You have been stopped by this. Arrested. Your whole life, you have had resilience in you like a spring which bounces you back from unhappiness. You have been able to dig deep and find something to keep you moving. You have never stopped moving, changing, shifting your shape to fit where you need to fit. Until now. A crush of inertia pins you to the earth, makes the simplest task exhausting. You could not do what you need to do, even if you had the energy, because you no longer know what it is.
Thoughts from a couple of months ago, on going through the most difficult time of my entire life.
I bring them up today because I feel like I have started moving again. As if, like the plants in my garden, I have been dormant and have started unfurling towards the light.
I do not need a treat to reward myself for this sober weekend. It was a reward in itself. A Sunday of cooking and sunshine and cuddles with my babies. Such easy happiness I have been missing out on.
The weekend is nearly here. I am on the mend after a long week. Being sick is hard. Being a mum while being sick and also having sick kids and a heap of work to do requires some sort of urgent government intervention. But I snatched sleep where I could and it was kind of nice to be forced to take it easy.
We have plans tonight. By “we”, I mean husband and I and NO CHILDREN. My parents are going to look after the kids while husband and I go out for dinner with some friends. One of my close friends has a new boyfriend who lives out of town, so she has convinced him to come to town for the weekend to have dinner and be quizzed by all her friends about what his intentions are etc.
I like this particular group of friends. They are good for me (better than some of my other friends) because social outings tend to revolve around food or coffee or going for a walk or doing some yoga rather than just getting drunk. Everyone likes to drink wine but in a manner ancillary to the event, not as the main event itself.
I am thoroughly looking forward to going out with husband. The restaurant is out in the middle of nowhere so I have offered to be designated driver. It is an Italian place I have never been to but people rave about it and I love Italian food. I am kind of glad it is where it is because most people will be driving and only drinking one or two glasses. A lot of people only drink one or two glasses even if they are not driving. Fancy that. Not getting tanked on a Friday. How the other half live.
I smugly remarked to a fellow mum the other day that my family had made it through flu season unscathed. So I am clearly to blame for immediately making my whole family sick. Karma is a bitch.
Well, not the whole family. Husband and eldest baby are holding up well and have been very nice about bringing drinks, food and hot water bottles to me and the little ones tucked up on the lounge. The little ones just want cuddles so it hasn’t been too stressful. Doctor has prescribed rest and fluids for all.
I usually get really, really depressed when I get sick and I have remained in a good mood this time. I am wondering if this is my anti-depressant, as this is the first time I have been sick since my dose was increased. Anyway, I am happy to not be crying my eyes out as well as having the flu.
Another thought which struck me today as I lay shivering on the lounge, temperature burning, head pounding, throat tight, was this: ‘this is not as bad as a hangover’. Having had so many hangovers in recent times, I can make this honest comparison. Which makes me feel like a complete idiot for making myself so sick so often. I am going to take good care of myself while I am sick and keep taking good care of myself once I get better.
So it was back to Day 1 again today. I’m not going to kick my arse over it too much. Let’s face it, the hangover kicked it for me pretty thoroughly. After some reflection today, this is what I emailed my incredible sober buddy.
The thing I reflected on a lot today was how I have changed since I first decided I needed some time off the sauce over a year ago. One thing really stands out. That is, when I initially decided to stop drinking it felt like a punishment for being a really naughty girl. That was my attitude, and that is why I kept failing. Now I want to be sober. I have enjoyed enough great sober things to know that my life will be better without alcohol in it. I don’t know if that’s forever, but it certainly is for now. Sober feels like a reward, not a punishment. It scares me a little that it is still so difficult for me.
I also get to the point in every sober period where I just feel like a jerk making a big melodramatic deal out of nothing. I read my blog and emails and think I’m just pretending to have an alcohol issue. This is despite the fact that I answer ‘yes’ to pretty much every question on those online alcohol quizzes and I have spent at least one day a week as hungover as all hell for most of my adult life. I need to learn to take myself seriously and really trust the gut instinct I have on this. Even if every single person in my life laughs in my face and says ‘you do not have a drinking problem’. (I know not every single person will, but even if they did).
