Like so many others who get sober, I feel a strong desire to pay forward this gift. I recently read a post on Ultraviolet Sobriety about the things she, at 18 months sober, would like to say to her 30 days sober self. Actually, I may as well direct you straight there because I can sign my name to all of it even at nine months sober – all the things she points out to her “former self” are true for me too and it’s one of the best things I’ve read in a while. I want to write a post like that when I get to one year of sobriety as it strikes me as a really great time to reflect. But what about now? Now that I’m at nine months and one week, 280 days? It really made me think further about what I would say to the Anna of not 30 days sober but the Anna who still drank. What would the conversation have been if I had Drunk Me sitting here opposite Sober Me? And whilst I have so much I want to say to her, what I ended up thinking about is what she would say to me.
Sober Me: Hey..
That’s right. That’s all I muster before I choke up. I barely manage to get that one little word out because there she is – ME. This person I actually really love and it breaks my heart that she is hurting herself in this way. This is what makes the words stick in my throat. I throw my arms around her, wishing I can somehow without having to say anything make her trust in all the great things I want for her, that I can by just holding her close make her believe how amazing life will become if she takes that step she’s so scared of. Sober Me has a tear rolling down her cheek but Drunk Me is just politely returning the hug and wants out of it. She is a little irritated by this display of emotion directed at her, I can tell by how her shoulders tense up.
Drunk Me: You OK there?
She laughs a little awkwardly and she comes across as really prickly, like a hedgehog with its spikes standing on end. She knows, after all, that we’re going to talk about drinking and it’s obvious she doesn’t want to.
Sober Me: Sorry. I just have so much I want to say to you.
Drunk Me: Aw, you’re sweet. What’s up?
Sober Me: I just wanted to let you know that all those things that might stop you from binning the booze are just in your head. I know it sounds completely mad but I promise you you’ll discover that alcohol doesn’t do anything for you.
My words are tumbling out too fast, I find myself stumbling over them because I’m desperate to tell her everything and feel like I need to get it all said at once in case she decides to walk off. Drunk Me stays put and studies me closely. When she picks a hair off the sleeve of her jumper I can tell that her hand trembles and she catches me looking.
Drunk Me: I have essential tremor. Nothing dangerous, just makes me shake. My dad and paternal grandmother also have it. Gets worse with age but doesn’t affect your health in any way. Sometimes I feel like I have to point it out so people don’t think I’m an alcoholic!
She fires off a disarming smile and throws her hands in the air.
Drunk Me: You should see my gran! 90 years old and fit as a fiddle but shakes SO bad. It’s amazing though, she’ll pour the coffee and I swear not a drop misses the cup! I suppose you adjust though, I find it’s easier to do mascara on my left eye than the right, some angles are worse with those fine and specific angles!
Sober Me: I see.
She has completely thrown me with this overly detailed explanation about her trembling hands even though I never even said anything. I spin my wedding band as a distraction to line it up so the small diamonds on it line up perfectly with my engagement ring. Perhaps I just need to get straight to it.
Sober Me: Well. I just wanted you to know that all the reasons you drink are in your head and you will have a life beyond your dreams once you stop. There literally aren’t any negatives and you won’t feel deprived! I promise you that you’ll almost immediately feel grateful and wonder why you waited for so long.
Drunk Me: OK.
She tilts her head and smiles politely. God, she is good at this.
Sober Me: What stops you from, uhm, stopping?
Drunk Me: What? Drinking you mean?
Sober Me: Yeah.
She makes a show of looking around her as if she is pondering the answer to something a toddler may have asked and she needs to find a way of explaining it so that the same three-yearold will understand. She gives off an air of superiority, or tries to anyway. She wants me to feel I can’t get to her but she seems to have momentarily forgotten that I do because I am her and therefore know precisely what she’s doing. She is a master at appearing honest and sincere and so good are her acting skills that she herself can no longer distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t.
Drunk Me: I don’t know, to be honest. I suppose if it was every day or if I couldn’t do all the things I have to do I’d need to stop, but I can’t really say it affects me that much.
Sober Me: But do you think you drink too much?
Drunk Me: Oh, sure! Definitely! What is the recommended limit? I don’t think many of us stay within it though.
She laughs again and does a little eye roll. She’s quite endearing with how she seems to offer honest and frank answers, it’s very easy to trust her because she doesn’t deny anything. When I put something to her she acknowledges it, appears to genuinely search for the answers and she seems to be engaging with me. I’m facing myself here and it’s crazy because I’m even fooling ME! But then that’s what I did all along. Sober Me should have known better than challenge Drunk Me. I don’t think anyone would get her, she is THAT clever and cunning. She is playing with me.
