06 June 2021
I used to spend a lot of time waiting. I’m not sure what I was waiting for, but I think I thought when this ‘something’ happened then things would be different. I remember years ago when I was 12, thinking on my 13th birthday, life would change and I’d be grown up, a real teenager. Of course, when my birthday arrived, nothing changed except the number assigned to me. It was the same with many other things throughout the years, but I know it’s not just me that it applies to. For some it’s an event, like assuming when we get that job, that will make us happy. For others it’s an object that they set their heart on. Others see a relationship or a weight on the scales as the target to achieve to get them the feeling they long for.
The problem is for a lot of us, me included, when we finally get that thing, we can feel a certain amount of achievement, but often it feels flat very soon afterwards. I would tell myself when I was shopping that I needed the clothes I was buying, but they’d hang in the wardrobe afterwards, often not worn and they didn’t contribute to my feelings of happiness. I wanted to achieve things, but when I realised that my achievements didn’t matter to others as much as me, it seemed a little hollow. It’s weird when you lose your way a little, and try to fill the gaps with things. They usually don’t work, and can end up making you feel worse. I know, I tried a lot of things, but as we all know, none of those things, especially the wine, did anything to help me feel better!
We have to realise that we, individually, are enough. We are all different, we all can do different things, achieve different things, but that is what makes us interesting and useful. We shouldn’t feel inadequate when we don’t feel we measure up to other people, because it is likely the other people are thinking the exact same things about us. It’s only that neither of us realise it.
When I stopped drinking, it made me realise how much I relied on external sources to make me feel complete. I didn’t like feeling that way, and it took me a long time to rediscover myself and believe I was good enough on my own, but I’m slowly realising that I am. Sometimes the simple things in life are the things that really matter and those are the things I take the greatest pleasure in now.
So if you find yourself waiting for something to happen, remind yourself that you’re here now. That you’re living in this moment right now, and once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. We might as well try to enjoy it for what it is and be grateful that we have it.
Take care of yourselves.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be featured on the wonderful Lotta Dann's page, Living Sober. Here's the post I wrote.
Sometimes I find myself looking back at how much my life has changed in the last few years and when I do, I never fail to be surprised. To a lot of people, learning how to live without alcohol can be a fairly simple thing. For me, it wasn't.
Getting sober was tricky, mostly because I expected the hard part to be giving up the wine, while actually, the hardest part for me was learning to live with the anxiety the alcohol had been hiding. I felt a bit cheated, everywhere I looked other sober ladies were saying how amazing they felt, and I just didn’t.
Like many, I didn’t fit into a box with a tidy description. Being dependent on wine, and lots of it, was one of the things that defined me, but it wasn’t the only thing, I was also a mother, a wife, I had a good job… The one thing I struggled with was moderating the amount I drank. I was unaware at the time that my drinking was masking a host of anxiety issues that needed to be dealt with.
I suppose in a lot of ways, I expected to be ‘fixed’ once I kicked the wine, but instead it uncovered the depths of my anxiety, leaving me feeling my moods were wildly unpredictable. Before I stopped drinking, I was anxious a lot of the time, but I managed. Without the wine in my system, I would have massive panic attacks that came out of the blue and happened for no apparent reason. It was scary and I hated them being so unexpected, they literally floored me. I worried about simple things, like going out on my own, what people thought about me or that I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t relax at all, and I felt on edge all the time. It was hard work, and I was exhausted.
I read a huge amount of ‘quit-lit’ in that time, and I felt a great deal of reassurance knowing that other people had been where I was, and that they’d got through it. Seeing others finding their way to a great life, without alcohol, was a huge incentive for me, and it made me want to keep going. I started meditating, doing yoga and before long I took up running. I’d never been sporty, so it was strange, but I found it was a way to channel my mind when I began to overthink. I also started writing, not for others, and for no other reason than to express down my feelings, but I found it therapeutic, and without realising, began to unpick a lot of the things that were going on in my mind. It was almost like once I had written them down, I could let them go.
Before I quit drinking, I couldn’t imagine what a life without wine would be like. My addiction had crept up on me; like many people, I drank to relax after a hard day, or as a reward after a good day, a celebration, a commiseration, or the sun was shining. I could find an excuse to drink every day. It crept up until one glass wasn’t enough, and then a bottle wasn’t, and then I needed two or three. That’s a lot to drink every night by yourself, but my denial kept me going because I just about held on to every other area of my life. I managed, but inside, I was falling apart.
If I was to do it all again, (which I won’t), I’d say to be prepared. It was a bumpy road, but then learning how to live without something I’d depended on is realistically going to be hard. The thing is, and this is the most important thing; now, with hindsight and a clear mind, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love being sober. I love remembering things. I love not having to check my phone in the morning to see what I may have said without meaning to. I love being present. I love experiencing the day without a buffer to my emotions. I might still get a little anxious from time to time, but I know that I’m managing my feelings now rather than just drowning them out with alcohol.
Life isn’t always perfect, but nothing is. Now I know I’m being an authentic version of myself, and I’m capable of more than I ever thought I was.
Sobriety is a gift. I have the same life as I had before, but it’s so much better, because I’m not on the sidelines watching it go by anymore, I’m in it on a daily basis, experiencing all of it.