It's been a tough time for many over the Christmas and New Year period. The added stress, the triggers, the life pushed slightly out of routine, the added temptation of holiday-season parties, have seen more then a few people on Living Sober posting with regret and angst about returning to day one. Thankfully I haven't had to deal with any strong physical cravings for alcohol. I don't relate to the stern daily tests many others are experiencing, the white knuckle ride many are describing. This has been why I have questioned at times whether I needed to give up at all (the multiple benefits of my new lifestyle have made this question largely irrelevant for me now).
However, during the holidays I have started to remember the good times, and frequently I've felt like joining in and have a few drinks with the others. At the cricket in Mt Maunganui I watched the parade of fellow 40-something-year-old men toting plastic cups of ice-cold beer around the boundary back to their seats. I remembered the last time I had drunk alcohol at the cricket, on a searingly hot afternoon at picturesque Hagley Oval, taking turns with my mates to buy the maximum four beers, spilling slightly more on each return trip as the beer took more of its sweet effect. I thought about the first refreshing gulp - I can still remember the taste - the eyelids getting slightly heavy, the speech slightly slurred, as beer after beer disappeared. I remember finding the drunken antics of others absolutely hilarious, feeling like I was part of the party, one of the gang.
It's funny how the mind plays tricks on you. Mostly I don't think about drinking at all these days, but just lately very specific memories have flooded my sober brain - the taste, the smell, the sensations of that first drink. The day dreams have mostly been about beer (which in recent years I had largely given up because it caused me skin problems). Is it a rosy-eyed remembrance of my youth, of the days when alcohol was the main vehicle of my social life, when I could drink what I liked and not have a hangover. Those days where when alcohol was the ultimate conduit of celebration, the convenient and instant salve for my problems?
Right now I'm nursing an injured AC joint in my shoulder. It has been dogging me for months and I have no idea how I did it. I went to my first physiotherapy session yesterday and I'm relieved that the prognosis is good. It will come right with the proper care and exercise to strengthen the ligaments around the joint. It turns out is likely to be old rugby injuries to the shoulder that were never treated at the time that are coming back to haunt me (and I can recall a few times I injured it). In those days my young body would bounce back quickly from most minor knocks. We'd all pile into town after our games and dull the pain of our injuries with beer, anyway. If it wasn't broken you'd generally carry on.
These days I can't avoid dealing with my problems - physical or psychological. I could have drunk cider and wine every night to help deal with my shoulder pain, but it wouldn't have solved the problem. Nothing, other than rehabbing it properly, is going to fix my shoulder. Alcohol is NOT an answer (before I quit I tried to make a list of the ways alcohol had truly helped me and I couldn't think of anything).
Like Lotta Dann says, life is often raw and gritty and tough, without alcohol to numb ourselves to life's struggles. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
There is no way of avoiding the occasional rose-tinted view of my former glorious drinking days, but if I have to pine occasionally for a cold beer or two then so be it. It's a small price to pay for how much better life is sober. Maybe one day I'll be free of these thoughts as I get more and more sober years behind me.
I'm committed to living my life sober. And that's what I'm going to do.