Alcohol tends to flow freely during the festive season, making it particularly hard for recovering alcoholics. Illustration photo.
Alcohol tends to flow freely during the festive season, making it particularly hard for recovering alcoholics. One expat mum shares her recovery experience.
“It was here in Luxembourg that I got sober and eventually learned that there is no other life that I want to live except a sober life,” Tracy* began her email to Delano. The British national, who sought help for her alcohol dependency 21 months ago, said she reached out to the magazine because she wanted people to know “it’s worth sticking it out”.
When we met in a café before Christmas, Tracy seemed at ease as she recalled life before beginning her recovery. “I think I had always been one of those people who drink too much at parties,” she said, laughing. Her dependency on alcohol gradually became stronger until she noticed she was buying bottles of cremant for an evening and finishing them in 1.5 hours.
“It seemed like an instant solution when you come home at the end of a stressful day. You get so you can’t see life without that.” She said the problem became more acute after moving to Luxembourg where alcohol was easily accessible. Tracy said she did not feel lonely as such, but found she struggled to cope with the change and did not feel able to ask for help. “All the change that surrounds the move definitely had an effect. Add cremant and hey presto!,” she joked.
One of the tipping points was when she realised that the dopamine “pleasure” receptors in her brain, had been reduced so she needed to drink more to get the desired thrill. It reached the point where “nothing was fully pleasurable unless it was experienced under the influence of a bottle of wine.” Tracy said that talking to her GP was easier than she expected and she first tried a medication that would allow her to drink one alcoholic drink, but feel nauseous if she drank more. “The side effects made me feel a complete zombie. This was not a medication I could take long-term, no way!”
The only other alternative was abstinence, a “dull, bleak” life in Tracy’s eyes, but then she knew she could not go on as she had before. She discovered support group Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) online and prepared to go cold turkey. “I was intending for St Patrick’s to be my last blow out. I got food poisoning, so it was my first day,” she laughed. During those first few months, she said she could only see life in “24-hour periods of sobriety”. “At the beginning, it’s like you’re holding on for dear life to those 24 hours. Later on, it’s more relaxed but it’s still 24 hours.”
"A great antidote to self-pity"
Tracy receives constant support by attending AA meeting twice a week. By hearing the stories of other people who were able to live life to the full without alcohol and asking for help, she said she became part of a “movement bigger than my own tiny, self-obsessed universe. It was a great antidote to self-pity.”
Tracy said that her family had been very supportive since joining the group, but she had received a mixed response from others. “Some people were thinking what I had chosen to do was over the top. They have this idea that these types of groups are for down and outs.”
On the contrary, she says she has met a lot of “totally normal people” at her AA meetings. The support group is founded along a 12-step programme, which is spiritually anchored, though Tracy said this should not put people off and there are strident atheists in the group. The programme’s message is for people to rely on a power greater than themselves, be it a spiritual figure or the group itself. “It’s to reduce self-reliance and to stop trying to solve the problem you have using your own resources, which continues to make people isolated,” Tracy explained.
It has now been 21 months since she started the journey. The mother-of-two says she feels she has “come out of the dark” and is now able to enjoy social events sober and to have “real conversations”. “I enjoy that element of having real interactions, even if they are not 100% wild or exciting--just normal. I started to value that.”
There are a number of AA groups in Luxembourg organised for different language groups. Click here to find out more.
People who are dependent on alcohol are urged to consult a doctor before going cold turkey.
*The name of the interviewee has been changed at her request to preserve her anonymity.