I had a glass of wine last night. Here’s how it went down…
At about 5pm when my husband headed out for after work drinks with his friends the wine chatter in my head started up. Loud. Deafening, in fact. It felt more like wrestling with something much bigger than me. I tried to defeat it. Emailed my sober buddy. Invited a friend over for dinner to help drown out the noise. Made a fancy mocktail. Hopped in the shower. Smoked a cigarette. Played games with the kids. Got busy in the kitchen.
In the end, I was standing next to the pantry feeling so deprived about not being able to have wine that I was just shovelling handfuls of whatever junk food I could find into my mouth.
This concerned me. When I was younger I used to have a problem with binge eating. I would eat literally thousands of calories in one sitting and then feel ashamed and depressed. The real change happened for me when I was pregnant with my eldest and I felt sick for literally the whole nine months. The morning after he was born I had breakfast in the hospital and for the first time I could remember I was so hungry and so excited to eat that I just enjoyed that meal without thinking about calories or guilt or weight gain. Over the next few months when I was breastfeeding and insanely hungry I developed a healthy obsession with food – cooking it, growing it, writing about it, sharing it. I have not had one outrageous food binge in that time, until last night. I cook and eat more than ever before but have none of the old problems I used to have controlling my weight because I have become really good at listening to my body, knowing when I’m full. It has always felt like such a victory.
So standing by the cupboard eating things indiscriminately frightened me. I guess it made me realise that I have taken to rewarding myself with alcohol rather than food. I do not want to go back to that food problem. It was horrendous. To be very honest, I would prefer the alcohol problem.
I waited until my friend arrived and poured us both a glass of wine with dinner. It tasted great but did not bring the instant relief I thought it would. I was disappointed in myself and I knew how important it was to me to not be hungover this weekend. After that glass I had a cup of tea.
I feel tired from this battle.
A new organic grocer and cafe opened up in town last week so I went for my first visit today. I figured I deserved some overpriced organic goods, since it is Friday. The tea is amazing. So womanly and balanced right now. Feeling very positive for a sober weekend ahead.
I took some time to notice how I felt while doing yoga tonight. Usually I do yoga slightly drunk, so I have probably not experienced the full benefits. Also, doing headstands while slightly drunk has the potential for either hilarity or calamity, depending on how lucky you are.
Tonight I felt really, really balanced and calm. I felt all my muscles releasing as my mind cleared. It was just me in my ugliest and comfiest pants, on my yoga mat in front of the fire, and it was pure bliss. I felt like I planted my imaginary roots into the ground and found stillness.
Ten days in this time and I just feel calm today. Sleepy, hungry, content and calm. I am noticing how things feel good. The softness of my favourite socks. The warmth of the mug of tea in my hands. The absence of any kind of physical discomfort. No jagged heartbeat or quivering stomach. Just wellbeing like a warm blanket tucked around me.
The title of this post reflects how I feel this morning. I’m in a bit of a hurry to get eldest baby to his soccer game so it will have to be quick but I want to write while the feeling is still strong.
So, last night. Dinner at home with a friend while husband went out with his friends. Turned up the music loud and had a fun disco with the kids before baths and packing their sleepy little bodies off to bed. Lovely chats with my friend. Lovely chats with my husband when he got home. Then, got dressed up, went out with friend. Mocktails. And dancing. So much dancing! Dancing with my wits about me, dancing without the fear of ending up on my ass on the dance floor, dancing and then driving home afterwards completely sober for a cup of tea and a sleep.
I feel so happy and buzzed. I had a great night sober, and today is day 7 and the sun is shining.
I know I won’t always feel like this and there will be much harder days and today at 5pm my brain will start telling me that wine is an excellent idea, but that doesn’t change the fact that, right at this minute, I feel incredible.
