Here we go again… Hubby is away for a week but life has been so busy lately so just like with his trip to Dubai recently, I haven’t had time to dread him being away like I usually do leading up to his trips. He worries about me and who can blame him – leaving a drunk behind, a drunk you love at that, and the fear of what I might do in his absence. When I was still drinking I think he felt better about my guzzling if he was at least around to keep an eye on me and he has rescued me after I’ve walked out the front door naked (part sleep walking, part black-out psychosis) more than once. Despite approaching four months without a drink, I’m sure there is still part of him that aches with anxiety at the thought of me getting out of control. Unsurprising I suppose and in all honesty it makes me a little fearful too, fearful of what the monster might do when I don’t have my best friend by my side and it can get me alone. I am fearful the monster knows that the best time to get me would be now.
The first time hubby went on a work trip after I’d quit drinking I was absolutely terrified. It’s strange really, because since I quit drinking I have genuinely not wanted to drink except two brief moments when the illusion appeared like a mirage but then evaporated as quickly as it had formed. It’s almost as though being accountable to only myself isn’t enough, and this is when I wonder if I would perhaps be best advised to head to AA meetings. I’m trying to make sense of it and all I can come up with is that alone is when I could just go for it, not care and just knock back the wine without feeling self conscious or embarrassed. That’s all I can think of, how it used to be the time I could just drink my head to bits without all the tension of having to try to control the uncontrollable or manage the unmanageable.
Isn’t it crazy how doing something so destructive could ever feel like a good thing? What in God’s name ever created that in me? This chick who has no dark clouds on her horizon and wakes up most mornings with a smile on her face, which was the case even when those mornings were tarnished by intense hangovers. What reason did I ever have? There was never any sadness I needed to escape, nor anger or anxiety. Looking back on it now, I just can’t make sense of it. I know what my thought process was – I drank to further enhance the joy I felt in celebration – but how did my brain maintain this illusion after what must be thousands of evenings in black-out and as many mornings feeling like the living dead? The madness of addiction – steadfastly clinging on to wine as some sort of confetti thrown over life when it has in fact only ever made you ill. It’s so frightening when you dismantle its myth that I want to hide under my bed.
Honesty is all I have here, although you could argue that I’m being a total coward given I’m not even using my real name and have cropped my picture so you can’t see my face. Still. Sometimes the best conversations – I find – are those you have in the car. Some things are easier to say when you don’t have to look the person in the eye. And maybe this blog is like that. It’s just us and the road and we’re having a heart to heart.
So anyway. When hubby went to Dubai a couple of weeks ago I was worried. It seemed so easy to just go and do it, just let go and not care. The illusion of wine was suddenly there, but then it’s always there only it can’t quite take over because I know it’s not real. Even so, there were a couple of afternoons when I went for my walks when the thought popped into my head. Especially the evening when my son met up with his uncle – a family tie severed by his father yet now my boy was bursting with joy and his eyes sparkled as he spent some time with this uncle he adores and hadn’t seen for years. And seeing my son like that, with that additional layer of happiness and excitement created the same thing in me – I was overjoyed and what do I feel like doing when things are extra great? Yep, that’s right – I felt like a drink.
But bear with me – it’s different now, I discovered. The thought may very well take root for a moment but it can’t fool me anymore. Well, or hasn’t yet anyway.
I find now that I allow the thought in when it comes. I don’t push it out or start mumbling sobriety mantras, I just let it in, I let it settle and take hold. As we drove home through west London that evening, I knew that I could quite easily get some wine on the way home and drink to my heart’s discontent. It was almost amusing to let the monster do its death dance but with one massive difference: it was no longer toying with me, I was toying with IT. Almost like a cat will play with a mouse for a while. I allowed my mind to wander to a glass of wine by the river with hubby, a glass of wine at home with hubby, a glass of wine anywhere with hubby – every scenario I used to love I conjured up as I watched the monster dance, wilder and wilder and its eyes gleamed hungrily when it thought it had me.
And I just drove home. And I didn’t drink because I didn’t actually want to.
