Others look at us. Not in a judgemental way for the most part, but they assume from our outward appearance who we are, the lifestyles we lead, our self-esteem, confidence levels whether we have got it together.

When I drank, I used to make a huge effort with the way I looked, which was seriously difficult, as most mornings I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. In fact, I spent about 2 years in my late thirties arranging my face to the side, so that my eyes did not stare back at me and show what was really going on. I not only avoided my gaze but everyone else’s. I believed if I made eye contact that they would see the state of my mind, and damaged, toxic soul.

I was a charade. Always glamorous, striding out after 11am at least, as if I was in full control of life. No one except my late husband, ever saw the haggard, hungover, sick woman that would stagger around the kitchen in the early hours looking for the dregs of a bottle, my then thin lifeless hair straggled around my face, the bloodshot eyes lighting up if I found some at the bottom of the bin, then I could crash onto the sofa, bashing my legs as I negotiated the route on tables and the bloody log basket, tripping over one of the dogs, with a fag often lit at the wrong end, that would invariably burn the carpet. I was I thought, clever at rearranging the furniture to hide the holes.

Even when I stopped drinking and was a dry drunk, resentful, bloshy because of the unfairness that I couldn’t be a ‘normal’ drinker, pretending that I didn’t have a problem with anyone else drinking, I still over did it with the look of a typical yummy mummy, the smile hiding the truth.

I assumed that I pulled it off. Perhaps for the most part I did, but deep down I could never show vulnerability or being sick. Thank God since then times have moved on, and coming out as alcoholic or dependent does not send people running for the hills. Still not as acceptable as other conditions or lifestyle choices, but better.

Getting comfortable with the real you who, in my case, was under the influence for over 25 years, is a long sometimes joyous, but very often raw and overwhelming.  I like so many of my clients, experienced trauma as a child, the death of my twin, and up until I was in my 40s did I truly grieve for that loss.

When I drank I wanted everyone to like me. Now I accept that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t try or worse as I know I was, desperate to please. Take me or leave me.

I am in my sixth decade, contented, intuitive, resourceful, and extremely relaxed with how I present myself, whether dressed up or not. Alcohol turns us into parodies of ourselves, harsh but true, and in this world of chaos and uncertainty, being sure of yourself is a huge gift. I have stopped assuming and comparing, I live in my own vintage skin and am happy enough with me. Save a lot of stress and need to escape.

Author: Sarah Turner

Founder of the Harrogate Sanctuary.