Many people have asked me for my drinking story, I wrote this some time ago and decided to publish it. This is me, this is who I was and who I am now….
I think there’s two ways you can become an alcoholic. I think you’re either born that way or, you simply need to drink enough alcohol and become one.
Veronica Valli – always the party girl
I believe I was born an alcoholic.
I believe this, because I’ve always felt ‘different’. My earliest memories are of feeling ‘odd’, ‘uncomfortable in my own skin’. I felt like I was looking out at the world through a glass screen, I was on one side and everyone else was on the other.
I felt separate, alone, unconnected. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, I never felt like I truly ‘fitted in’ or ‘belonged’ anywhere. These feelings began long before I ever tried alcohol.
When I finally tried alcohol at around 15 it felt like a light bulb went on. All of a sudden, I felt complete, I felt ‘right’, and I had confidence and self-belief.
Drink did something to me, it made me feel normal.
I never drank ‘normally’, whatever that is. I drank alcoholically from the word ‘go’. I could never get enough of this substance that made me feel so good.
Initially I was just your regular teenage binge drinker, I could get into bars and clubs when I was underage and the whole point was to get as drunk as possible. At the time, it was what my entire peer group was doing too. I certainly wasn’t doing anything that different to most teenagers, but whenever I compared myself to them, I knew I was different. I could tell they didn’t have the same feelings of desperation or disconnectedness that lived within me. As we grew up they naturally moderated their drinking and drank less, where as I found that inconceivable.
At 15 I also experimented with marijuana. I’m never quiet sure what happened with my drug education, I must have missed that bit at school. It never once occurred to me to ‘just say no to drugs’, or even question what they would do to me. I so desperately wanted to be liked and to feel normal, that I said ‘yes’ to any substance offered to me.
I met my first serious boyfriend when I was 16 and shortly after left home. He was a recreational drug user and through him I tried LSD, Magic Mushrooms and Amphetamines.
I loved them; I used drugs regularly and partied every weekend. I was struggling through college and I barely passed my exams but I didn’t care because I though I’d found this group of people I belonged too and a lifestyle I enjoyed. I felt like I was living life on the edge, it felt glamorous and sophisticated.
For 2 years I really, really enjoyed taking drugs and getting drunk.
I had a great time and then at 17 everything went horribly wrong.
I had taken some LSD and had a ‘bad trip’, this had never happened before and I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt panicky and scared, I was seeing and hearing things and got very paranoid. The feeling of terror grew and even when I began to ‘come down’ the fear and panic didn’t leave, in fact it got worse. I now know I went into drug induced psychosis, but at the time I had no idea what was happening too me. The worse thing was I couldn’t tell anyone around me how I felt, I put on a ‘mask’ and pretended everything was ok. I was terrified of anyone finding out what was really happening I became imprisoned by my own fear.
This shattered my life
My whole life was shattered. I was terrified and paranoid all the time and having at least a dozen panic attacks a day. I couldn’t get on a bus, go into a supermarket or sit in my own living room without having a panic attack and making some kind of excuse to leave. I could barely go to college, I couldn’t cope, I was having a breakdown and was most definitely suicidal. I used to stand at the bus stop waiting for a bus I was too scared to get on, trying to summon the courage to jump in front of it.
Everyday of living was agony for me and I didn’t know how to carry on.
This went on for months and I was too terrified to tell anyone what was happening. I didn’t know how too. I couldn’t even begin to articulate what I was experiencing, I was too scared to say it out loud because if I did, it meant what was happening to me was real, and I was still clinging on to the hope that one day I would I wake up and be normal again.
Close to a breakdown I eventually went to the doctors and told him everything. He wrote me a prescription for Valium and recommended some counselling. I never went to the counselling but I did like the idea of being prescribed drugs to make me feel better.
This was the worse possible thing to do.
It started off a 10-year prescription drug habit. For years I visited different doctors explaining my symptoms of fear and paranoia and they would write me prescriptions for Valium, Xanax, anti-depressants. They always worked for a bit, papered over the cracks, but they never dealt with the root of the problem.
Veronica Valli – this was taken about a year before I got sober
Fear ruled my life
The next 10 years of my life from 17 to 27 were a living hell. I was never, ever free from fear; it was the overwhelming emotion I woke up to every morning. Some days I felt like I could hardly breath through the terror of having to get through the day and pretend to be normal.
After the incident with LSD I had stopped using illegal drugs completely and only drank alcohol, my drinking increased very quickly because it was the only thing that took away the fear. It took the edge off of my anxiety and I had a few hours of reprieve from the madness in my head and I could pretend to be ‘normal’.
At 17 my drinking shifted from ‘having fun,’ to using it to cope with how I felt. I knew there was something very wrong with me, I just didn’t know what. I did try to get help, I looked everywhere, I went to doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, churches, anywhere that offered some kind of hope. I was treated for anxiety or depression but never my alcoholism. The truth is, I either lied about how much I drank or, I was simply never asked, no one ever picked up on my drinking as being the real problem. Whatever treatment I was offered only ever gave me a temporary reprieve and inevitably I would revert back to familiar feelings of loneliness, isolation, despair and discontent. Drinking always gave me a temporary relief from these feelings.
