My father has just turned 80. In his father's generation, the man was seen to be the leader of the family, the breadwinner, and the dominant figure in the house (although my dad's mum was a very strong woman and a leader of her family in many less overt, but no less important, ways). My wife and I have always had an equal partnership. We're both leaders for our children; our roles frequently overlap, and we bring our respective skills and strengths to the table.
The other day I was thinking about how giving up alcohol for me is part of how I'm leading positive change for the family. Our family life is fairly similar and was always good but the emphasis has shifted with alcohol out of the picture. Earlier in the year alcohol was an almost daily part of life. We weren't drinking every day, and most of our drinking was done in the evening, but it was always visible to our young children - the bottles of red wine perched on the top shelf of the bar, the riggers of cider in the door of the fridge, and the reserve stock of wine club bottles waiting on the wine rack for a thirsty mouth, or the glass or two of booze sipped while making dinner and before bedtime. There were the conversations about stocking up for the weekend, the boxes of wine delivered to our doorstep and unpacked to the aforementioned laundry-cupboard wine rack, the weekly perusing of the supermarket alcohol section with our toddler wriggling in the shopping trolley, and me asking my wife as she came through the door from work: "Would you like a wine darling? I'm having one."
I blogged previously about how my three year old had begun asking if we were drinking rose, pinot noir or chardonnay. I also mentioned in a previous blog how one of my friends questioned whether my decision to quit alcohol would mean the kids would miss the opportunity to have responsible drinking modelled to them. They now have both responsible drinking (from my wife) and non-drinking (from me) modelled to them. For them to know they have the option of living sober, if that's what they want, I think is powerful. It's not inevitable that they will become drinkers. It's both possible to live without alcohol and it has a positive effect in so many parts of life.
Very early in my sober journey I cleared the bar and the fridge of alcohol so I didn't have to look at it every day. In the last six months we've rarely had alcohol in the fridge and maybe only a couple of bottles of wine stashed in the laundry cupboard. Over Christmas we've had the fridge stocked with wine and beer for our guests - and my wife has enjoyed sipping on the odd glass of wine - but my sober Christmas (my first completely alcohol-free Christmas for 27 years) has meant I have viewed it through a different lens.
This year, Christmas was navigated without booze by me, but it seemed far less boozy in general compared with previous years. I remember the Christmas Days from before we had kids, when we would start drinking over breakfast and walk between various family members' houses for the rest of the day, drinking on our merry way. Booze was a big part of the day. Even last year I ended the day feeling totally stuffed full of food, red wine, beer and champagne - a day of absolute excess. This year assorted family member gathered at our house for a pancake breakfast and present opening. They enjoyed a glass of bubbly but it was all about the kids and sharing family time. I drank ginger ale out of a champagne glass - three cans of it (I've never been one for moderation!). The middle of the day was down time before we all headed over to my father-in-law's house for a swim and dinner. Down time for me was spent re-stringing our clothesline and, with the help of my dad, levelling a sunken section of our lawn that has bothered me for three years. Try restringing a clothesline with a skin-full of alcohol and let me know how you get on!!! I prepared sushi for pre-dinner snacks and then ran over to my father-in-law's while the others went ahead in the car.
There were a few quiet drinks but the emphasis was on family. I drove the family home later in the night, weary from the big day but happily sober.
I had the Christmas Day I wanted, on my sober terms, and it was the best Christmas I can remember since I was an excited kid. I predicted that I wouldn't feel like I was missing out, or that I wouldn't regret drinking ginger ale instead of bubbly.
The only (small) regret I have is that I didn't see the light and quit alcohol sooner.