02 August 2020
More than once I tried to moderate, because ‘everyone’ drinks. It’s the way our society conditions us to think, even if it isn’t really true. We are bombarded with images reinforcing how we need alcohol in our lives, how it’s there to help us on tough days and reward us on others. When you see something so often you begin to believe it, even if it isn’t true.
Looking back, nothing was better when I drank. I thought for a time it made me grown up, but I became an adult without it. I thought it made me cool, sophisticated, rewarded, so many things, but in reality, I wasn’t any of them. I didn’t realise I was becoming dependent until it was too late, because things like that don’t happen to people like me. Realising you have a problem and doing something about it are two very different things, even when you want to fix it and so for a long time, I avoided it. The need to drink doesn’t make it any easier, in fact suddenly it makes it all seem more real, and that sober life you hope for just seems further away.
I literally couldn’t imagine back then how a life without wine would look. I just didn’t get how it would be possible and what the point would be, if I didn’t have that full glass to look forward to. Every image in my head involved relaxing with wine so it was hard to relearn my thinking. I didn’t really know who I’d be without it because it had been a large part of my life for so long. It’s hard writing that now, but you know, it’s the truth of how I felt, so there’s no point in pretending it wasn’t.
Now, when I look back, it feels like I’m looking back on another person who inhabited my life for a few years. I know it was me, but I have so little in common with that version of myself that it seems very odd. I’m not going to say I never think about about wine, but honestly, I don’t want to drink anymore. Occasionally, and as time goes on, it’s less and less often, but occasionally I do associate certain things with drinking and it makes it harder for me. My son works at a lovely restaurant and has suggested it would be nice to go and eat there one evening. He has one table in mind, on the balcony overlooking the sea and while I want to go and enjoy it, on one hand my first thought was, ‘why am I the one to miss out on wine?’, closely followed by, ‘what will other people think?’ Logically, I know no one else even cares about what I drink and by not drinking, I am in no way missing out, but isn’t it funny how they are my first thoughts? Why do I assume eating out should include wine?
I wouldn’t change my sobriety for anything. It was hard earned and I am grateful. I love the clarity of mind I have now. I love remembering. I love being present. I love being a better, more patient and understanding person. There are still some ingrained habits and thoughts that need working on but it’s no surprise really, not when I spent so many years drinking my worries away. I want to get to a point where I can safely say I don’t even miss the romantic thought of drinking, but at least I understand that’s all it is, my reality is very different. Until then, I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come.
I’m seeing more and more blogs turn up online lately. It’s obvious to see that nowadays it’s easier to get your work out there for people to read. A few years ago, the only way of having work read by others was to submit and have it accepted by a publisher or magazine. Now it’s relatively easy to set up a website, blog, Facebook or Instagram account to share your thoughts, and like me, I expect a lot of people gain a lot of clarity through sorting through and sharing their thoughts. On the other hand, what worries me is that some of the ‘advisors’ out there are actually only just themselves beginning to explore their own sobriety. How can you advise someone else when you haven’t finished working on yourself? I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be out there or that I am better. That isn’t my intention at all. I suppose I just worry that someone might suggest something detrimental and I know from experience when I was at my lowest point that I was naive, impressionable and vulnerable.
I share my thoughts because I hope it helps. Reading the experiences of others certainly helped me, and still does. It unites us against a common enemy. It stops us from feeling alone. But, and this is quite a big but; I don’t advise. I can share what worked or didn’t work for me, but our lives and our experiences are very different. Those things might not be the same for anyone else.
I also felt I was doing something wrong when I repeatedly read (and still sometimes do read) comments about how cutting out the drink fixed things straight away. I thought I was doing sobriety wrong and I wondered if there was something wrong with me, because all cutting out wine did for me was expose how poor my mental health was. Suddenly, instead of just a drinking problem, I had to worry about my mind too. I just wanted to get better and reading about people who one week or a month into their sobriety were sleeping better with a huge improvement in their anxiety did nothing to make me feel better. It just made me feel worse.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t share our experiences. In fact, I feel very strongly that we should. I just shy away from the idea of dishing out advice. I hope my experiences help others, but truthfully, I have no idea. I can only hope for the best. I don’t profess to be an expert in addiction or recovery, but I have been there so I do understand. I’m wary of anyone or anything that makes a promise to help or fix a problem. Especially when they charge for the service, or offer advice and expertise when they haven’t been sober for that long. To me, a promise should only be made when you can guarantee it will be met, otherwise you’re in danger of building up hopes and letting people down.