I knew it’d take me somewhere I don’t want to go and see tomorrow completely ruined and perhaps that’s why it wasn’t tempting in the end. It was so much nicer to get home, watch a bit of TV, eat dinner and then read a book in bed until I was sleepy. And the best thing of all: another morning when the coffee tasted great and I felt alive. But sure, I’d been terrified when hubby left for that trip and was genuinely worried I’d have a slip – it was almost like I prepared myself for it, almost like I’d resigned myself to it. Luckily it seems the illusion of booze has a much harder time fooling me these days, even when I let the monster in and watch it dance in a perverse attempt to see if I can torture myself. A bit like the clip of a tarantula taking a jump that came up in my Facebook newsfeed. I made myself watch it even though I knew it’d freak me out. Perhaps I’m a bit of a masochist, but isn’t victory all the sweeter when you’ve really stared your enemies down? Brings me back to the dragons on the high street one winter evening – I felt like fucking Xena the warrior princess then.
This time, with hubby gone for a week again, I don’t feel worried. The temptation isn’t there and perhaps it’s the result of his Dubai trip when I thought I might give in but found that a shift has taken place in my mind. I just know I’ll feel so much better going for my walks, go to sleep after feeding my brain with literature and waking up in the mornings alert and present. I can’t think of anything worse than waking up with a hangover and there is nothing about the drinking preceding it I want to go near either. It’s almost like it’s lost its appeal because I can no longer cite a single benefit that Sauvignon Blanc would entail – not a one! Truly. Isn’t that awesome? So this time I’m not worried.
For me, that’s the key to my sobriety. MY sobriety. I only speak for myself, just so we’re clear on that. For ME, abstaining is not something I can do for the reasons why I shouldn’t drink. Every goddamn drinker in the world is to a greater or lesser degree aware of the health risks associated with excessive drinking and if the reasons why you shouldn’t drink were enough to stop anyone there’d never be a problem, right? But that’s not how it works, is it? For me it was all about getting to grips with the reasons I thought I had TO drink. When I discovered I’d been caught in a trap of illusions, it suddenly changed everything. Why would I drink when I was suddenly freed of any possible reason I thought I had to pour that glass? That’s right – there was no longer any point because every single situation and state of mind is better without booze be it boundless joy or bottomless sadness. Well, there never was any point but now I know it. Oh, the sense of freedom when you finally see clearly. I know I wax lyrical but it’s so incredible to me, so beautiful and so liberating. I don’t have to put up lots of defences or seek support or engage in any ritual other than reminding myself once in a while that drinking will not bring a single positive thing to my life, only the opposite. When you truly know that in your heart, I’d say you’re half way there. The rest of the way just be grateful but also mindful that your mind once turned on you so you would probably do well being at least a LITTLE vigilant. You know, just in case.
I look back on these 111 days of sobriety (thank you, my snazzy little sober days counter app!) and discover that I’ve both felt so incredibly strong and secure in my sobriety as I have fragile and unsure. I know the power of the beast and although I know I can overcome its pull on me, I also know how quickly everything can change and how rapid a descent back into drinking could be. Yet, I continue to feel good and life keeps on being beautiful because I’m here to enjoy it. It seems crazy now to ruin that by drinking but I know this monster makes that dragon in the last episode of Game of Thrones that I watched seem like a banana fly and that’s what I can’t lose sight of. As long as I keep an eye on that little fucker I reckon I’ll be just fine, I just can’t forget it’s there.
Anyone else who like me feels so secure and confident about their sobriety but also frightened by just how powerful the lure of booze can still be?
Today I’m not going to drink. I’m going to head to the doctor’s after work for a blood test just to check all is in order and how this tired old body is doing now that I’ve stopped torturing it, then home for an appointment with a company quoting for a new boiler and then out for a walk around the park. Hubby and I did a double loop yesterday which in distance is just shy of a half marathon and I was WAY more exhausted than I thought I’d be, mostly it was the soles of my feet that ached and my shoulders, strangely. Hey ho, clearly not as fit as I thought I was. And that doesn’t bode well for the marathon length hike we’ve signed up for across the seven sisters on the south coast. Holy fuck, I’m starting to realise that might be a motherfucker. Oh fuck it, it’ll be fine. I was just having an off day yesterday and before you know it I’ll be flying around that loop several times without feeling the slightest bit tired. Hrrm….. It’s a beautiful day too and even less reason to ruin it by drinking but as I mentioned, I actually feel nothing but confident this week which is almost a first with hubby away.
I’m not going to pick up a drink today.