At a time when it is usual to look ahead and make plans, it is helpful to look backwards too, and reflect on times now passed.
When I stopped drinking alcohol 22 months ago I thought that was it. I’m sober now. Job done. As long as I remember how bad it was and how difficult it was to change day zero into Day One, I will not, need not, drink again.
While that remains true, it is only part of the story. My thoughts and feelings around drinking and sobriety continue to evolve. The further removed I become from my world of wine, the more I see how awful it was. My memories of episodes of inebriation and loss of control now proliferate. I now note the slippage of my social standards; events seemingly acceptable at the time now appear abhorrent. “Everyone else was drunk anyway” has become “Did I really do that?” As my sober clock ticked away I worried I would forget this reality and fall into the trap of “I wasn’t that bad really”. In fact, the opposite is true. How did I let it get so bad? I could not see the subtle signs and did not acknowledge the red flags signifying more than an occasional overdoing it.
The real me is here now and I’m still surprised by the contrasting ways evident in my life. There are no superlative dramas. “Stresses” such as organising school bags or suitcases no longer exist. Nothing needs to approach perfection anymore and an acceptable standard does not disappoint. Contentment, ever elusive, is now evident. Think everything from homemade culinary efforts to co-ordinated outfits. High maintenance micro-management has gone because I no longer care what others think. Not in a narcissistic way, more “I’m content, if you like it great, if not never mind”. Everything seems to matter so much less. Is it because I no longer worry others think I am drunk or drinking too much?
The way I deal with problems has changed. My mantra has progressed from “Oh my God, I need a drink to get through this” to “Thank goodness I’ve no hangover to deal with too” and is currently a reassuring “It’ll be OK”. And it is OK because I can concentrate. I have attention and focus and can spend the time required to deal with life.
Time is now dissociated from opening the wine. Need a lift at 8.30pm? No problem. Can I cover the evening at work tonight? Yes, I can without weighing up the lost drinking opportunity. There is more of me to give to different areas of my life and many more hours available to do so.
Finally I understand the term “paying it forwards”. In my early days of sobriety I drew an enormous amount of help and inspiration from others further along the path. They were sober, secure yet still interacting online, in forums, via their blogs. They were selfless and took time to help, encourage and advise me. I was needy and felt indebted to them. Having graduated from the early days I now know why they did it, and I do it too. Unable to repay those who helped, you can in turn do the same for others. Though I’m no evangelist, I can give time and attention to the sober community recognising it is a two way street. It keeps me grounded. I am reminded of the place I have left and how hard it was to break free from the grasp of booze. Gratitude is humbling as help is easily given when sober.
A long journey begins with a single step. The destination may be unknown but the scenery is magnificent and constantly changes along the way.
Rachel Black is a pseudonym. She blogs at www.soberisthenewrachelblack.blogspot.co.uk