Milly has a new way of life
My name is Milly, I’m a 29-year old girl from England, now residing in Berlin. I’m also a very grateful recovering alcoholic.
As is always the case around this time of year, I’m recovering from Christmas (though this time it’s from od’ing on Turkey and chocolate, rather than booze). Other than family get togethers and fabulous feasts, Christmas used to mean one thing to me: getting wasted. Not so much on Christmas Day, but at all the parties before and after. I’ve always been a party girl, and partying and alcohol went hand in hand for me, so I would drink no matter what and drinking meant getting drunk, because I’m simply not someone that can have “just a few”.
A few years ago, I was living and working for a music PR company in London, who held their Christmas party at one of the venues whose PR I was in charge of. The night began well; I was dancing merrily in my homemade Christmas jumper, a big smile on my face and a beer in my hand, enjoying the playlist I’d put together for the event. Then it all starts to get blurry and before I know it, it’s Saturday morning and I genuinely can’t tell you much more about what happened after that, based on my own memory. However, I did discover that I’d made calls to my boyfriend at the time around 8am and I knew that the bar closed at 4am- what on earth was I doing between those hours? Those oh so familiar feelings of fear, anxiety and dread crept in and I decided I would have to confront my work colleagues and see if they could help me out a bit. It turns out most of them left around 1am, but I was apparently still on the dancefloor, swaying while gripping my umpteenth beer of the night. After much hesitation, I returned to the bar and asked for the bar manager from Friday night, who took one look at me and just exclaimed: “Oh God, it’s you!” My stomach lurched. He proceeded to tell me how I was the drunkest person in the bar, and that when I finally disappeared, they were all pretty relieved. However, when the cleaner came in the following morning, she opened the door to the VIP room (which had been locked on the night) and to her surprise found me half-naked, slumped over the table. She alerted the manager and they helped me find my clothes and the rest of my possessions, before giving me a tenner to use on a taxi, as I’d apparently spent all my money. He went on and, as my face grew redder and redder, I learned that I had been crying and freaking out because I didn’t know where I was. And I was their PR girl. The shame only continued to grow inside me and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t ever get in such a state again. Funny thing is, I’d made that promise before, and I went on to make it several more times before I finally hit my rock bottom back in May of last year.
The shame only continued to grow inside me and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t ever get in such a state again.
At that time, I was in a relationship with a wonderful man who put up with far more than he should, and who continued to forgive me, even though I hurt him time and time again. I started several fights with him in clubs, pushed him into a road with oncoming traffic, flirted with his friends and publicly humiliated him. He always had to pick up the pieces whenever we were out together and I’d had a few too many. And when we weren’t together, I would disappear for hours, sometimes days, on end without telling him where I was. Once, I woke up in the hotel room of the DJ I’d been to see the night before, in his bed, wearing nothing but a Batman t-shirt and a pair of pants. My boyfriend had left dozens of missed calls and messages, which I ignored until I was finally ready to face his wrath. To my relief, the DJ informed me we hadn’t slept together (something I had a tendency of doing in blackout) but that I had got up to use his toilet in the middle of the night and hadn’t quite made it… needless to say, he wasn’t exactly happy about having to clean a stranger’s urine off his hotel room floor, and when I recoiled in shock and horror as he was telling me this, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “If I were you, I would never, ever drink again”. But drink again I did. It didn’t seem to matter how much embarrassment I was causing myself, and how much pain and misery I was causing others, I couldn’t seem to stop getting drunk. So it was eighteen months ago when something finally changed; after having already created a dozen rules for myself, such as “I’m only going to drink beer and wine from now on, not spirits”, “I’ll only have three a night”, “I won’t drink on weekdays” and “I won’t mix drink and drugs”, and realising that none of them were working, I came up with the rule that I believed would solve all my problems: “I will only drink in ‘non-party’ environments”. This was because I realised I could have a few glasses of wine with dinner and not get drunk, that I could enjoy a couple of pints in the local pub if I was just with my boyfriend or a close friend, and that wouldn’t take me past the point of no return. Therefore, if I only drank in these situations, I’d be fine, right? Wrong. It worked (sort of) for a few months, but then one sunny weekend, I got a call from a friend inviting me round to hers for a chilled barbecue to celebrate her birthday. The words “chilled barbecue” implied that it wasn't really a party, and therefore I was going to allow myself to drink, so I went out and bought a large crate of beers. It was hot, I didn’t know many people, and I was just so damn thirsty that day, meaning I was knocking back one can after the next. My boyfriend commented that I was starting to act quite drunk and suggested I switched to soft drinks, so I had a cup of tea then, slurring my words, insisted that I was fine. We had planned to see a DJ in a club that night, which definitely constituted a party, and I knew that. But I had a long train ride ahead of me to get there, so I decided it would be crucial to take a can, if not two, along with me for the journey. Then there would be a bit of a walk to the club, so I’d probably need another one for that, and what about the queue to get in? I decided in the end to take four. My memory of getting into the club is a bit hazy, but I do recall sitting on a chair in the toilets and rolling a cigarette with hash, as I was going to need something to give me a buzz, now that I couldn’t drink. I then distinctly remember a friend coming over to me and putting a pint of beer in my hand, which I was not expecting. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, and I began to rationalise thoughts of drinking it, as after all I hadn’t paid for it and didn’t even ask for it, so technically it “didn’t count”. I was going to allow myself this last one. With that, I downed the pint and from that moment on, I don’t remember a thing.
