It has been some weeks now since my 40th birthday, well 68 days to be precise but who’s counting. Not me actually, alright in the beginning I would think wow I’ve done “X” amount of days without a drink, but I’ve stopped now. My busy days merge into each other and I often don’t have time to think about it. I exclaimed just the other day “I don’t know when I ever had time to drink”.
The truth is I never had to make time to open a bottle of wine, I was able to guzzle and carry out most of my commitments at the same time, or so I thought. The realisation now is that whilst intoxicated or hung over I operated at a small percentage of my capability, just like most human beings. And with alcohol demanding an increasing amount of my time less and less of me was available for other life requirements. I knew this really but for a long time refused to acknowledge what would eventually put pay to my fun.
So what has it really been like for me to live without alcohol? When asked I’m telling most people “fine” and actually I am fine about it in that moment of enquiry. Take me back to my holiday from hell cooped up in a caravan with my two delinquent children and a stressed out critical husband. Go on ask me now. “It’s f*****g awful, I can’t bear it.” However I did bear it. I sobbed into my pillow and thought “this is when I would normally reach for a drink BUT I don’t do that anymore, so I won’t.” There in itself is lesson number one learnt. I miss alcohol most in moments of despair. Despair an emotion I visit often. Often but actually fairly briefly. So to lesson number two, despair can be lived through and life exists beyond. There is another lesson I’ve discovered regarding despair, it actually doesn’t visit as often when you’re not drinking.
I’ve not been going out on the town, choosing to avoid a situation where I feel grumpy in public because I’m the one without a goldfish bowl of wine before me. However a very enjoyable evening was spent just recently with friends at a birthday meal and I almost didn’t notice my lack of alcohol. I returned home, much earlier than I might otherwise have done, feeling very contented and happy with my life and grateful for my friends, had a cup of tea and went to bed. So lesson number four, it is possible to be out in a social situation and enjoy one’s self without the support of my faithful old friend. Oh and I get to like myself in the morning.
So instead of filling my evenings at home with glasses of wine I’ve been looking to occupy myself in other ways. Here you see one of my new found interests, this blog and writing. I am starting to find it all slightly addictive, and who knew I’d enjoy writing. Not me, I’ve never tried it before and now my mind teams with ideas, angles for a blog, I’ve even taken to keeping a note pad close by in which to document those flashes of inspiration. I’ve always loved sewing and making but the passion has returned and creativity pulses again. My mum has taught me to crochet and so I’m exploring the many possible ways to tie knots in wool. The more I do the more I want to do, creativity breading creativity. Lesson five, without the booze, all the things I’ve been wanting to do I am now finding the inclination to actually do.
But by far the greatest reward I’ve found in changing my ways is the altered state of my family life. I have found greater continuity in my mental well being, meaning I no longer experience a roller coaster of emotions. Giddy highs and plummeting lows are not conducive to happy families. Instead my husband is definitely happier, he never really enjoyed the whirling dervish that an alcohol soaked me sometimes became. The children have my full attention they are not competing for my affections or with the fractious aftermath. I’m by no means all calm and Zen like. I still lose it, screech, raise my voice, use inappropriate words, say things I wish I hadn’t, and feel anger, frustration, annoyance, even despair. The differences being I now cope with all these things, live with them, don’t hate myself for these imperfections, I face them and accept them, apologise and move on. Lesson Six no booze equals greater peace at home.
I’ve come to realise that alcohol was the last bastion for the fragile child within me, fragile but rebellious (more about her later, maybe). How she egged me on to avoid being an “adult”, “La la la la la” fingers in ears. I miss her; she was a lot of fun. She created a delight that is no longer a part of my life. But let’s be honest here, I’ve had my fair share of delight. Now it’s time for me to grow up and take responsibility for her, me and my family. I’ve exchanged fun filled delights for happiness and contentment and a desire to achieve. I’m not saying I won’t taste the “delights” ever again, that is almost a promise too far at the moment, but that’s ok because I’ve got another 297 days until I make that decision.