Guest Blog Post by Lucy Rocca
Exactly six years ago, I drank my last alcoholic drink. It was a bottle of strong cider (I didn’t even like cider but had found it lurking in my fridge), and I consumed it on top of the three bottles of wine that I’d been working my way through during the course of the evening.
How do you get to the stage where three bottles of wine plus a litre of strong cider seems like a good idea, a normal night in alone, with a film on and a trashy magazine to flick through?
For me, alcohol dependency comprised of a subtle, shifting tide of binges and abstinence, carefree imbibing versus utter self-loathing and feelings of dread in relation to the damage I knew I was inflicting on my body by drinking so much. I loved drinking and I hated it, in equal measures. It morphed over the years into that abusive lover who promises you the earth and then delivers excruciating blows when you’re already down on the floor. And yet, for twenty-two years, I kept going back for more, sure that this time, I could tame the beast.
After I had drunk my final alcoholic beverage – the horrible cider that I discovered chilling at the back of the fridge – I walked up the road with my dog, smoked a cigarette, and promptly collapsed on the floor where I started to vomit mercilessly in an unconscious state. The dog ran off back towards my apartment and then my friend (how lucky for me) happened to drive past on his motorbike and see the pair of us; me on the ground, throwing my guts up, and the dog running manically across the road. He called an ambulance, and that marked the start of my brand new life. Sober.
Even now, after six years of sobriety, I find myself slightly surprised at the thought that I am a happy non-drinker. I started drinking when I was thirteen years old and immediately it appeared to be a perfect fit – a magic potion, guaranteed to make me feel joyous, excited and attractive to the opposite sex. I also dabbled with recreational drugs during my teens but it was alcohol that I came home to, time and time again, as my mind-altering substance of choice. As the years went by, I journeyed through the life events of motherhood, marriage and then an acrimonious divorce, and through it all, wine was there to keep me propped up, ensure that my focus was away from real life and fixated instead on my fantasy existence – one in which I was ok, I was confident, I was in control.
Except, I wasn’t. Not truly. And when it all came crashing down around me at the precise moment when I woke up in A&E with no idea where I was or why I was lying in a hospital bed covered in my own cold vomit, I was absolutely floored.
Over the course of the next eighteen months, I learned how to live without any mind-altering substances at all. It was a constant battle but it did become gradually less intense as the time went by. Initially I didn’t want to leave my house; I was terrified of bumping into people who might have witnessed me on my last night of drinking, staggering around the streets like a drunk (which I was, but it still pains me to write it in those terms); my nerves were shot to bits and I could barely hold eye contact with people when speaking with them. The triggers for drinking hit me like thunderbolts – sunny day? Cold white wine with friends, of course! And if it was a cosy night in, sitting in front of the TV, then a bottle of red (or two) to help ameliorate the day’s worries and stresses. Bad day? Wine. Good day? Wine. Happy? Wine. Sad? Wine. Wine, wine, wine. The temptation was there perpetually but the memory of waking up in hospital, a thirty-five year old mother who really should have known better, kept me on track and I maintained my commitment to a non-drinking lifestyle.
As I approached two years without drinking, I launched the website Soberistas which was basically the resource I would have wanted when I first quit alcohol. I designed the site to appeal primarily to women because this was my experience of both drinking, and not drinking; the particularly harsh judgment that society passes on females who consume too much alcohol while simultaneously promoting alcohol to women as an innocuous, convivial treat to soothe away the stresses of modern life. The concept of ‘not quite alcoholic’ was a major driver in my plans for Soberistas – I recognised the unwillingness in myself to recognise my issues as being those of ‘an alcoholic’ and knew that I would not have felt justified in attending Alcoholics Anonymous (or similar) for fear of my problem not being quite severe enough. It made sense that there were others out there who felt the same way.
In addition, it was the online nature of Soberistas that I felt was something desperately required as an alternative resource to help those wishing to stop drinking. Particularly for single parents or those living in rural areas, or people with disabilities that make it difficult to get out and about freely: for all these people, an online recovery network would prove vital.
During its first year of operation, Soberistas attracted 20,000 members from all over the world. Although I’d had a hunch that there were many people concealing an ever-worsening drink problem from the world, who would relish the opportunity to share their experiences with other like-minded people online – anonymously – I was surprised at the reaction. It felt like the beginnings of a revolution, all these women coming together in solidarity, saying to one another, “You know what? I can’t do this sh*t anymore – my life has become unbearable.” Soberistas members began organising their own meet-ups, all over the world, making friendships in real life as a result of their online relationships. More and more people joined. And people were managing to quit their booze problem, finally, after years of trying and failing.
I drank so much for more than twenty years. I hated myself; I had no sense of purpose in life and never thought I was especially good at anything (except drinking). And then, when I almost died as a result of getting drunk one night, everything just seemed to come together. It was like emerging from a storm into a bright and breezy spring day.
Life makes sense to me sober, in a way that I could have never imagined. I always thought I needed booze to cushion me as I bumbled along through the daily grind. I believed that alcohol made me the person I was meant to be. But without it, I am calm and caring, passionate and steady. I am a better parent, a better partner, and a better woman. I like myself. I no longer contemplate suicide on occasion. I never ask myself, why did life turn out so bad for me?
I experience life as it really is, without the veneer of booze, and I grow every day, learning more about the world and my place within it. And alongside my sobriety, Soberistas grows too, and is now home to more than 40,000 registered members from all over the globe; a community of people who recognise that they will be happier and healthier without alcohol, and who want to help one another reach that goal.
Lucy Rocca was a heavy and regular binge drinker for her entire adult life up until the age of 35. Disguising an ever-growing dependency within the realms of acceptable social drinking norms, she did not consider her problem to extend to one of being ‘an alcoholic’ but knew, nonetheless, that she was not in control of alcohol. After a particularly heavy binge that landed her in hospital she decided to quit drinking altogether, and went on to found Soberistas.com in November 2012 – a social network website aimed at women with alcohol dependency issues. In her spare time, Lucy enjoys running, travelling, the cinema, remote beaches, reading, and making up for all the time wasted during her drinking days.
In the last four years Lucy has written five books on the subject of alcohol dependency, and now works full time as editor and director of Soberistas. Check out Lucy’s books, all available on Amazon: