I have family visiting from overseas at the moment. I haven't seen them in a few years so it's been a great chance to catch up. We've had a couple of days in a rented house in Hanmer so everyone has very much been on holiday mode (which, for them, has included drinking alcohol of course).
The last few days have revealed to me how far I've come in all the ways that matter to someone who is trying to give up alcohol in our booze soaked world; being around alcohol and drinkers and not feeling tempted or that I'm missing out, not feeling self conscious about being a non drinker, not feeling the need to talk about it or justify my non drinking (it just is what it is, no more no less).
It hasn't been a booze fest by any means for my whānau, just a few drinks over the afternoon and evening, or with lunch as I used to do on many a Mount Maunganui family holiday - a relaxing time away. There were no drunken antics in Hanmer. Far from it. But alcohol was very much along for the ride, part of the scenery. In a lot of ways, being around my family members as they enjoyed a wine or a beer put a mirror up to my own past drinking (or the times I was able to enjoy it in moderation at least).
It's interesting to me these days that I find being around alcohol and drinkers makes me not want to drink again. It's only in the unguarded moments when appealing thoughts of drinking might seep in. The reality of seeing drinking is another thing. At lunch at a winery near Hanmer, when my wife smelled the bouquet of her freshly-poured Pinot and exclaimed how beautiful it smelled, I asked for a sniff too. These days, alcohol smells like diesel to me. The spell is broken for me.
If I think back to my first uncertain days of sobriety to how comfortable I feel now in my sober skin, I feel grateful I have been able to ride the ups and downs. Any real change takes time to bed in. The key to it has been starting with a solid decision. Everything that went before, every drunken episode, every hangover, every drinker's regret, steeled my resolve to walk away from it and try something else. That "something else" has been a true gift. Drinkers can't imagine how good it can be living sober, but every drinker can find out if they want to. I certainly never thought living sober would be so positive for just about every aspect of my life. I was scared about giving up alcohol because I thought I needed it. I thought I would be wasting my life without alcohol to make it better.
I thought so so wrong.
I don't tend to give advice in this blog, but if there was something I'd say to you it would be to persevere through your uncertainty. If you are thinking of trying your life without alcohol, do it and see where it takes you. If you are trying to quit but battling a crippling temptation to drink again, sleep on it and make a decision when you are in a different frame of mind. You'll almost certainly feel differently in the morning. Don't give up. One day you will be in a place where alcohol holds no appeal or power over you and you will thank yourself for holding on through the stormy weather.
Friday, 3 March 2017
It's always in the unguarded moments, the times when you are the most relaxed about life or focussed on some other pressing matter, that thoughts of drinking again creep back in.
For months on end I've opened the fridge and ignored the bottle of wine in the door, till last week when I lingered and I thought of all the 5pm moments of twisting the top open and pouring a hard-earned splash of chardonnay or a crisp, refreshing cider. I've been sober for 259 days now and I'm starting to think ahead to how I will celebrate day 365 - the end of my initial challenge to myself to go without alcohol for a year and change my relationship with it, forever.
I've been pretty staunch in my thinking that I will probably carry on with my sober life, because I know if I drink again I risk slipping slowly back to the way I used to drink. But just lately hairline cracks have been appearing in my thoughts around alcohol (Alcohol isn't all that bad if I drink responsibly. Alcohol isn't completely evil. You used to love it. You can handle drinking again, because you know you can stop again if you want to)
I met a fellow sober warrior on my way to pick up my daughter from school last week. She says she was sober for a couple of years but had gone back to drinking occasionally, which had been going okay. I had already been thinking about drinking again after my year is up so it was interesting timing to run into her.
Is this why I am feeling a little disconnected from Living Sober at the moment? There are a lot of people on there who are trying so hard to kick alcohol out of their lives forever and here I am thinking of turning my back on sobriety on a mere whim. Even though we all have to do what is right for us, and only we truly know what that is, I feel pressure not to disappoint others.
When I started out on this journey I leant heavily on the experience of those further down the road. I imagined being where they were someday, notably Mrs D (her strength, enthusiasm, wisdom and encouragement were hugely valuable for me in the early weeks and months). When I was thinking about quitting booze, there were two friends from university I noticed had posted about their sobriety on Facebook. One was marking five years sober and the other eight years. They were extolling the sober life and appeared strong in their resolve to never drink again. I wanted to be like them.
Now that I have the tools to live this life on my terms, and not have to rely on alcohol to navigate the inevitable stresses and hard times we all face, I'm letting thoughts of going back to the old way inhabit my brain. Perhaps I'm starting to realise what an pervasive force alcohol is in the world - in all of our lives, whether we like it or not?
I know quitting alcohol has enhanced my life, and the lives of those around me. I know I'm healthier and happier. I know I'm calmer (generally). I know I have a greater sense of who I am and who I'm not. I know my self esteem and confidence has increased. I've developed better coping and social skills without the crutch of alcohol.
So why am I thinking about going back to the old life?
Maybe you can tell me because my usually logical brain can't make much sense of it.