I think I’ve been hiding a little behind my alcoholism. Needless to say, being an active alcoholic means your world shrinks and the booze renders you pretty useless – or at least this was the case for me. No way was I able to achieve anything I wanted when I was forever trapped in a vicious circle of being hammered, being destroyed by hangovers or busy planning my next drink. Round and round I went and there was no fourth option, just going around that vicious spiral deeper and deeper until I was so exhausted I couldn’t do it anymore. Yes, drinking meant I couldn’t keep fit – how could I possibly attempt going for a run (or even a walk) when I felt so ill I couldn’t even stand up? How could I possibly string a sentence together, never mind write a book, when even making a doctor’s appointment was more than my fuzzy head could cope with (dial, speak… …no)? Getting out to see friends was akin to swimming with sharks without the damn cage and don’t get me started on jewellery making – why don’t YOU try to solder a small piece of metal and balance a tiny solder splinter on a tiny, almost invisible seam when you have the shakes and are so hungover it’s even affecting your eyesight? Oh, and add a blow torch and acid just for fun. Besides, you would have to be upright so it’s a moot point anyway. Hell, even walking down the road to buy some milk represented an insurmountable challenge most of the time, as did getting the mail from the postboxes on the ground floor and taking the rubbish out.
Luckily I’d got to the point where I realised that it was the booze that made everything this way. Oh, I know, crazy isn’t it? Like it’d be anything else, but a drunkard’s logic alongside furious denial is a very powerful thing. I knew it had in earnest begun its final descent and had isolated me as well as removed all my chances of being the person I’m meant to be. I could see that. I understood that my drinking was holding me back in every way possible. Of course this wasn’t always the case – at one point I was more receptive to the possibility that I might suffer from a mental disorder than consider my drinking as a possible reason why I couldn’t leave the house. Such are the workings of a drunkard’s mind. But eventually I was just at a point where the real culprit was staring me in the face.
Once I truly accepted that my drinking was causing me all manner of harm – and don’t get me wrong, I thank higher powers every fucking day that I did get to that point – I think I also found myself a nice little hiding place. Haven’t pursued my writing in a serious manner? Well, I’m an alcoholic! How could I? Unproductive at work? Well, I got here, didn’t I? Despite a hangover caused by two and a half bottles of wine last night, I made it in so just get off my back, alright? Unfit and given up on the running? Who could possibly do exercise when actively exercising their right to be a drunk? As shitty as it is to be a drunk, it did give me a solid reason I could point to from inside my victim cocoon and blame for all my shortcomings and failures.
See? Being a drunk has its advantages too, and in my case it gave me a nice little one stop shop of excuses that I could hide behind. Poor me, right? And there was also a big part of me that, once I got to my turning point and wanted to get out of that damn bottle, thought everything would just magically fall into place once I’d rid myself of the juice. I think I kind of thought I’d suddenly shine at work. And why not? It’s not rocket science and everything I need to do I could do in my sleep. No tasks are challenging and whilst I was still drinking that was probably a really good thing as it allowed me to focus on just surviving each fucking day without attempting to do anything more complicated than add up some invoices. So I had some idea that once I was sober I’d be a super star and it’d all be magnificent. Well, at any rate that I’d do a low level job brilliantly if that makes sense. Truth is that I’m probably doing an even worse job than before! I’ve not shone one bit – if anything, being sober has done nothing but underline to me how utterly pointless my job is. Of course it was only ever meant to be a Plan B that was meant to sit alongside my Actual Passions (writing and jewellery making) and bring in some money whilst I pursued those, and for a Plan B it’s in truth really fabulous: it’s local, the hours fit perfectly and I work for lovely people. But…. It just feels like a waste of time and the sad reality is that I’m doing a really shockingly bad job. Even sober and therefore at my full wits, I can’t seem to give it any of the energy or clarity of mind I’m now enjoying. It’s not fair on the people I work for and it’s not fair on myself either.
One of the bloggers I follow – Acquiescent Soul – recently expressed how he’s gone from hopeless and sad to frustrated and angry. Although I can’t say I feel angry, I definitely feel frustrated and as I commented to AS I could probably advise myself too: use it as a springboard to find that Real Purpose. It’s always easier to fix other people’s problems than your own, simply because you can see the issue and point at it but you’re not the one who actually has to do the work, but I realised when I typed my comment to his last blog post that what I was saying was as much to myself as it was to him.
