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OTI Member Stories: Jacquie

Updated: Jul 19, 2021



I started drinking at the age of 13. A big group of us hanging out at the

bus stop with nothing much else to do and the excitement of getting

drunk and maybe getting caught. The tallest member of the group was

sent off to the off-licence with a massive booze, fags and crisp shopping

list. No ID was ever asked for.


Off we went to consume our contraband down by the river or in a field.

Different groups breaking off into little corners, teenagers copping off

with each other. Within an hour it was drunken carnage of underage

drinking, smoking and sex. Girls would be crying just because they were

so drunk. People falling over each other. Sometimes the police would

turn up and we would all run! Then the ordeal of trying to get back into

your house past your parents and into bed without being found out.

I loved it. It was 1989. No mobile phones and thank God no social

media! But the booze was not enough. We needed a new high and we

found it in the 90s rave scene. We finally found what we had been

looking for. The music, the people, the DJs, the atmosphere but most of

all the high.


When the buzz eventually died off and it was time to grow up I was left

with booze. Fast forward to my 29th year and the fags were well and

truly ditched to make room for baby-making. I had no intention of ever

quitting booze other than through my pregnancies. It was my last vice.

The early years of being a new Mum were tough. I struggled. A lot. With

my first pregnancy, I was permanently ill and very depressed. I had

suffered two miscarriages; I had already had problems with depression

but this was on a whole new level. I had prenatal and postnatal

depression. Red wine became my new best friend.


I fed into the whole ‘Mummy’s Medicine’ charade and followed all the

funny Mummy’s on social media who coped with being a Mum by

counting down to wine o’clock and thanking God for giving us gin. I too

got through each day by knowing my reward would come.

I laughed at how hard I thought one child was. Two was a completely

different ball game. I knew very quickly there would not be a third! So, to

make life easier and continue to get through each day and the minefield

that is bath, story and bed. I drank. And I drank some more.


Two more miscarriages and then thankfully baby number 2 was on the

way. Although I felt well with this pregnancy it was complication after

complication. After going into premature labour, I was swiftly parked in a

room on the maternity unit and told not to move for four weeks. By the

time my daughter was born and after having a summer holiday in the

hospital, I was ready for a drink!


I would have days off here and there and constantly try and reassure

myself that my drinking, although well above the recommended limits,

was completely normal. Every one of my Mummy friends was all the

same so it must have been ok. Deep down I knew it was not.

If it was so normal why was I always questioning it?


Why did I have to drink to cope?


What was wrong with me?


'Absolutely nothing', others would say. Parenting is hard, we deserve a

break. We need to treat ourselves. It is better for our kids as we are

more relaxed when we have had a drink.


I am cringing whilst I am typing. What a total dickhead I was. I will tell

you something else that makes me cringe now. I used to think people

who didn’t drink were incredibly boring, a bit weird and I could not

understand why on earth they would even go to a party, pub or club! I

could never get my head around them not drinking. I never understood

how people who did drink often chose to drive instead. I mean isn’t that

what buses and taxis were invented for? I used to hassle and cajole

people like crazy for not drinking and force shots on those who did not

want to drink to total oblivion (like me). I would always be the one

swaying and falling over. But the one thing that made me sound like a

proper dick was ‘I don’t trust people who don’t drink’! What the actual

fuck was I on about?!


When my stepfather died suddenly my drinking went to a whole new

level. Straight after his death, my Mum was diagnosed with cancer for a

second time, then one year later my 4-year-old daughter became

seriously ill and was diagnosed with a life-changing rare disease.

For three years I hammered alcohol more than I ever had before. I clock-

watched desperately waiting for 5 pm to come so I could have my first

drink. I would rush the kids bedtime routine and read very fast stories

just so I could carry on drinking. I would wake up in the middle of the

night not remembering how I got myself into bed as I was having

alcohol-induced blackouts. I slept so badly. I was always dehydrated. My

head was thick and fuzzy. I was anxious. My IBS symptoms were awful,

I was always bloated, constipated, and suffered terrible stomach pains. I

dragged myself out of bed every morning knackered and in a bad mood.

By 5 pm I was back on the booze. Rinse and repeat.


