Day 27 – Once you’ve danced with the devil…
Updated: Apr 19
Once you have gone to a point with drinking where you have even a handful of moments where you no longer have control with it, I do not believe moderation is ever a viable option for the future.
Once you’ve danced with the devil, you can never go back!
Dancing with the Devil
Last night I watched the last episode of Demi Lovato’s ‘Dancing with the Devil’ on YouTube. I had been enjoying the series and felt really energised for Demi as it seemed as though she had really begun to turn her life around.
But then, in the last episode, the admission that she was now drinking and smoking cannabis came to light and I instantly felt a deep pang of sadness and pain for her.
I side with Elton John who in the documentary states that moderation does not work – a man 30 years down the line without alcohol.
If you have reached that point where you are out of control with a substance like alcohol, I do not believe you can moderate consumption. The brain has been re-wired too far and I don’t think it is possible to re-wire it back to pre-addiction in relation to the substance of choice.
My Own Relapse
I initially gave up alcohol in May 2017. It had been an ongoing battle to reach that point, but I finally made it. I was so proud of myself!
In 2018 I was in a new relationship, and not unlike Demi’s recounting of a new relationship in her documentary where she went in too quick too soon, I went in too quick too soon and was then caught in something I did not want to be in.
Sexual abuse leaves very deep scars and one of the ways these scars make themselves known is through the way we behave in adult relationships. One of my symptoms has always been to jump too quickly into romantic relationships and trust too easily. I recognise that this comes from having to have a relationship of trust with my abuser all whilst I was also being abused and trust was very deeply being broken. This left me with very distorted boundaries around trust and love. This seems common for people who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence, a time at which the brain is developing neural pathways in respect of what love and trust in relationships means.
Demi’s story is full of sexual abuse, much more than my own and hence I feel as though she has many deep wounds to navigate to keep her safe from relapsing to the point of overdose again. This is what made me feel so deeply pained for Demi as I know she will have a lot of hard work on her hands over the coming years in order to ensure she does not end up another famous overdose statistic.
I think my new relationship began in late February/early March of 2018 and by the April/May I was invited to the wedding of her brother. It was a very small family and friends affair and I ended up being in the main family photo that was then printed in large display and proudly hung in the parent’s living room.
Little did I know at the time but this would become the reason I felt trapped in a relationship I no longer wanted to be in.
My ex really wanted to have children. As the months went on I realised that I really that had no desire to have children. The scenarios for a lesbian couple to have children are either artificial insemination or adoption. Or I suppose one person could sleep with a man if they did so desire! However, after really sitting and thinking through artificial insemination and adoption, I realised that I was not ready and did not have any desire to seek either route at that time. Due to the wedding photo, amongst other things, I let myself feel trapped in the relationship and did not know how to leave.
By December 2018 I was in inner turmoil as the relationship was not working out, largely due to my feeling that I did not see our futures as being aligned. When I eventually broke up with the girl in early 2019 I turned to drink to seek some solace for the pain of the inner turmoil I had caused myself.
In my time without alcohol I had always wondered whether it was possible for the brain to be re-wired such that the uncontrollable urges would be no longer present themselves. Although, listening to accounts from famous people who had gone through rehab I knew there was a sentiment that this was not possible. Being the inquisitive type I am and wanting to experience things, I don’t know if I would have been satisfied without experiencing it for myself though.
I can vouch from experience that the brain does not become re-wired.
I was right back where I had left off and felt incredibly lost, frustrated and helpless.
I am pleased to say that I did find my way back to being alcohol free and could not be happier!
I know that I will never be able to consume alcohol ‘sensibly’ because of the changes that have occurred within my brain in respect of alcohol. I also have no desire to drink alcohol due to the breadth of ill health outcomes that come from its consumption within humans! Plus life is wayyyyy better when you never have a hangover to navigate!
I was not all that enamoured by Demi’s case worker in the documentary. I do not agree with drug and alcohol workers who allow people free reign to choose to use substances. The trouble with this, in my opinion, is that the person the addict is looking to for boundaries has disallowed boundaries and will now form part of the problem and not the solution.
