Lessons in clarity and grace

I stole the title for this post from an interior design book I saw in a friend of a friend’s apartment in Sweden. I liked it because it so neatly summed up my impression of Swedish style (I am going home to paint my walls white, throw out half my belongings and organise the hell out of everything that remains). The first thought that came to mind, however, was my sobriety journey.This trip has been interesting, wonderful and thought-provoking so far. I have seen a part of the world in northern Sweden so beautiful it has made me want to cry with happiness. I had forgotten, in the rush of things, how beauty can light me up inside. It has been like a spring clean for my soul – these cool countryside walks in the almost never-ending daylight, the dreamless, jet-lagged sleep, cups of coffee soothing the language barrier with my friend’s mum in her cozy kitchen.

During our first two days in Stockholm, I met a lot of new people. It is oddly liberating, making a first impression on people who haven’t heard much about you before and, for me, making that impression independently of children to tend to and a husband to rely on when other interactions are too hard. I have not had to do this for a long time.

The impressions I made were good (and I have a half a dozen new Facebook friends and a guest room booked with future Swedish visitors to prove it). When I am not wallowing in a hungover fog of self-pity and anxiety, I can be warm, positive, curious. When I feel good enough to bother, I dress well and have great hair. I like this woman. I’d like to see her more often. I wander why I can feel so self-assured and emotionally resourceful amongst strangers on the other side of the world, yet so crippled by self-doubt and irrational panic at home.

Clear and graceful. Uncomplicated. If I could take anything home from this adventure, it would be this feeling.

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I’m scared

Dry July was not as dry as one might have hoped. While I was not the first of the sobriety trio to pitch myself off the wagon, I was the most enthusiastic about it. Subsequent attempts to moderate (this is getting beyond a joke, right?) led to such spectacular incidents as consuming two bottles of wine at a time. I had more days sober than days not sober, but that’s not really the point, is it?

I showed my husband this today.

  This is what happens when I answer the alcohol quiz questions honestly. I got properly emotional. I told him how scared I am. I told him I don’t think controlling this is an option for me any more. I sat on the bathroom floor and howled. He listened.
He said that my trip to Europe (leaving Tuesday) might be a good chance to break this cycle, without children and work and social influences. He said the house would be clear of things I like to drink when I get back. He gave me a huge hug and said it doesn’t bother him if we can never drink together again.

So, here we go again. The same shit in a different location. Sober on a plane. Sober in Stockholm. Sober tracing Amy Winehouse’s footsteps around Camden (I wish Amy could have gotten sober, too). 

I should be fizzing with excitement about this trip, and instead I have drunk myself into a place where I’m worried about to cope with alcohol withdrawal on top of jet lag and how to explain to people who don’t even speak the same language that I don’t/can’t drink. I’m scared that when I come home I’ll fall into the same old patterns. I am starting to worry that this cycle of stopping, getting drunk, feeling crap, failing to moderate, stopping again is not just a temporary fixture, but my entire life.