“If I were you, I would never, ever drink again”.
The following morning, I woke up, still partly clothed, in a bed I didn’t recognise. My head was pounding and it hurt to keep my eyes open. I fumbled my way through this unfamiliar house, and opened the door to another room, where I found my boyfriend, who took one disgusted look at me and told me he was leaving. As usual, I pleaded with him, telling him I was sorry and that I wouldn’t mess up again. He wasn’t in the mood to listen though and told me he didn’t want to speak to me, or even look at me for that matter, so he was going to take the car and visit a friend. We were in London, and with no car, I had no option other than to take the train back home and ask my mother to pick me up. When she saw me, in the same clothes as the night before, my tights torn and bruises on my body with makeup running down my face, she shook her head and angrily sighed, then uttered the words “Not again.” She was often on the receiving end of my tearful outbursts the day after a particularly bad drinking incident, and l could see how much distress it was causing her. I had never in my life been so low; I felt like the scum of the earth. My boyfriend made me wait an entire day (and what a long day it was) before he finally spoke to me again and revealed what I’d got up to the night before. I learned that I had begun hitting him when he tried to stop me from drinking in the club, then I’d got the pair of us kicked out, but had managed to worm my way back in. Once inside, I stood by the door and deliberately kissed another man right in front of his face. And then another. I felt sick listening to him tell me this, then I became angry and insisted that he must have been drunk or high himself, as no way would I do that. Then again, how many countless other things had I done in blackout that were totally out of character? It slowly dawned on me that I had absolutely no control over my drinking, or the actions I carried out in when in a drunken stupor, and I decided enough was enough. I made a promise to him that I would never touch alcohol again and so far, I’ve managed to keep that promise.
I had never in my life been so low; I felt like the scum of the earth.
I walked into my first AA meeting a few days after my last drink, along with my mother, who had realised that her own drinking was getting rather out of hand. I instantly liked the meetings, particularly because we were so warmly welcomed, and I was lucky enough to hear another young woman’s chair that night. It amazed me how many similarities there were between my drinking and hers, which convinced me I was in the right place and from that day, my life has changed in a way I never imagined it could. I came to believe I was an alcoholic, something I’d vehemently denied throughout my drinking days, and learned that alcoholism is a mental illness, meaning that just because I’d put down the drink, I wasn’t suddenly going to be well. People often say they came to AA for their drinking and stayed for their thinking, which is definitely the case for me. I have continued to go to AA meetings, not just in my home country, but also in Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Borneo and the Philippines. Wherever I go, I feel like I’m amongst family and that’s a truly wonderful feeling. The fellowship in Berlin is particularly special; the people here support me and in turn, I’m able to support them, which brings me great happiness. That part in the promises: “We lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows” is finally starting to become true for me."
"We lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows” is finally starting to become true for me.
My road of recovery has been a bumpy one and I’ve had to overcome all sorts of challenges, but each one has taught me a valuable lesson: I’ve learned that pursuing a much older alcoholic man in the first year of sobriety can lead to heartache; I’ve learned that it’s not ok to carry on smoking weed and doing other drugs simply because “drugs weren’t my problem”; I’ve learned that moving to another country will not solve all my problems and, most importantly, I’ve learned that the only person I can keep sober is myself. I can of course help other people to the best of my abilities through spending time with them, listening to them and passing on the message that was passed on to me, but I can NOT make anyone else stop drinking. This has been an important lesson for me, as I have a tendency to want to save others, but I’ve had to accept that their sobriety is not in my hands. Gratitude has been extremely important too, because it’s all too easy for me to compare myself to those who appear to have it all, or to compare my new life with my old one; my new life is a thousand times better, but my alcoholic head will always remind me of the good times I had drinking and conveniently forget the bad times. One bit of advice I’d give to any young newcomers in AA is write daily gratitude lists, as these will undoubtedly make you feel better. It’s also essential to stay in the day, as projecting too much into the future can be fatal. Finally, don’t stop living your life - sobriety does not have to be dull! I still travel, still attend social occasions and go clubbing till the early hours of the morning each weekend. In the Big Book it says, “We aren't a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn't want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life”. I very much agree with this statement.
"We aren't a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn't want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life”
Young People’s events can be a lot of fun- I went to my first EURYPAA in Bath back in August 2016, where I met hundreds of other young alcoholics from all over the world. We shared stories of our crazy drunken antics, drank copious amounts of coffee and ate copious amounts of cake, explored the city together, danced in clubs, danced on the street... it showed me that alcoholics really know how to have fun; we certainly don’t need alcohol for that! I was smiling and laughing pretty much non-stop from start to finish.
Today I am much more content with my life, though I still have ups and downs, and I worry about things like not being good enough for my boyfriend, or my job, etc. I know that if I just keep going to meetings though, working the steps and hanging out with other alcoholics, the other stuff will fall into place. I’ve been told this a hundred times and I’m finally learning to trust it, to let go of the reins, and let my Higher Power take control. So, keep coming back, this program really works… but only if you work it.
The shame only continued to grow inside me and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t ever get in such a state again.
Milly D. is a member of AA and a very talented blogger and poet currently living in Germany. You can check out her work on this blog soon or her personal blog, www.rapsaboutrecovery.wordpress.com.