I have reached a milestone today or at least I thought I had. I had it all counted out on my fingers and was sure that today was the day but I was wrong. It hasn’t been 500 days since I last drank alcohol today it’s actually 502. 502 days since I first took the step to make a life altering change in my life that would not only affect me but those close to me and beyond. It was one of the most daunting decisions I’ve ever made but one I knew I had to make and one that could be the difference in whether my life slowly slipped into a lonely mess or it found itself and with new strength and clarity could navigate a path unmarred by self doubt, self pity and denial. For me going out and getting bladdered or staying in ( my latter usual only option) and getting sozzled wasn’t working anymore. In fact it was slowly but surely breaking me. I knew inside my own self that the road I was on wasn’t one that would bring me any happiness or even allow me to see the potential in my life. I mean don’t get me wrong it’s not all bird song, tip toeing through the tulips and Mr Whippy ice cream these days. Some days can be hard, really hard but not because I’m not drinking they are like that just because they are. Life is like that. Stuff happens. Some good, some not so good. I know that I can’t go through life without hitting tricky, difficult times and I now see that wasn’t the issue. In a way it wasn’t so much that alcohol was stopping me from dealing with the hard stuff ( although of course to a certain extent it was) it was that it stopped me seeing the good, the potential, the good stuff worth pulling back the duvet placing my feet on the floor for. It had clouded my vision and had done so all my mid teen – adult life.
Most people I know drink. Most people I know do so regularly. Most people I know have done so since their teens. Most people I know didn’t use alcohol like me. To get drunk as quickly as possible. To use it as a weapon. To use it as an anathestic. To use it as a sticking plaster. To use it to forget. To use it to feel good about myself. To use it to feel good about others. To just use it. So I made the decision and I don’t regret it one bit. My Mum asked me only last night if I ever missed it. ‘If you were in a pub with people and they were all getting rounds in would you not feel like you wanted one?’ No I wouldn’t. I hardly ever think about me as a drinker now. It’s just something I don’t do. It’s not an option for me. It’s not so much those situations anyway that would bring on the desire to drink and let’s not forget for me this isn’t just a relaxing glass of wine but a definite need to be drunk asap. No it’s the emotion behind it that could illicit the overwhelming need to get a hit now and then again and again and again.
I thought about it afterwards and this morning, what is it that triggers that need? Is there a common denominator? I think there is, me. Hiding from me and my reactions and responses to the emotion. I suppose it goes back to my relationship with my Nana one filled with enormous love but also heavily laden with criticism, judgement, unattainable morality, intolerance, hot temper, unmitigating ego and pride resulting in me at times insecurity, solitude, anger, frustration, coldness and an unbending ( to my detriment) need for fairness, tolerance and acceptance. I knew how much love there was but so often I felt I just wasn’t good enough. That that love was on condition. It’s easy to let that underpin you and on the surface be the funny girl, good time girl, everyone’s friend girl but underneath what I needed most was to just be alone, to be me. I was and never feel lonely but I like being on my own. I am very comfortable with my own company as well as with people. So what I’m trying to say is that when I hit a difficult spot it somehow brings all those negative emotions out and the way I learnt to deal with them was by drinking.
I now see that me stopping drinking wasn’t ending who I was but was changing direction of who I might become. I am learning to embrace me more and more and learn let go of things I can’t change but to invest in the things I can.
In these past 502 days when I have ever felt sadness regarding alcohol it’s been because I recognise something that I previous associated with drink and each time I’ve have experienced a sense of mourning for it. I have created new neural pathways regarding alcohol associations which now result in me walking into a pub, club, party or concert and not feeling that twinge of grief. However, on Friday something very different happened. I was on the bus heading home. It was my stop so I pressed the bell and stood up ready to alight the bus. As I walked into position to get off I found myself standing beside a woman in her late 60’s sitting in one of the window seats. She was very respectable, hair neat, cream raincoat on. She looked up sideways at me then away again. I clocked myself give her one of those slight smiles you sometimes give a stranger when your eyes meet. She furtively took out oh her handbag a crumpled paper chemists bag which contained a 187ml bottles of white wine and giving me a sideways shot again swigged it back. I looked away as I didn’t want her to see me looking and think that I was judging her. The bus stopped, I got off and turned back on myself to walk to my flat. As I did so I looked at her in the bus again. She was swigging from the bottle again but her eyes locked on mine. Our glance parted as we naturally moved past each other and away in our opposite directions. I turned into the my street and felt myself well up. By the time I turned my key in the door I was crying. Why? What was it about this woman, this stranger that had affected me this way. I knew what it was. It was me. I saw in her me or what I might have become. Jesus who am I kidding. I had already been doing that shit so where do that leave me in 25 years or so?
We all have our own story. We all do the best we can. That lady on the bus had her own journey but as I saw how my own journey could have continued I’m glad I rang the bell and told the driver I wanted to get off. I had a difficult choice which I made and for me I know it was the right one.
So for now ( as I try to be realistic) I will tiptoe through the tulips,
enjoy a Mr Whippy ice cream with flake no less
and always try to listen out for the bird song.