This time of year brings with it the added stress of last-minute shopping, madly rushing to get all your work done for ever-demanding clients before the close of the working year, more people on the roads trying evermore ambitious and crazy manoeuvres to get to where they want to go as fast as possible, and the impending arrival of family and friends for a Christmas toast.
My parents are staying at the moment and they've stocked my fridge with their wine and champagne for the big day on Sunday. There have been several conversations about whether there is enough booze or whether everyone's tastes have been catered for. I've been an unwilling party to these logistical discussions. Unwilling, mainly because I've long opted out of all that. I mean, I bought some wine for them due to the fact that I am the person in our house that does the shopping, but that's as far as I intended to be involved. Listen to me! The old me would have been just as worried that the unthinkable would happen and we'd run out.
These days I renounce all booze, it's physical and mental effects, it's effect on society, it's role in our lives and, yes, even discussing it. It's not that it makes me yearn for it - quite the opposite actually. It's just no longer a factor in my life, as it is for others.
I had someone from my inner circle, who knew I had quit booze, ring me to tell me they had a drinking problem and wanted to do something about it. They wanted to ask my advice about how I've gone about it, which made me feel both hugely proud and privileged. I sent them helpful links and words of encouragement. I stressed the importance of reaching out and connecting with like-minded support, in terms of other people striving to live sober lives. I wished the person well and said to keep in touch - that I was always available for a chat.
I asked someone I respect greatly (Lotta aka Mrs D) whether I had given the right advice and she said I had and that in a similar situation "the main thing I always try to convey is hope and excitement about an alcohol-free future ... and a real sense that it's hard work but totally possible. I just really want to will people along because I know without a doubt that it is majorly life-changing if they can do it".
Lotta also pointed me to an AA tenet about "attraction not promotion" which means "the very best thing we can do for anyone else is just stay sober and model happy alcohol-free living. More than any words we say, that is the most powerful. Being a living breathing example of sobriety. That is gold my friend. Gold".
It's funny. At my 40th I had more than several comments from friends and family about how "well I looked". I knew what was at the root of it - my sobriety - but it was something they couldn't quite put their finger on. As I've settled in to my sobriety I think I'm a far-more-comfortable-in-my-skin type of a person. I'm happier and I'm finally at peace with myself, and I think that peace is radiating to the people around me. I donated plasma the other day and the nurse immediately commented about how relaxed I looked. This is a first for me. I have been used to comments about how tense, unsmiling and worried I look all of my life. I was all of those things without even realising it. But now I feel understood, and I feel people perceive me the same way I feel.
The thought that living a sober life can, and is starting to, inspire others is hugely powerful for me at the moment. It is why I write this blog - to share with those who are interested just how much better life is without alcohol. It's also a chance to write about the mental shifts you make, the shedding of old beliefs and ways of doing things, and how you make room for new ways thinking.
It's been quite an amazing six months in my life (And it's not like life was bad for me at all). I could say it's been transformational - and it has really - but I'm still the same person. Just a far happier, more settled and productive one who is more certain about what he does and doesn't want in his life.
As I head into Christmas, I'm not worried I'll regret not drinking champagne with the others, and I don't feel like I'll be missing out at all. I'm looking forward to focussing on what's important - family unity, love for and from my wife and children, and sharing good times with friends. I'm also looking forward to my clear-headed mornings.
Where does alcohol rank in the grand scheme of things?
I'm happy to say it just doesn't.
Merry Christmas y'all!
Sober Man xo