I went to see our new office today and I was so excited. Like, jumping up and down and squealing excited. Let me explain…
My husband was working for a local law firm when our first son was born six and a half years ago. It was long hours and he felt he was missing out on his family (he also had a major breakdown and very nearly ruined everything, but that’s another story). Anyway, to cut it short he left the firm, took a few months off to look after our son while I went back to work as a journalist, then set up a new law firm based at home with just a tiny office down town to see clients. When we needed a secretary we hired his old secretary and she also started working from our home office. I started studying law, still working as a journalist and having more babies and such, and then started working from home as well, three days a week while the littlest ones are in daycare. A few months ago we hired a new lawyer because of the amount of work we have on and that brings us to the present situation – a kitchen table covered in files, a home office in a disgraceful state and general chaos. So, a new office was needed and a space came up and we are now in the process of getting it all sorted out with walls and desks and computers.
There have been times when I have really appreciated the working from home situation, but on the whole I have found it tough. For one thing, when I have the little ones home with me on Mondays and Fridays I either have to get out or try to keep them quiet so people can make phone calls without the boisterous noises of a three-year-old and a one-year-old in the background. Secondly, the joy of work for me, particularly after having kids, was getting out of the house. I remember clearly the first day I went back to work after my first was born. I put on my high heels, walked into my office and felt like a person again. That space to work and be me, to not look at toys on the floor or dishes in the sink, was just pure bliss. I also miss that sense of coming home at the end of the day, of a real separation between work and home. That separation has become wine.
Unless I have to see clients, I can go days without leaving the house. To say I have cabin fever would be a serious understatement. By the time the weekend rolls around, I just want to GET OUT. And I do. And I go wild.
Just looking at the little space where my office is going to be today made me so excited to have that corner of the world just for me again. I have been thinking about paint colours and pretty prints to hang up and which photos of the kids I will put on my desk. It will be tidy. It will be quiet. Nobody will chuck toys around it. It will be mine. I can’t wait to move in.
One of the pubs here has trivia every Wednesday night. I used to go every week, before kids and studying, and in recent months I have started going again with a few friends, ostensibly for trivia but really as an excuse to get smashed on a weeknight.
Here is how Wednesday nights have gone lately:
Have a couple of wines at home while getting dinner for kids and husband. No dinner for me, I’ll eat at the pub. Walk to pub. Order wine. Decide wine much more interesting than dinner. Forget about dinner. Order more wine. Go out the back of the pub, smoke a heap of cigarettes. Move inside briefly for trivia and more wine. Not really interested in trivia. Move on to beer. Relocate permanently to beer garden for smoking and chats with fellow smokers and excessive drinkers. Freeze. More beer, more beer, more beer. Midnight. Pub closes. Go to house of someone with similar tendency for excessive weeknight drinking. More wine/beer/whatever is on hand. Listen to music. Talk rubbish. Pour self into taxi at 2am. Get home. Hungry. Stuff face with carbs and sugar. Drink a heap of water. Drunk texting. Update facebook status with something calculated to offend as many people as possible. Delete facebook status. Repeat several times. Go to bed. Still cold from sitting outside all night. Head aching. Can’t get to sleep. Have regretful Thursday at work feeling like complete crap.
This is how tonight went (I know it probably wasn’t the best time to test myself by going out but it was the last trivia night for a close friend who is moving overseas and I knew it would mean a lot to him if everyone could make it):
Have a snack and some juice while having a bath (husband has offered to do dinner for kids tonight). Drive to pick friend up from her house. Drive to pub. Order dinner and soft drink. Chat to friends. Dinner arrives. Dinner is awesome (steak, yummy vegetables). Ace trivia. Giggle. Have some more soft drink. Smoke a cigarette, come straight back inside. Feeling tired so hug everyone and go home. Make tea. Have another quick bath to warm up. Curl up on lounge with husband, pets, laptop, more tea and a ladylike amount of chocolate to write this and feel good about myself. Next, 10 minutes of bed time yoga and then eight hours of delicious sleep. Want to give myself a high five, maybe a present. Look forward to brilliant day tomorrow.
Tonight would not have been any better if I had been drinking. It could have been a whole lot worse.