I have only really talked about my drinking problem since it has been something in my past. I started to talk freely to people about how much I worried about my drinking once I had made the decision that I was stopping, the last time I decided that!

I have been quite surprised at how little people closest to me knew about how much I drank. Yes, my friends knew I drank to excess in their company, usually flaking out and passing into an unwakeable sleep. Yes, my parents knew that I was often very groggy if they called me ‘early’ in the morning at weekends. Yes, my family knew that I would always very enthusiastically greet the alcohol at any family event. Yes, anyone who visited my house would often see recycling bags full of cider cans and wine bottles.

They all knew this, but it seems that no one apart from Liam, my son, put all the pieces together to work out that I actually had a major problem. And who can blame them? I was the only person who really knew the full extent of my drinking, and I think I even managed to keep myself fairly in the dark about it.

Well, that last bit isn’t true, I knew perfectly well that I was powerless in the face of my cravings, that I could think to myself ‘I’m not going to drink tonight’, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean that I wouldn’t end up with a can of cider or glass on wine in my hand later. I was very conscious that not drinking on a particular evening always meant a conscious decision rather than ‘normal’ behaviour.

I chose to think I could always deal with it another time, and that tonight, I really ‘deserved’ my drink. I think that fact alone makes the answer to the question in the title of this post fairly obvious!

Since my yoga based recovery from alcoholism, I have begun to feel comfortable about talking about my alcoholism. This is something that was not the case before. It is something I have started freely talking to friends and family about, always in the past tense, as I no longer feel like the same person that I was. I have not ‘given up alcohol’, through Yoga I have seen another way to approach life that doesn’t need alcohol, and I no longer need to hide myself in a bottle of wine. The alcoholic Esther is a thing of the past.

This revelation that her daughter as well as her son has successfully hidden serious alcohol addiction from her for many years seems to be, understandably, quite troubling to my mother. Recently, when we were out walking together, she asked me how, as I was able to give up drinking completely during the time I was pregnant and breastfeeding my youngest son, could I consider that I had been an alcoholic. Surely I wasn’t as bad as I was imagining I was.

This was an interesting question, and one I struggled to answer in a way that I found satisfying. I needed to ponder it some more.

I gave up drinking easily when pregnant, I couldn’t have been an alcoholic, could I?

I knew why I was able to eliminate alcohol completely once I knew I was having another child, aged 37. When I found out that I was pregnant, my initial reaction was not a good one. I was 36, would be 37 by the time the child was born, had only been with the father for a few months, and was already having some doubts about the relationship. I was at the time, a very heavy drinker and smoker, and knew that there was a good chance I had caused serious damage to my eggs over the years. My son’s father was also a heavy drinker and had been for many years. I didn’t know much about fetal alcohol syndrome, but knew that there was a chance that this child could suffer as result of alcohol. I decided that as I had made the decision to continue with the pregnancy, then I had to give my child the very best chance I possibly could. I stopped drinking and smoking immediately, and focussed all of my attention on nurturing this child, exercising, sleeping, eating well, to give my child the very best chance I could possibly give hmi.
When Marcus was born, there was never any question that he would be breastfed for as long as possible, as I knew that this was the best thing for him to ensure his health and good development. Throughout this time, I didn’t drink or smoke, nor did I want to most of the time.

One night, Marcus’s father and I arranged for Marcus to spend the night at my parents’ house so that we could go out. I expressed a full day’s worth of milk so that I would be able to have a ‘well deserved’ drink. We didn’t go far, we went to the nearest pub.

After over a year of sobriety, I must have drunk at least a bottle of red wine (impossible to say as it came from a box at the bar, but there were several large glasses). I didn’t smoke however, my return to smoking came later.

As I lay in bed the next day, nursing a savage headache and feeling dreadful, I remember thinking that I had been really glad to have that drink, that I had missed it and that I was glad that I was now able to drink again.

It was like being reunited with the love of my life after a reluctant separation. Yes, I had made the choice to stop for the benefit of my child, because his life and wellbeing was, for the time that he depended directly on my body for his sustenance, bigger and more important than my need for drink. But the need never went away; it was just muted for a while. I was always going to revert to drinking, none of the problems I was trying to mask had gone away (and many new ones had presented themselves). I had paused my drinking, not given it up, I had never even thought about giving it up.

In pondering the question my mother asked me, I found a few tests online in response to the search question ‘Am I an alcoholic?’. According to the tests I did, answering the way I would have if I had been capable of such self-analysis and honesty back then, not only was I an alcoholic, but I was in serious need of urgent medical help!

I didn’t seek medical help, I found my salvation through Yoga. It is because of what I learned through Yoga teacher training that I talk about my alcoholism in the past. I WAS an alcoholic, now I am a very different person. I think of ‘old Esther’ as a different person entirely, someone I had to be in order to be the Esther I am now. I look back at her with a range of emotions; anger, regret, disgust, shame, compassion, pity, love, hate…. I wish there were things she hadn’t done and said, situations she hadn’t got herself into, damage to herself and others that hadn’t been caused, but I don’t really regret any of it, as it was all vital to get me to where I am now.

If you recognise yourself, or someone you love in any of what I have written, then maybe you need to get help. There is a great deal of information available through various organisations across the country. If you live in Wales, then organisations such as DrugAid, New Link, TEDS and many others can help you. I too can help if you would like to use Yoga to help you reduce your need to alcohol to deal with stress and unhappiness, and create the life and freedom you need and deserve.
Contact me if you would like to know more, or if you simply want to share with someone who understands where you are coming from. I can offer you friendly, non-judgemental, compassionate and empathetic advice and support.

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Esther Nagle
Teacher, writer, speaker at Balance and Breathe
Esther is a former alcoholic, smoker and all round stressed out mess. She found the path to health, happiness, freedom and joy through Yoga. She is a passionate advocate for the power of Yoga, and time in Nature, in bringing balance to life, and giving you control over your health, happiness and wellbeing.

Esther is a powerful public speaker, writer and author. Her first book, Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga, has gained many 5 star reviews and has helped many people along their recovery journey.

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