Just 6 sleeps now till I reach my last mid 40’s year. If I say it quick enough it doesn’t really register but the simple fact is I will be turning 46. I’ve always been able to deal with new decades filled by the subsequent earlies and mid’s but there’s something about the late’s that I don’t like. I suppose it focusses on the end of something and the fear of the unknown next phase of your life. By that point I will have had 3 years to fret, pre empty and write some convoluted horror story in my head but the reality of the new decade is actuslly accompanied with a sigh of relief and I generally embrace of the new phase. The earlies are just 3 years that feel very much like the decade’s start and the mid’s are just settling into the new maturer me but the late’s well that’s the saying goodbye to years that I’ve lived too fast without stopping to take air and be present. I suppose getting another year older carries the same question that I have with New Year in that do you really begin something new or does your life carry on but with the time labels that are periodically stamped on it? I mean when I reach 46 does that mean that the next 366 days are a chance to make positive change, nurture the things I love or make resolutions? I don’t think so. I think we all fall into the trap of compartmentalising our lives into periods, labelling them and then looking at them with rose tinted nostalgia all too eager to wish we were 19, 25 or 34 again. In doing that we will only find it more difficult to enjoy the here and now.
When I look at my late teens and 20’s a great deal of it was under the influence of alcohol, cigarettes and cannabis. Yes I had a some great successes in those years but for a large part I was nursing a hangover, borrowing money off my Nana for fags or taking a whitey. This of course will not be unlike most young people of that age group and I had a jolly good time in the process but did I? I was talking about this with some friends recently. When I look back at my younger self in particular my drinking younger self like many in Scotland, well the UK, there is the expectation that you go out to get drunk, bladdered, wasted. That’s the aim of the game. The following morning retracing your drunken or stoned steps with your pals trying to piece together the hazy and sometimes blank night before. Hysterical laughter, many stories and shared memories for sure however, too often time was lost through memory loss or sickness ensued due to too much drink. I have so many sick stories I could do a standup routine just on the subject. By and into my 30’s I had stopped smoking both weed and cigarettes respectively but still liked a drink. Oh I loved a drink! It just took a different turn. As unhappiness in my marriage crept in like a dementor alcohol helped to numb me in that unhappiness but with two pockets of light shining always in the shape of my children. Thank you universe for them. In my teens and 20’s it was a social substance. I very rarely drank in the house unless I was going out. When I lived at home with my family the flat ( being so central) was usually a hub of friend activity. My pals were always popping in to visit but unless we were going out we never drank alcohol. We made coffee, tea and cheese on toast. Into my 30’s and 40’s drinking became much more of a home activity as going out was not something I did very much anymore. The social binging of my younger self had become something different. It wasn’t so much socially anymore but more a means to get through difficult emotional times or to give me courage sometimes in the most mundane and unremarkable of activities. I was slowly losing myself. My strength, self assureness, decision making, independence and ability to love was becoming underpinned by alcohol and I felt I needed it more and more to find these things. When you are told you will never manage, that you are a bad person and that you will never be happy just alone and miserable then no matter what defences you try to protect yourself with inside that self made fortress it is a murky emotional swamp and your confidence needs propping up all the time. I hadn’t realised what a set of under arm crutches my drinking had become.
I can’t remember what was the actual trigger that made me want to stop only that I had enough self awareness and understanding to know that I was using alcohol in a negative way and if I didn’t address it things could and no doubt would escalate into something that would be more of a struggle than what I was facing at that moment. I didn’t physically need alcohol. I didn’t feel any physical difference when I didn’t drink but I thought about it every day. Making conscious decisions on waking that this would be a day that I wouldn’t drink but then as soon as I felt stress or even joy it was complimented with a bottle of wine, vodka or both.
I’m lucky I had the strength and courage to say ‘ for me this is enough’. I am not a bad person I am human and may have made some bad choices but this was one choice that was to empower me and liberate me from the shackles of a substance that was controlling a lot of my own self. In choosing to stop drinking I was choosing to find me. Who would that woman be? What would she be like free from control? Where could she go in life? I’m not sure I have the answers yet. Who knows what lies ahead? Whether it be the earlies, the mids or the lates it’s not about the destination; it’s about the getting there. So far the journey has been challenging but it is so full of life, love, compassion, laughter, forgiveness and kindness.
Happy Sunday xx
Ps 675 days