopted shortly after my life-changing diagnosis, started to get sick and died of cancer. What had connected me most with life and that, in fact, had become the engine of all the reconstruction that I had managed to carry out, passed away. From there, the fall is direct. Not only was I unable to stop drinking, but I was also not clear that I wanted to quit. Even worse, the message that came to me from all sides was that “I had to cry my sorrows”.
I don’t know how many times, or with how many different people, I toasted his loss in the same morning. Suddenly, not only do I lose absolute control of the subject, but it seems that the free bar of understanding opens. Creative efforts to hide it are no longer necessary. Everyone is willing to drink with me so that I don’t suffer.
Luckily, that healthy part that had always been there, the one that had sustained me and helped me get ahead at the time and had gotten me to rebuild my life, had not disappeared. The alcohol had camouflaged her, but she was still there. And from there she decides to take over and bring Annie back into my life.
Ready to experiment
I have to admit that I had a little involuntary help. Until that moment I had not told anyone what happened to me, what I felt, my fears with what was happening to me, and the problems of not being able to stop it. So, first of all, I took the step of explaining it to a person. Maybe this way, everything could be simpler. And certainly, it was, but not as I expected. Her response was that I would not stop drinking until we finished going out to eat and that we still had many meals pending.
Fortunately, my healthy self took over.Just as I hung up the phone, I bought Annie’s book on paper (and Allen Carr’s, by the way, which Annie talked about in her book). I went back to the website, I saw that The Alcohol Experiment would start soon and I signed up. Until it started, I would have time to finish the books and that’s it, so much nonsense over.
My alcoholic part stirred like freshly caught fish. I made up for everything I wasn’t going to drink later in the days that remained. It was not the best way to start the TAE, having destroyed my body so much that, from then on, nothing could get worse. Every time I think about it, I will regret all my life those three-four days before the TAE. I was probably lucky because I walked a very fine line.
But I entered The Alcohol Experiment. Without a doubt, it has been, is, and will be, the best thing I have ever done in my life. Perhaps, above all, it was not just about stopping drinking. Although that was what I was looking for when I started the program. But the reality is that it was a vital jolt. Quitting drinking meant having to ask myself why I was drinking, since when, why, and how I used it, asking myself what I was running away from, and what I was afraid of. Everything that I had spent 30 years trying not to look at, hide and avoid, suddenly stood before me with no possibility of escape.
This was the true cost of alcohol
So, I was faced with two options: either I would run away again, or I would choose to immerse myself in my darkest self, my deepest fears, and begin to dig into them so much that, after going through all that, I could only come out again, but differently. Impossible not to fully accept that journey towards change. Impossible not to choose that facing fears was the best vital option in the world!!!
Where I am now, 212 days after taking that fundamental step in my life, is precisely in the process of stirring all the foundations. A continuous rethinking of life and awareness of each moment.
It’s a hard process (extremely hard, sometimes), but it’s wonderful!!!
On the journey
I still have a long way to go. The ups and downs are constant. Alcohol often takes advantage of any emotional destabilization to appear as a savior tirelessly insisting that I choose him again. Many times I have to fight with a part of myself that still agrees with him and wonders “nothing would happen for a little drink, right?”.
Even though I am still there, the peace I feel inside of me is so important and liberating. I have the feeling that perhaps for the first time in my life, I am the only one who has the reins of my life in my hand. The one that has the power to choose what I do with it. And although I’m not going to lie, it’s very dizzying, I can only look to the future with emotion and a lot of enthusiasm and hope.
The true cost of freedom
What TNM, TAE, and 100 Days of Lasting Change have given me is the opportunity to see myself and value myself (and the life I’m creating) like never before. I don’t think I’ve ever loved myself so much.
The best gift in the world, without a doubt!
I was wrong in many of my decisions and some could have had horrible consequences. But fortunately, I have been able to learn. And I would tell myself that, in addition, I doubt that I will make the same mistakes.
How I’ve grown
The old me tried to spare me pain. I was wrong because it is evident that one cannot stop suffering. When you turn your back on it and pretend it’s not there, deep down, you just hide it. And when that comes out it’s so much worse. But now I’d tell myself not to worry, I’ve learned and it won’t happen again.
I wish I hadn’t needed to go through all this, but, the truth is, if I’m able to explain it now, I’m very lucky. If I look back, I know I haven’t been well, with many things terribly wrong. But, also, I have done very good things in life, of which I feel tremendously proud. What I can regret the most is not having taken care of myself and seen myself in the same way that I have known how to do with others.
I can start over
But hey, I’m not going to change all that. As much as I look at it and want the past to be different, it won’t be. But I can start over. With everything I know now, it is clear that if I manage to overcome this much, I will undoubtedly come out better. Now I have been able to surround myself with people that I know I can count on. People who are sharing this path with me, which makes it easier. Or, at least, I can spread the weight a bit in difficult moments, and that is fantastic. I would tell the old me that opening up and showing oneself to others is not bad, nor does it have to be scary. On the contrary, it is essential and very healthy.
Finally, I would tell her (my old me) not to worry. We will make sure this is not lost, we will make sense of it. Since we’ve had to go through this, we’ll find a way to make it something useful. Alcohol is everyone’s problem, even psychologists who have come to help people with problems (including addiction). It can happen to them and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. This is something we can learn to live with. It is something to grow from!