Sober Me: Do you not consider your drinking a problem?
Drunk Me: I would probably say I drink too much but it’s not a problem in that it’s not causing any actual problems. I mean, I have no brakes and I’d say I binge drink so obviously I need to think about that. But you know, it’s just who I am and I’m aware that I tend to go full throttle. I’m the same with food though! You should see my portions! They’re bigger – much bigger – than my husband’s! Isn’t that funny? He’s 6’2!
Nice. Very slick. I have nothing. I can’t point out how she lost her kid or husband or got fired or crashed her car drunk. None of that has happened (YET). And that fucking trembling is some sort of condition. She’s offered that she binges and because she did that, I now have fuck all. The cogs in my mind are turning whilst Drunk Me keeps eye contact all whilst that friendly and polite little smile plays on her lips.
Sober Me: How did you feel this morning? And please don’t lie because I know you drank almost an entire three-bottle box of wine last night so I know you have a full-on hangover.
Drunk Me: Haha, yes, I’ve felt better, truth be told.
Sober Me: Please listen. Please.
I’m choking up again.
Sober Me: Ditch the act. I know you hate this and you’re exhausted by having to conceal how big this problem is getting for you. I know how terrified you are of asking for help even though you already know you can’t fucking fix this on your own. Now listen.
She’s no longer smiling but I have her attention still.
Sober Me: This morning I woke up for the 280th time with a clear head and even despite this cold that seems to be creeping up on me, I felt so grateful I could have wept because I didn’t have a hangover. I was sleepy and didn’t want to get up but hubby had an early call so the coffee was already on. I felt happy because I didn’t feel shit standing in the shower or had to worry about collapsing, and then guess what? I had three mugs of delicious morning coffee and vaped – you know how you love coffee but can’t have it in the morning because it makes you feel even dizzier? Well, it’s beautiful and it’s every morning. This was my morning! I got myself to work and didn’t have to worry I’d pass out on the way or feel overcome by anxiety and I didn’t have to avoid talking with people because my mind is clear and alert. And I felt extra good because last night I went for an 8k run and I ran the whole way and it felt fucking amazing! This is your morning EVERY MORNING when you stop drinking. And then imagine what everything is like too. It’s all been a hoax! Trust me, none of the things you think the wine does for you is true, not a single one. It won’t take you long to discover that! And this is the best part because I think you might worry about it – you won’t have to go through life feeling pissed off because you want to drink and you can’t. You won’t want to drink! You will have lost nothing, everything will just become so much more amazing.
Her eyes are still on me, head tilted like before. I can’t read her and wonder if anything I’ve said has registered. Will she, like I eventually did, realise that this is precisely the morning she always wants to wake up to? And I haven’t even had time to get on to everything else.
Sober Me: That’s just the morning. There’s everything else too. It’s going to get so ridiculously good. Oh, and you joined the gym.
Perhaps it’s a moment of bonding but this has us both laughing out loud.
Drunk Me: Yeah…. ..don’t think so. Nice try though.
Sober Me: You do hate it, that’s true. But you’ve done really well and last night you ran for nearly an hour.
Drunk Me: I do miss running.
My ears prick up. She misses running. Did I just detect a buying signal here? That’s good because I don’t want to mention anything relating to Bambino because I know she’d explode at me, so no matter how awesome that part actually is I can’t go there. She would go nuts at me and I wouldn’t have her attention anymore. But she misses running! This is safe territory.
Sober Me: It’s all coming back and it won’t even take that long! You’re about to discover something so amazing!
I find it hard to keep still. Is she listening? As in, is she REALLY listening? Is the thought starting to take hold?
Drunk Me: Well, thanks for this and I’ll think it over. We’ve booked a weekend in Paris and another in Gothenburg coupled with a Foo Fighters concert. I’m not going to go to Paris and not drink wine.
Sober Me: Yes you will!
Now I’m actually jumping up and down with excitement.
Sober Me: Not only will you go to Paris and not drink, you’ll go sober to the Foo Fighters concert in Gothenburg too and I know it sounds crazy but it’ll all be so much better because you’re not drinking. You and hubby will have the best time! Honestly, I swear on my life! It’ll only be BETTER!
She makes a move to leave and picks up her handbag from the floor. She turns around just before she walks out.
Drunk Me: I don’t believe you.
……….to be continued.
Today I’m not going to drink.