The other day I made the comment in my blog – and during a telephone conversation – that it’s next to impossible to drown your inner demons when the bastards have learnt how to swim. It got me thinking on ways to deal with your inner problems in healthier and – in the long term – sustainable way than reaching for a shelf of wine every time the shit hits the fan.
I’m fairly open about most things. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a writer, and therefore nothing is sacred, or if it’s because I’m an only child who has never really had many people to talk to. Social media has given me the opportunity to be “heard,” as has this blog. For someone who feels like they’re not heard all that often, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.
I remember a few years ago being told that if I wanted to write a blog about change and growth I needed to position myself as an expert, not as someone struggling with the process or learning things as I went along.
“No one will take anything you say seriously if you admit to making mistakes.”
That piece of wisdom came from a forum I used to be a member of. It was during the first flush of success of The Secret and the Conversations with God books. The forum was a nice place to be, very supportive. Everyone was working towards their own versions of living a fulfilled life.
I’d just completed a book of original visualised meditations that had come to me out of nowhere. I’d been fairly engrossed in studying the law of attraction and after having spent a month or so believing that I would be given access to the right path for me, things began to happen.
Firstly, I started writing a collection of visualised meditations. Within about a week I’d put together 15 or so. I spent time with them. I used them. I found the changes in my world were becoming quite rapid.
Secondly, I got a job. I had spent the better part of a decade working in call centres. I hated it. I hated being yelled at and abused on a daily basis. I hated that customers wouldn’t take responsibility for what they signed up for. Every call was abuse. I lost count of the death threats, the threats of physical violence to my family and loved ones. The guilt trips about children missing out on Christmas because the company I worked for expected the customers bills to be paid.
I started to get sick. I would lose my voice at the drop of a hat. Literally within 15 minutes it would go from normal voice to nothing, via a detour to sounding like Bea Arthur. Eventually, the voice packed it in for almost two months. I ended up losing my last job in a call centre.
When my voice came back I had a hole in my resume and no usable skills. I had no degree. I had no experience beyond answering phone calls. I didn’t want to go back to call centre’s – I knew that – but I had no idea what I wanted to do.
For a couple of weeks I applied for call centre work and didn’t get so much as an interview. I realised then that my time in that particular field of work was over. So I sat down and imagined the job I wanted.
It involved writing, it would be “different” every day. It would involve marketing and networking.
I had no idea what I was about to get myself into, but I poured all the energy I could into it.
Finally when I felt ready I made the announcement to myself and whatever was out there listening; I would be successful at the very next job I saw. I opened up the job hunting website, clicked on the media jobs and scrolled it randomly. I opened the job it landed on. I had a moment – well several – of absolute doubt.
The job required a minimum education level of a Masters Degree. The applicant needed to have either a journalism or legal background. It required that you had professional writing credits and were established in the field.
I was a ex-call centre employee who left school at 16 and had a Certificate IV in Office Adminstration.
Anyway, I’d made the decision – and the announcement to the universe – so that was that. I had a look at the company website, my doubt blossomed and I thought “what the hell am I doing setting myself up to fail?”
And then I sent off an application.
A day or so later I had an interview with the company, followed by a second interview a few days after that. Two weeks later, fresh faced and in my first brand new suit I arrived at the doors of the company and began my career as an entry-level conference producer, producing CPD accredited conferences for the legal profession.
All went well for a while and then my inner demons woke up. I had money in the bank for the first time ever. I had a good and interesting job that I was doing well at. My first event sold 100’s of tickets across the country. A new manager took me aside and told me he saw something in me and began training me to do bigger and more expensive events.
And then they started.
“Loser, moron, everyone knows you’re a fake. Everyone is laughing at you. Everyone hates you. You’re making an absolute fool out of yourself. Leave before they fire you. God you’re a total dickhead. This isn’t for you, this is for better people.”
And as was my fall back position I started to drink. After work, I’d go to the pub next door,get home at at 3am, get back on the 6 am train and go do it all over again. At the time we had another new manager and the world was reeling from the GFC. Ticket sales were plummeting, magazine sales were plummeting, one day half the company was laid off at lunch time and the other half put on four days a week.
When the manager hired a new employee, with half the experience I had but for more money, I approached her – the manager – to find out why.
“With your lack of education, you’re lucky to have a job at all. You’re not even worth what we’re paying you to begin with.”
Now, the reality is I could have taken that one of two ways. I had been the only person in the company who had gotten a pay rise the year before, due to the fact my legal events were still selling well and I’d just produced an event that raised tens of thousands of dollars in sponsorship.
I could have thought to myself “get bent, if I’m that worthless why did I get a pay rise a year ago?”
Instead I gave up. All the inner voices, all the fears and doubts had just been proven “right.” And so I started drinking. Just a glass or two when I got home from work, a way to unwind. But a glass or two never works.
My father once said to me “You’re like my dad, one drink is too many and a thousand are not enough.”
It took many years, many failures and many falls on my face before I acknowledged the truth of my fathers words. They were not said in malice, but in concern. They were not said to reinforce the inner voices but to tell me that this is fixable.
In February this year I quit drinking, fell over again in March and in April decided that the depression that followed the binge was not worth the price. The demons in my head had learnt to swim years ago, and the volume with which they hurled their abuse only got louder the more I drank.
At the time I stopped I was doing a 6 month novel writers course. I was getting positive feedback on my novel. I was getting constructive criticism and support. I began – against the grain I know – to believe in both myself and my novel.
When I ended up losing my job last week I didn’t know what to do. For the first time in my life I hadn’t sabotaged it. I had worked hard, took all the scut work that no one else seemed to want. I had tried, in my own way, to make a difference and to make improvements.
Sitting at home with the tag end of the flu, I had absolutely no idea what to do. I’d realised just the day before my novel had a massive problem that was going to take going back to the drawing board to correct. I’d thought at the time “Well shit me, that’s a pest.”
So when I lost my job, my sense of self worth and all the work and effort I had put in over the previous six months or so went flying out the window and I bought a bottle of wine. Then another. Then another.
And I drank.
Monday morning I woke up feeling like shit. I had the second hangover in a three days – which is a lot given I hadn’t had a hangover in years. I smelt awful, my face was stuck to my pillow, my mouth tasted vile. I sat up gingerly and turned on the light. And there scattered amongst the flotsam and jetsam of the night before were two casks of wine. One empty, one half full. They’d both been full the day before.
Once I recovered enough to be able to stand upright I took the two casks of wine and threw them in the bin. I cleaned my room, updated my resume and wrote a blog. I realised clearly for the first time that my fall back plan is to wipe myself out, and that is neither sustainable nor healthy.
The only way I can both survive and thrive in my chosen life is to do it sober. There may come a time when I can stick to my two drink maximum, but it’s not now.
I’ve been a bit scattered over the last couple of days as my body detoxes and that’s okay. I put it through a large amount of punishment.
So whether or not those who read this blog – if any do – take my advice seriously or not I will give it anyway.
Don’t drink to drown your demons, the bastards are quick studies and learn to swim fast.