Once you have gone too far with substances and become addicted, moderation is not an option. Having someone in our space that should be helping us to stick to boundaries who then allows those boundaries to be blurred means that person is now no longer a good person for us to have within our support network.
In my opinion, case workers who allow blurring of boundaries feel as though they are helping when in reality they are hindering.
In the times I tried to become teetotal I reached out to various people for accountability support. I think being accountable is key. It is the reason I am writing this journal blog since I need accountability to help me through a situation where my PTSD symptom has been re-triggered and I was incredibly worried about using alcohol to get me through. This blog is a safe accountability partner because it does not rely on anyone other than myself to keep me accountable. No one else can blur the boundary. I am in full control whilst also having public accountability for my actions ...and it's working!
When seeking accountability partners, I had friends who were too soft on me if I had a drink. Unbeknown to them, this was detrimental to the process and meant that the emotional part of my brain driving the desire to drink, no longer trusted or respected that person and they no longer were someone I could turn to for accountability support. Hence my opinion on the case worker in Demi's documentary.
Advice to Others
If you are supporting someone giving up an addictive substance like alcohol DO NOT be soft with them. Once you have been soft, you can no longer help that person in their journey to free them from the addiction.
Although being soft may feel helpful, I promise you it really isn’t!
Everyone’s At It
“I don't know much but I know this for certain
And that is the sun poking its head 'round the curtain
Now please can we leave, I'd like to go to bed now
It's not just the sun that is hurting my head now
I'm not trying to say that I'm smelling of roses
But when will we tire of putting shit up our noses
I don't like staying up, staying up past the sunlight
It's meant to be fun and this just doesn't feel right
Why can't we all, all just be honest
Admit to ourselves that everyone's on it
From grown politicians to young adolescents
Prescribing themselves anti-depressants
Now how can we start to tackle the problem
If you don't put your hands up and admit that you're on them
The kids are in danger, they're all getting habits
From what I can see everyone's at it
I get involved but I'm not advocating
Got an opinion, yeah you're well up for slating
So you've got a prescription and that makes it legal
Now find the excuses overwhelmingly feeble
You go to the doctor, you need pills for sleeping
Well if you can convince him, I guess that's not cheating
See your daughter's depressed we'll get her straight on the Prozac
But little do you know, she already takes crack."
Lily Allen, Everyone's At It
We live in a culture where addiction is rife! Caffeine and sugar are both drugs and are heavily misused but because their impact on health is not so obvious (well, I would disagree in respect of sugar!) and because the impact on wider society is not as destructive as alcohol or illicit drugs, we don’t view these as addictive substances in the same way.
“What characterizes an addiction?” asks the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. “Quite simply this: you no longer feel that you have the power to stop. It seems stronger than you. It also gives you a false sense of pleasure, pleasure that invariably turns into pain.
Addiction cuts large swaths across our culture. Many of us are burdened with compulsive behaviours that harm us and others, behaviours whose toxicity we fail to acknowledge or feel powerless to stop.
“We see that substance addictions are only one specific form of blind attachment to harmful ways of being. Yet we condemn the addict’s stubborn refusal to give up something deleterious to his life or to the lives of others. Why do we despise, ostracize and punish the drug addict when as a social collective we share the same blindness and engage in the same rationalizations? To pose that question is to answer it. We despise, ostracize and punish the addict because we don’t wish to see how much we resemble him. In his dark mirror our own features are unmistakable. We shudder at the recognition. This mirror is not for us, we say to the addict. You are different, and you don’t belong with us.”
Alcohol is the only drug we give others a hard time for if they don’t consume it. As was mentioned in a conversation this week with someone else I know who has had a battle with alcohol, I believe that all social drinkers have a level of addiction to alcohol. If this were not the case, it would be easy for people to just give up. But social drinkers make excuses and believe their own internal narrative that they don’t have any issues with alcohol. I think this feeds into why we give people a hard time for not drinking. If we encourage others to drink, we can feel more at ease with our own drinking.
