I had a lot I wanted to celebrate this Christmas with my family.
In a trying year for most people, I also defeated alcoholism and escaped my violent partner. During the festive period, I was set to rekindle my relationship with relatives that I had become estranged from, for years, largely due to my drinking problem.
But on Saturday night I listened to Boris Johnson’s announcement about where I live being plunged into Tier 4 and I realised that wasn’t going to happen. Now, I will be spending Christmas Day alone.
I have been drinking heavily since I was 14 years old. I tried my first drink aged nine at a wedding and fell in love.
I loved the feeling of being taken away from all my problems, the freedom to act however you desire, with the excuse of being wasted to explain away any unsavoury behaviour.
Two years ago, my drinking worsened. I could never stop when I’d started.
It was made worse when I got into a violent relationship. He saw how vulnerable I was and used my alcoholism against me, trying to gaslight me into believing I’d made it all up because I was drunk.
He told me that because of my drink problem, no one would believe me.
Thankfully, I found the courage to leave him at the start of the first lockdown after a particularly violence incident, which ended with me seeking help from a women’s refuge.
I was there for six months, before finding my own place.
But now, living on my own and with no support bubble, I’m going to have to spend Christmas by myself. At least at the refuge I could socialise from a distance with the other women, or meet in the garden.
I often drank to ease loneliness and I’m now isolated on one of most family-orientated days of the year
I was so excited for a proper Christmas, especially after last year where I had to spend it away from my loved ones because of my ex.
My family usually have a big dinner, open presents and spend the evening doing karaoke. I dreamed about being reunited with them; I’ve missed them and our yearly traditions.
But it’s not just about not seeing my family.
Christmas is a stressful time for people in recovery. You can’t get a break from hearing people talk about mulled wine, eggnog, a new year’s whiskey, a champagne breakfast.
I often drank to ease loneliness and I’m now isolated on one of most family-orientated days of the year. I know it will be hard. I would also turn to drink to escape the life problems I couldn’t handle sober – something I know a lot of people do – and I don’t have that release anymore.
I’m just grateful that there will be online support meetings for those that need it on Christmas Day.
I stopped drinking slightly after the first lockdown ended when I reached out to a sober friend for help. She took me to a meeting and I knew that this time it would stick. This time I would beat addiction and thrive.
It was particularly difficult to get sober during a pandemic because I didn’t want to bother the overstretched NHS unless absolutely necessary.
The first night I stopped drinking I suffered horrible withdrawals. I slept in the refuge living room so staff could keep an eye on me in case I needed medical attention. I sweat buckets, choked, vomited and dry heaved for 24 hours.
It took a few days for the shakes to disappear. I didn’t ever want to touch that evil stuff again so I went cold turkey (against medical advice).
It felt like a spiritual war within me, one where evil kept winning. I had had enough of the devil winning the battle for my soul. I was exhausted, broke, depressed, and had alienated everyone who truly loved me and had my best interests at heart.
I am deeply ashamed of the person I was pre-recovery: a bitter bundle of self-loathing and victimisation. I rationalised pushing people who cared away because I didn’t want to inflict myself upon them.
I’m sure I was travelling down a path of self-destruction that would have ended in my death or institutionalisation if I hadn’t stopped when I did.
Finally sober, I have positive and loving people in my life. I’ve made amends with my loved ones and escaped a violent relationship. But now I can’t share that transformation with my parents and siblings.
I also worry for the women who can’t seek the safety and comfort of their family and friends during Christmas Day, given the rise in domestic abuse.
I am devastated and feel betrayed by our Government, with all their lies and broken promises. But at least I have a sober future to look forward to.
Domestic violence helpline
If you are in immediate danger call 999. If you cannot talk, dial 55 and the operator will respond.
For emotional support, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Alternatively, you can email Women’s Aid on firstname.lastname@example.org
For free and confidential advice and support for women in London affected by abuse, you can call Solace on 0808 802 5565 or email email@example.com
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