No, I do not wish to be a 'normal drinker' - by Africa Brooke

My name is Africa Brooke, a 25 year old Zimbabwean born Londoner. In November 2016 I made the decision to regain control of my life, I had fallen deep into the arms of alcoholism and I was falling apart in more ways than one. If you follow my journey on my personal page you might be familiar with my journey, but I am writing this especially for those that might not be aware, for those that might also be going through the same thing.

For many years I had proudly worn the 'party girl' title but deep down I knew this act was no longer fun, I was like a circus rat in a cage and it was killing me. I had nurtured the party in me and run with it with such intensity that I had no clue who I TRULY was inside. I felt as though inebriated me WAS the real me - with reality being something I constantly yearned to escape. From the age of 17 I dove head first into the partying scene in London. A scene headed by a lot of lost souls, I was surrounded by people who found solace in escapism - at that time, this is where I chose to unpack and settle. At that time, I was comfortable in this destruction.

From the get-go I never had a 'healthy' relationship with alcohol, I now understand that there is no such thing. I drunk to get drunk and knew no other way, one was never enough and seven was never too many. I would drink my own body weight in booze and was quite proud of how much I could put away, other people seemed to be impressed by this too which fueled this behaviour to higher heights. I didn't drink everyday or alone  - only socially - to me this meant I couldn't possibly have a problem, right? Wrong. I chose to ignore all the tell-tale signs like repeated en-bloc blackouts, poor decision making, regular casual sex, mysterious bruises and injuries, alcohol induced disputes with those close to me, and so on.

I would go too far, apologize, promise to change, then gradually switch back to the same old Africa. As long as I was drinking nothing changed, moderation always failed. I was never ready to fully give it up, I had a feeling it would have to be all or nothing - back then I always chose ALL. With a crash-bang-splat, I hit rock bottom after 8-9 years of binge-drinking and landed safely in the arms of sobriety. I gave Day 1 another chance and at that moment I knew that going back to the other way of living was no longer in my plans.

Something was different this time, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, as cliche as that might sound that's exactly how I felt, there's simply no other way to put it. Running away from myself had become exhausting. It has not been an easy ride but I gave my all to my healing and came face to face with a lot of deep rooted issues I had been masking with 'a good time'. I also went into therapy to further uncover what was beneath the surface - reluctantly at first. I educated myself on alcoholism, binge-drinking, depression, social anxiety and feelings of low self worth (amongst many other things). I realised that for the first time since I was a child I was now living my life in clarity. 

Getting sober introduced me to a Africa I'd never seen before, she was too raw, too clear - too real, but I didn't run away this time. Making the conscious choice to live a life that didn't scare me hasn't happened overnight, I have fought hard to be the woman I am today and I'm not done yet! I had to start getting to know ME again, in the most sincere way - without all the extras. Time has gone by and now at 1 year 6 months sober I've never been more certain that this is the best thing I have ever done for myself. I was the girl many thought would never change, I even thought that of myself too - I believed at a point that failure was in my destiny.

I have found that a lot of people feel as though blackout drinking is an inevitable part of the drinking process because society has normalized this form of drug-use. Many don't even consider it a frightening experience - forgotten nights are somehow deemed the best ones. Most people also feel ashamed and embarrassed to admit they have an problem so it ends up becoming a continuous cycle of problem drinking. With the platform I now have I want to make it known that sobriety is not this scary, boring, soul crushing life sentence, it's all the opposites. Its a beautiful gift that will give you access to all the parts of your life you didn't have ownership of before.

It has given me real relationships, the ability to truly love and appreciate myself/others for all I am/they are, a judgement free space to share my story and connect with those going through the same thing, or those with some knowledge/advice they can pass on. I am very thankful that I'm able to exchange my words with a community that can accept them with an open heart and an open mind. A community that embraces all of me with no conditions. I will forever fight to let the world know that recovery is possible!

You do not have to go through anything alone - do not let people normalize or dismiss your pain. You do not have to live up to the 'fun time' persona if it's simultaneously killing you and taking you away from your most authentic self. Everything I do and share is to help other people know that they are not going through life alone. Struggle isn't a permanent state, change is absolutely possible regardless of how helpless we might feel at times.

I am writing these words to let you know that you matter! My email is - reach me there or via my Instagram. If you also think you might be drinking too much or have some concerns about substance abuse, you can always message me! Even if you just want to talk, I am here for you. 

- Africa 

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