With risk of sounding like I’m obsessed with Dimples, the personal trainer with whom I’m having a few sessions to get me started on getting fit, but she said something that really sums a lot of it up: “Your body isn’t Amazon Prime. Don’t expect it to turn up in two days.” Something like that. But that goes not only for getting fit, it goes for everything I might want to achieve. It’s relevant as hell, because I think on some level I did sort of expect life in general now that I’m sober to have that Amazon Prime-esque slant to it.
Quitting drinking doesn’t mean I’ll automatically go and collect the Nobel Prize for Literature any more than it’ll mean I can suddenly run 10k in under an hour the next morning. Work is required. I have to write the first sentence and many thousands to follow it before I can even have shot at getting published, there has to be A Book and that book needs to be written. If I want to be the author, I have to be the person writing it and that includes the first sentence, the thousands to follow and probably blood, sweat and tears being part of the process too.
Getting physically fit now that my body is no longer ravaged by alcohol also requires work. Nope, I couldn’t fit into my skinny jeans after my second session with Dimples but I swear to God there was part of me that fully expected I’d be at least able to pull them up over my hips. Ridiculous, isn’t it? But nope, I have to work and I have to work hard. My first couple of runs were SHITE. I have the 10k app because this is the distance I want to regularly jog, and each run is so far a mixture of walking and running. The first time, still in Amazon Prime mode, I’d selected Week 5. Oh yeah. Walk one minute, run for five. Couldn’t do it. I haven’t gone back to Week 1 – because I just fucking won’t, OK? – but did rewind to Week 3: walk 90 seconds, run 90 seconds, walk 3 minutes, run 3 minutes and then repeat. This I could do. Quite hard the first time but the next easier. A lot easier, even. It’s happening – I am getting fitter and stronger but I’m not getting it for free and nor am I getting it fast. It feels fucking good though and worth every last aching, sweating muscle burn.
Dad turns 70 in September and my brother, golden boy D, has made him a hunting knife. Dad is big on hunting and he collects hunting knives – the handmade, perfectly crafted and often quite ornate ones that you don’t find south of a few thousand krona. And D wanted this sister of his to make the holder for the belt in silver. And I have! It’s not as perfect as the knife and its sheath but it’s handmade by me and I didn’t have to keep re-doing the soldering as I was steady and focused enough to get it right the first time I aimed the blow torch at the silver pieces I needed to fuse together.
And my Plan B job is never going to be fulfilling unless I make it so. I’m in touch with an addiction support charity and will see if one of their administration roles might work. It’s volunteering and would require one day per week. This would probably work with my current job as my employers previously were happy with me doing my jewellery course one day per week. Start on that basis and then who knows what might open up for me once I have my foot in the door of a building I’m keen to enter? I want to pay it forward, this gift of sobriety. Sure, I’m still new-ish on this journey and much work is ahead of me when it comes to ME – a whole lifetime of work, no doubt – but if I can in any way use all those years of heavy drinking to reach others and perhaps even be that one person who really gets what they’re going through or be of help in some other way, then hey – that’d be one of my greatest achievements.
Bottom line is that quitting drinking isn’t enough to make everything the way it should be or to get me on fast forward to everything I want to do and achieve, but it allows me to take the first step, write the first sentence, show up for the things I want to show up for, hold steady when soldering metal and, well, get GOING. I can begin to put the work in now, towards whatever it may be. Drinking kept me down and I knew that, but the lesson is realising that sobriety won’t in itself pull me up – it will just allow for me building enough muscle to get myself out of the pit, but that is really a miracle in its own right to be honest. I suppose it’s called freedom.
Funny…. It’s been flickering around somewhere in the periphery, just little glimmers of what my book might be, but I see it more and more now. Perhaps my voice belongs with those others who account for a life wasted drinking and living once again in sobriety? Maybe that’s the book I am meant to write? I’m sure Alice will patiently wait, my main character whom despite drinking I’ve spent so much time, love and energy carefully crafting. She’ll understand. As long as John doesn’t go and die, he’s well into his 80s and I need him in the story. Hah. Enough.
Today I’m not going to drink.