"If you’re the kind of drinker who thinks “Yeah, but I’m alright, I don’t drink that much. I’m certainly not addicted.” Then you are the perfect person to try dry. Because it will be a doddle. Right?”
James Smith, the online Personal Trainer, this week was a perfect example of how social drinkers justify that they don’t have any issues with alcohol. Yet in the same post he indicates that it was negatively affecting his life. We are all so affected by the stigma of addiction that we cannot be honest with ourselves or others about the harmful ways alcohol affects us.
“Tomorrow will be my 100th day without a drink and I’ve also grown 100,000 Instagram followers in the same period.
2020 I experienced all kinds of emotions and learned that anything that interferes with my productivity plays havoc with my headspace.
From pandemics to hangovers I decided to take some variables that influenced that into my own hands and give up something that gave me pleasure for a lifestyle that may make me happier as a byproduct.
I don’t have a booze problem at all, I just set out to lift my self-standards a bit and I’ve enjoyed it to be honest, it’s not been easy at all.
I’m not setting a time frame on this gap from drinking but it’s nice only living with one personality for a few months 😂 (the other personality being the fucking idiot version of yourself when you drink.)
P.s for the record it only takes about 3 weeks before you become all high and mighty and say stuff like “drunk people are so annoying.” 😂😂😂”
As is mentioned in the documentary, Demi was very good at lying about her habits in relation to addiction. This is a really common theme. My alcohol use was very hidden. Many people would not have realised I was drinking because in social situations around alcohol, for example out at the pub, I could easily abstain from drinking. For me though, alcohol use was contained for sleep anxiety. I never had a strong connection with socialising and alcohol since I think it is a very poor social lubricant. I also never understood the culture of blowing tens or hundreds of pounds on alcohol in the name of fun only to have blurred memories of out of control antics, a depleted bank account and an awful hangover to show for it!
I would take steps to conceal my drinking to ensure that I could continue to live a ‘normal’ life and not get found out. For me the stigma of addiction meant I was incredibly ashamed of my behaviour. We demonise addicts in our culture instead of recognising that addiction is the symptom of deep underlying wounds.
“Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the centre of all addictive behaviours.”
We are all wounded souls wandering around bumping into other wounded souls. The only difference is the depth of the wounds and our resilience level to be able to cope with them.
Every adult human has unresolved and unhealed emotional wounds. It’s just the depth and impact of those wounds which varies person-to-person.
In my opinion, the cultural conversation on ‘mental health’ does not go far enough. We need to start talking about real emotions and recognising that we all have wounds to heal. The mental health conversation medicalises emotion by using categories and labels. It puts it out there. It’s only other people who have these labels and medical diagnoses that have ‘problems’. It’s like our view of addiction, only those 'down-and-outs' really have a problem.
As a society we need to get real and understand that we all have emotional wounds. We all use a crutch of some sort. And we all need love and compassion. Love and compassion for ourselves. Love and compassion to and from others.
We are all dancing with the devil to some degree.
Once you have danced with the devil using a substance like alcohol, there is no way back.
Accountability and honest support are the only way forward.
Demi my heart goes out to you. I wish very much that you are able to work through the things that you are going through such that you never overdose again.
Once you’ve danced with the devil, you can never go back!
Day 27 - 365 Day Journal
Finally it subsided and I managed to get a good night’s sleep!
Things that were awesome today:
I had an awesome day chilling out.
Things that I am grateful for:
Caffeine, Alcohol & Alcohol Free Beverages
Strength & Mobility
Veggies & Fruit
Meditation & Mindfulness
Before bed – Guided meditation
I ask all readers to be respectful. This is an honest and heart-felt account of the struggle I have incurred.
I thank you in advance for your respect and kindness and I encourage you to sign up to my mailing list so I can notify you about new blog updates.
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in my blogs please get in touch. Your conversations with me will remain confidential. Please note that I am not a therapist but I can support you to find a way to address any issues you may be experiencing.
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