I was sad. My heart was broken, and I felt I could not face any of it

without a drink. I was, what is now called a ‘high functioning alcoholic’.

No one would ever have guessed unless I told them. Again, deep down I

knew it was destroying me. I cried so I drank and when I drank I cried

some more. Then eventually it would all be numb. Until the next

morning. Hence why I was so eager to drink again, anything to numb the

pain.


When my daughter was admitted into hospital for a bone marrow

transplant I knew she and I were going to be in there for a long time. It is

strange because I did not fear, not being able to drink. The transplant

was a long planning process, and I was desperate to get it started. We

were warned that it was going to be horrendous, and it was. I did not

have time to think about drinking.


She was in the hospital for a total of nine weeks. During that time, I got

to spend a couple of nights in the adjacent Ronald McDonald House

when my husband came to stay over with her. On two occasions I drank

one of those small bottles of red wine. Just one. But it tasted awful, and I

was so exhausted from transplant life I did not want it. On Christmas

Day Phoebe was feeling ok and I and her Daddy had a glass of

Prosecco. But I knew my drinking days were numbered.


On the day she was discharged from the hospital, I went home and

drowned my sorrows. I sobbed my heart out and I felt like after

everything I had just been through, I deserved to get drunk. I blacked out

on the sofa and felt so ill the next day. Although Phoebe was at home

she was still very unwell, and I spent that first day hungover. What a

dick!


After that, I had the odd beer here and there. On my Mum's birthday two

months later, I had an all-day sesh on Prosecco. At 3 am and for twelve

hours following, I thought I was going to die. But then something clicked.

Enough was enough. I was done.


If I could get through my daughter’s bone marrow transplant without

being pissed out of my face all the time then surely I could face anything

sober.


I didn’t drink for three months. What a revelation! Me not drinking. Then I

got a tiny bit drunk one day in New York (but that’s another story!). Then

I got drunk on Christmas Day. A couple of weeks later I had two pints of

cider and felt sick. Then I decided I would stop messing about and just

go for it. That was two and a half years ago!!!!


I was known for being a pisshead so to not be one anymore was a shock

to people. But I was never really questioned much about it. Most people

just thought I didn’t drink in case my daughter became unwell and I

needd to take her to the hospital. I am very honest in correcting them

and explaining that I drunk, too much, too often and too fast and it was a

problem for me. But I never went all-out public about it. If they ask I

explain.


Being sober absolutely rocks. I am so proud of myself. I feel like I have

been off my face on one thing or another for so long and that finally, I

don’t need or want to be. I have been to family weddings and sober

danced, been on holidays, smashed it through lockdown and continue to

cope with all that my daughter's disease throws at me along with life and

my mental health issues, ALL COMPLETELY SOBER.


One year ago, I returned to my nursing career. I gave up nursing to raise

my family and I swore I would never go back and definitely never work in

a hospital ever again, I’d had my fill of them. But then Covid happened,

and I wanted to help but I couldn’t because I had been out of practice for

ten years. So, I applied to University for a return to nursing practice

course and I successfully completed the course.


In January this year, I started working in the Emergency Department and

I am loving it. It is challenging, overwhelming, daunting, and bloody hard

work but brilliant. I 100% believe I would never have done this if I had

carried on drinking. I am super proud of myself.


Every so often I get a little pang of FOMO (fear of missing out) but

remind myself of JOMO (joy of missing out). Being around drunk people

reminds me of what a total knob head I was and hearing about other

people’s hangovers ensures I never want one of those ever again.


There are still times in my life where I want to celebrate or commiserate

with alcohol. Sunny days in the garden scream cold beers. A hard day’s

work feels like it deserves a drink. If I’m happy, sad, stressed, with

friends, on my own, or just being alive then I crave a drink. But every

time it creeps up on me I remember why I did it and how better I am in

so many ways for it. I fast forward to a couple of hours’ time and then the

day after and imagine how I would feel. I know I would be disappointed,

unhappy and feel like shit.


I have never once said that I will never drink again. The truth is I just

don’t know. If I want one, I will have one but at the moment I just don’t.


Much Love


Jacquie x


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