Almost there! Almost Christmas. It’s always with mixed feelings I head to my native Sweden and I’m trying to have a pre-emptive chat with myself in order to not wind up sad about it this time. God, grant me the serenity and all that. Actually, there’s nothing mixed about it because that’d imply I’d feel a number of things simultaneously and I don’t when it comes to the place where I grew up. I feel joy and anticipation before I go and then I get there and something so very painful comes over me. Not crushingly hurtful or bad, more lots of happiness with an underlying sense of sorrow somehow. I suppose it’s now that I’m sober that I really notice it.
All this stuff I have to deal with – ARGH! Well, this is what sobriety does and it’s very healthy so I suppose I’ll keep on letting all these feelings in when they turn up and ring my doorbell. I sometimes wish they could book an appointment in advance but they don’t appear to be the organised or orderly kind. They barge in, demand my attention and won’t go away until I’ve come up with a solution. The good thing about sobriety is, however, that even though I get to feel everything even more strongly, I’m so much stronger and calmer so stuff just doesn’t rattle me like it used to. I’m not as vulnerable as I was when I was drinking. I can see clearly and I feel an inner calm that booze used to rob me of. Stuff that might at some point have felt hopeless might still be hopeless but I’m making my peace with those things and of course when you accept the way things are you can stop being so caught up in them. At the very least I can move on from them – my life is no longer on hold “until the problem is solved” because I’m no longer wasting energy on things I can’t do anything about. I don’t feel like I have the world – or Sweden – weighing on my shoulders anymore. I suppose I succeed a lot more often in sobriety with knowing what I can control and what I can’t, and once you learn that neat little trick life becomes a lot easier, let me tell you.
Knowing what I can change or control and what I cannot is at the very core of my sobriety for obvious reasons: I know that my power to control alcohol is about as effective as a cat flap in the Hoover Dam.
So I try to apply this to everything in my life now. I make a concerted effort to be the best I can be and change what I can for the better, and those things that are beyond my control I try to accept. It doesn’t always mean things won’t still hurt, but it means those things that are painful no longer have to consume me. Alcohol, you see, is my worst enemy in this case because when I drank I was completely unable to let go of stuff. Things would take up my energy, and made me resentful and bitter. These days, those things don’t have a place in my life. Sure, I get upset – and yes, sometimes resentful and bitter too – but I don’t hold on to things I can’t do anything about. Or, rather, I try not to. I don’t always succeed but I’m much, much better at it.
I feel hope. I feel cautiously joyful this festive season. There may be that little space in my heart that’ll always be a little empty, but I can’t force anyone into it – all I can do is keep the door open and let the love I feel live there. That’s enough. I can give it and that’s all I can do. If it’s not received, that’s beyond my control. Guess what – it’s more than enough. It’s all I need. Ah! ……..aaaaaaaaaand relax.
I don’t think I’ve ever quoted it in full here, so it’s about time:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Words to live by for sure.
Today I’m not going to drink.