I can divide my adult life into four segments based on my experiences of love: (1) pre-marriage, when I flitted between relationships searching for Mr. Right, (2) followed by six years (four of those married) with someone I believed to be Mr. Right, (3) the demise of this union which then catapulted me into eight years of singledom, internet dating, and many mistakes largely brought about by too much alcohol and a misguided desire to reinstate my place in society as a married woman, and (4) finally, the last two years.
These I have spent in a state of happiness, calm and contentment, and as an equal to my soul mate and other half, to whom I became engaged eighteen months ago. It's no coincidence that this last relationship is unique to me, owing to the fact that it has been alcohol-free.
My experiences of mixing alcohol and relationships were not positive. There were the few occasions where I drank within safe limits and enjoyed a bottle of wine over a meal in a romantic restaurant, the warm buzz of the alcohol making me feel more relaxed and sexy. These instances were, however, few and far between.
For the most part, I drank way more than was good for me, and so did whichever partner I was with at the time, all of whom were also heavy drinkers (no coincidence there). My dependency on alcohol had numerous destructive effects on my love life, but here is a brief summary of those that were most notable: I argued fiercely when drunk with anyone who offered a different opinion to mine, I would not tolerate anybody who told me I’d had enough to drink, and hangovers left me depressed, anxious and full of self-remorse and self-pity.
Additionally, I usually drank until I passed out on the sofa (not great for a healthy sex life), I flirted outrageously with other men and occasionally this led to more than flirtation, and finally—perhaps worst of all—my thoughts were consumed obsessively by alcohol. When could I have another drink? How much could I get away with without looking like an alcoholic? Would I look desperate if I opened yet another bottle?
My whole state of being was consumed by alcohol which left me incapable of truly loving the person I was with.
Drinking so heavily and frequently caused me to be a selfish and thoughtless partner. I didn’t really care about the person I was with, just that he didn’t prevent me from drinking. Days following heavy sessions generally involved my feeling so depressed that I couldn’t think straight. Trying to patch up arguments proved to be almost impossible, with comments screamed at each other the night before in a drunken rage being impossible to retract and smooth over.
Trust was virtually non-existent.
So what has changed, now that the alcohol has finally, thankfully, been taken out of the equation? My partner gets what he sees with me—I am predictable, level-headed, rational and measured. I do not lose my temper over silly things, I consider his feelings and put his happiness ahead of mine (unless my happiness should come first – I can now recognize the difference).
I am a much better parent to my eldest daughter (from my first marriage) and to our baby, and this has built respect and a special bond between us as parents as there are no recriminations or bad behavior to apologize to the children or each other for in the mornings, just both of us doing our best for our family. I no longer put off important tasks in favor of going out drinking or lying in bed with a hangover, I am happy and positive, understanding and patient.
I couldn’t have this relationship if I still drank alcohol, but during all those years that I spent binge drinking and pin-balling between break-ups and reunions, arguments and drunkenness, I never thought that the ingredient that was missing in my life was something as simple as sobriety – the problems in my love life were, I was convinced, down to bad luck and less than perfect men.
In reality, the alcoholic fog that I was forever trying to see through prevented me from knowing myself, never mind being able to forge a healthy and happy relationship with a man.
The relationship I have today with my fiancé is built on respect, trust and a lot of love. He is my best friend, he has filled in all that was missing in my life and he makes even the most mundane of things fun and wonderful.
For years, I was terrified about giving up alcohol. I now think that meeting my partner was in some way my reward – destiny’s way of showing me that being sober is the best path for me to take.