I tried every method known to alcoholics to try to ‘fix’ my life. It is amusing to me now, to see how unoriginal I was in my attempts to try to make things ‘better’. Every alcoholic or addict I’ve known has tried the same methods.
At 19 I went to America to travel, I did this a lot in my twenties, spending time travelling round the world trying to escape myself. But always ending up in the same place again (alone, confused, scared and a failure). What I was really doing was running away from myself.
I’ve been to some really incredible glamorous places and I hated all of them because of how I felt.
Somehow I always managed to hold down a job and got through university but I was always just ‘holding on.’ I tried to ‘loose myself’ in relationships, I almost got married to a man I didn’t love because I thought that marriage would ‘save me,’ and everything would then be ‘fixed’. However all my romantic relationships were based on dishonesty, fear and neediness. I couldn’t believe anyone would want to be with me, when they found out how disgusting I really was. I felt so unworthy of love that it was beyond my comprehension that anyone could really love me. So like a lot of alcoholics I just took ‘hostages’ because being alone scared me so much.
Cocaine brought me to my knees
I was constantly searching, looking for answers.
I have a massive thirst for life and this is what really saved me. Because I remained curious I eventually stumbled across the solution for my problem. When I was drinking I always felt discontented, I knew I wasn’t reaching my full potential, I knew I wasn’t the person I knew I could be and I drank on these feelings because they were too painful to acknowledge to myself.
Veronica at 23 – I was at a wedding and started the night looking pretty good only to end up in my usual disheveled state.
I moved jobs, countries, relationships, friendships, believing each time that this would be the thing that would make me feel ‘ok’. I blamed outside circumstances for how I felt and believed if I changed these circumstances (which I did often) I would be happy.
Throughout my twenties I drank heavily, more than I knew was good for me, I always sought a peer group who drank as much as I did. I drank before any social situation because I was too scared to face people; I drank before parties because I was scared there wouldn’t be enough booze for me to get the ‘buzz’ I needed. I drank anytime I felt scared and couldn’t cope. Towards the end of my drinking I began to sneak drinks and drink on my own, I preferred that to sharing my booze.
In my mid-twenties I started using cocaine whenever I drank because it enabled me to drink more. However cocaine gave me the worst ‘come down’s’ ever. I was suicidal. I would wake up the next day and felt like my soul had been scraped out and was lying on the floor next to me. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of bed let alone make it through the rest of my life.
My feelings of loneliness and despair intensified.
Without a doubt their were moments of happiness, peace and calm through this period. I would have moments when I felt everything was going to be ok, but they were always fleeting, I could never hold on to them, the same inevitable dark feelings would return. I was slowly dying on the inside, it wasn’t the alcohol that was necessarily killing me, it was the lies that I was telling my self.
I had to tell lies to myself as it was the only way I could deal with the fear inside of me. I believe fear is the defining characteristic of alcoholism, no one understands fear the way alcoholics do.
I never became physically dependent on alcohol. I could always go for a period of time without it, usually I would switch to something else, prescription drugs, pot anything that helped me get through the day. I’ve known the shame and degradation of being a female alcoholic and sleeping with men I don’t like just to feel wanted. I’ve never been arrested, bankrupt, or fired, or many of the terrible things that have happened to alcoholics. At first, I thought I couldn’t be an alcoholic because I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ However, I learnt that it isn’t the drinking and consequences that makes you an alcoholic; it’s the thoughts and feelings that drive alcoholism. It was then that I finally understood what my problem really was.
As soon as I understood the problem I could then embark on the solution.
I got help from experts who understood alcoholism and joined a self-help group. For the first time in my life I realised I wasn’t alone.
Getting clean and sober was the hardest thing I have ever done, but there was no choice for me, I couldn’t go back to how I was living. I wanted to live, to make my life count, to see what I was capable of. When I got sober, these things at last became possible.
I always knew something was very, very wrong with me but I thought it was a rare mental health condition, not alcoholism. Alcoholism can’t be measured by how much you drink; it is an internal condition and requires an internal fix, not an external one.
Today with my family
Finally, I became free of the prison I had made for my self; the only thing that had ever limited me was my own thinking. Recovery gave me a new perspective on life; it gave me back my self-belief and confidence. I am finally engaging in the process of reaching my full potential and becoming the woman I was meant to be. I no longer have a 50% life of just getting by, just coping. I am no longer scared, I am just the opposite, I am fearless in everything I do. I no longer worry whether you like me or not, because I love who I am. I wake up everyday and find something to be joyful about. Certainly my life has challenges in it, but none of them threaten to capsize me the way they used to, I relish challenges so I can learn and grow and become the best version of myself I’m capable of being.
Life is a wonderful adventure now instead of a scary threatening place. I live a life now beyond anything I could have dreamed off before. I am on fire with the possibilities there are in front of me.
My sobriety date is: 2nd of May 2000.