I Escaped to Spain to Start a New Life but Soaked it in Alcohol Instead
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized my drinking was becoming a problem, but around two years ago, I realized that instead of enjoying the odd drink at home at the weekend it became something I relied upon just to get through the day and that’s when it got out of control. I would be anxious if there was no beer or wine in the house and if my husband suggested we have a dry day, I was terrified and resentful. Drink tea all afternoon? No thanks! For a long time I was living my life from the bottom of a glass and couldn’t imagine doing anything else or ever getting out.
Yeah, I did have the odd moment when I thought it would be amazing to have a clear run of alcohol free days, to enjoy my family, my surroundings and do all the things I fantasied about while sitting on the sofa getting sloshed like getting better at my guitar or taking up running again or working on my business but when it came down to it, that’s all they were - pie in the sky ideas.
Like most of us, my drinking sort of crept up on me, it was something I no longer enjoyed occasionally with friends but something I had to have, needed and I couldn’t cope without it. The fact that I needed alcohol to cope with my life, my family and my kids is very painful to comprehend especially since just over 14 years ago I left the UK with my husband and our son who was two at the time, to start a new life in Spain. But what I ended up doing was escaping this new life and retreating into my own little bubble.
Partly this happened because of the Expat culture over here, normal rules don’t apply, it’s as if we’re on a permanent holiday so we drink because it is acceptable, encouraged even. We drink to practice our Spanish, we drink to overcome loneliness and boredom, we drink to cope with the stresses of Spanish bureaucracy, we drink to be social, we drink because it’s fun, we drink because before we moved here we had that image of us sitting on our patio or by the pool with a glass of chilled white wine so we drink to live our dream.
Gradually though, it stopped being fun and I found I needed my liquid crutch to cope with everyday life. The Spanish lifestyle is not a whirlwind of parties and social gatherings, there comes a point when real life gets in the way. You have to make a living, you have to be a mother and by now we had another addition to our family but unlike the Spanish mamas in my village who have extended family to take the slack, we were on our own and life becomes hard, boring and just a little bit lonely.
It was great for a while, I kept it up, I was surviving. But slowly the cracks began to appear. When you’re out in the sticks in the midst of a harsh winter and there’s nothing to look forward to then you turn to your only friend - alcohol. At least I did. I remember waking up one day with no recollection of having put my toddler to bed - did I even give him his tea? It became the norm for me to trudge through the day in a cloud of fog and self loathing. Trips to the woods, the pool or the park were postponed until Mummy was feeling better - so many broken promises.
My most heartbreaking experience of letting my drinking get in the way of my kids still shocks me when I remember it and believe me, I try to forget it but I can’t. What’s worse is that my kids still remember it and perhaps the most terrifying thing of all is that although this experience was deeply upsetting for everyone involved, it didn’t stop me drinking at the time - such is the hold alcohol had on me.
It was a normal Friday evening and we’d been on the wine since about 3pm, cheap, strong, boxed wine. I don’t like wine that much and I can’t drink it but this Friday it was all we had, so that’s what I drank.
The afternoon was going as it usually did: celebrating it was Friday, relaxing into the weekend, no chores or homework was done, the kids were doing their thing and we were doing ours, while drinking more and more.
Then the mood changed as it so often did, suddenly, without warning and the arguments started, things were said that were horrible to everyone kids included and I’d just had enough. I didn’t want to be there anymore So I got into the car and started the engine.
I had my son with me.
I was about to drive to God knows where in such a state that I could barely walk or see, let alone drive, with my baby, my reason for being, in the car with me. He started crying. Not because he was scared we would crash, or that we could die, or that I had no idea where I was going, what I was doing or why I was even doing it. He was crying because he didn’t have any clothes or pajamas with him, or his teddy bear. You see he trusted me, he would go anywhere with me, do anything for me.
But that evening I turned into a monster. Thank God I turned off the car. I just sat there and cried, cried for myself, for my children, for my family. Later, in bed, the usual horrors I felt at 3am were nothing compared to what I felt that night. I was in physical pain because of my shame, fear and guilt. I got up and lay down on the cold bathroom floor, it was freezing but I needed to feel something, anything to take away the self hate that was so crippling. I wanted to crawl away from myself but I just couldn’t escape.
I wish I could say that I never drank again after that but sadly I did - the very next night actually as I couldn’t handle the pain of what I was feeling, what I had done and to make it worse my youngest kept asking if we were still going to leave Daddy. How could I have put them through that? What would have happened if I had stayed in the car and driven? I still feel sick to the stomach when I think about it.
That was the beginning of my journey, when I realized that I had to do something about my relationship with alcohol. It actually took a good few months more for me to finally stop. Thankfully I never got into that state again as I was always acutely aware of how easily things can change. But honestly, it was exhausting to always be on the lookout for myself, how much have I had, how much will I have, will I have wine or beer, is it safe to have another? In the end I got sick and tired of battling with myself, to be in constant negotiations with the wine witch or the beer monster - whoever had taken up residence that day. I wasn’t having fun anymore. Alcohol was controlling me - even more than before.
But, in spite of the terrible situation, I am one of the lucky ones because I got the chance to stop while it was still my decision, not because I was dead, or in prison, or in that dark place you can’t get out of. I am thankful everyday that I had this opportunity to stop, to change my life, to be a mum again and although it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it is by far the best.
Eight months on and there are no more broken promises, I am doing all the things that I wanted to do but just never had the energy or motivation. I am working on my business, I also blog about my sober journey via https://sober-bliss.com/sober-blog/ which helps me remain accountable and grateful for every day, I have taken up running again and I am doing so much more than I ever dreamed. I am truly present for my kids and am enjoying being in their lives again. I still play the guitar badly though!
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