If you’re in recovery, just remember, everyone’s personal experience is different. There is no right or wrong. Just do what feels right for you and remember to be kind to yourself. Things do get better.
Take care of yourselves.
I used to find it impossible to slow down. I felt like I was in a constant race. I rushed everything, the good and the bad, to get a sense of fulfilment and to feel like I had achieved something. The thing is, that for me, that feeling is a bit like the feeling you get with drinking. Once you’ve done it, you need more to get the same feeling. It’s not a good feeling when you never feel proud of yourself. It eats away at your self-confidence and I found that I measured my self-worth by the amount of things I could tick off a list. The problem was, it never felt like it was enough.
When I stopped drinking my mind suddenly felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do with myself at the best of times but now I had extra time on my hands it was even worse. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t even think straight. To me, that was all a shock. I thought that if I cut out wine, then I’d become settled and relaxed almost straight away. It wasn’t like that, and instead I was just a bit of a mess. It was hard to deal with.
Over time I’ve slowed down. I’ve got used to my new pace and I’ve come to enjoy the small things, possibly, this is helped by the fact that I actually see them now. I’m not rushing aimlessly about trying to achieve the next thing. It’s peaceful and calm and quiet. I like it.
Take a breath and stop for a second. Life is good. Enjoy it!
I’ve never really been one to compete with others (myself maybe, but not others). I’ve always felt a bit separate. I don’t want to have the newest car or biggest house. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice things, I just like them for me, rather than because someone says I should.
I’ve also never pushed my kids to compete. All four are very different, they each have their own strengths and I don’t ever want them to feel that they are compared to each other or to anyone else. I remember often being the odd one out because I didn’t want to compare the grades my kids were getting with my friends kids. The thing was that they were five or six then, too little to know what they should or shouldn’t be achieving. The same thing applies now though, whether they’re doing their GCSEs, learning to walk or learning to drive, they are all individuals, capable of so much, but sometimes hindered when they hear throw away comments.
I remember being told I’d need to toughen up because I was so sensitive. I don’t think that’s always true though. I think it’s more the case that adults should think about their words and actions. It’’s all too easy to snap and say something, but we are shaping the lives of our young people, and what they see and hear is what they will model back to us.
Growing up, I never felt like I fitted into the right box. I’m a bit messy you see, not in the way I clean my house, but in the way I approach life. I’ve never ticked the right boxes. It’s taken me until now to realise that the way I am doesn’t make me wrong, it makes me interesting.
I’m at the running track as I write this. It’s a beautiful sunny evening and the club are training in front of me. It’s interesting to see the different perceptions of the parents here. Clearly they all want their children to do the best they can, but equally I’d hope they’d want them to enjoy themselves too. At least that’s what I want. As much as Barn enjoys competing I don’t think there would be any point if he didn’t also enjoy his time with the team, and running itself of course.
As I watched, one parent approached the railing to tell their two children that they weren’t putting enough effort in, and were chatting too much. This comment was followed up by a correction on their foot placement. It seemed so negative, and I understand the feeling to want your kids to do well, but this was during the warm-ups, and if they can’t chat to their team then, well when can they? They’re so young. Meanwhile Barn was stretching while chatting to his mates that are in his pod. (They’re in small pods for Covid reasons). There’s six of them and while they’re taking it seriously it’s nice to see them enjoying themselves too.
One child in particular is rather over-confident and it’s a bit painful to watch them try to compare themselves to others, to tear them down in order to build themselves up. While in some ways I don’t blame them, they obviously need the constant reassurance to make themselves feel good, it’s interesting to see that while they have the support of the coaches, this one child is always alone. That bravado hasn’t gained any extra friends and in fact possibly just pushed the team further away. It’s a shame the individual doesn’t see that.
So, I’m not sure what the right thing is exactly, but I’ll continue to do what I’m doing. I’ll be myself, and encourage my kids to do the same, but in the same way, I’ll remind them to be patient and understated with others as much as possible, to be themselves while remembering that we are all different, and that in itself is okay.