I am quite simple

After some trial and error over the past eight and a half years, I have come to a point where I can usually figure out how to soothe my children when they are tearful, or hyperactive, or needy. The number one problem is usually exhaustion. The wonder of sleep is something I will never take for granted after experiencing the grim reality of an overtired child. Sometimes a big glass of water can work miracles. If it’s hunger, then it’s a boiled egg or a piece of fruit or a cheese sandwich they really want, not the chocolate biscuit they keep asking for. A warm bath, a cuddle and some favourite soft pyjamas before snuggling under a blanket in front of the TV is pretty handy for fixing anyone who has a cold or is a bit emotional. Back scratches and foot rubs never go astray. And a walk in the cold weather, even if bits of ice are hitting you in the face, is something I have learned to endure for the sake of running off some of that never-ending energy.

While I may have learned to regulate my emotions a bit better than they have, my need for sleep and nourishment and comfort and routine are the same as my children’s. I’ve spent all weekend in a funk. I have a cold and a painful sciatic nerve issue and a serious need for some weather above 10 degrees Celsius. I am all off-kilter. I keep running into things and spilling tea on myself. This is exactly the kind of time when I once drank, a lot. It was the only answer to the question of how to feel better. So, how to feel better now? Exactly what I outlined above. An early night, mainly. Comfort. Cozy socks and cuddles. It’s pretty clear that staying up late to drink too much of something which would make me feel worse would be a pretty insane thing to do right now. 

I have managed to pour some of my new found time (oh, the hours I have now I’m not obliterated) into my first ever attempt at knitting a hat. Lots of babies due in my circle of friends in the next few months so there’ll be more of these to come. There’s nothing better than a baby in a ridiculous hat.

Day 37.  Figuring out what I need and getting better at it.

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An enormous, tiny milestone

I can’t quite believe that my 30th day sober has dawned. It dawned pretty early, too, because I woke up with horrific period pain and tiptoed out to the kitchen for painkillers and a heat pack. Then it occurred to me that it was my 30th day so I also helped myself to a chocolate biscuit and had a 4am party for one in my pyjamas, grinning like a fool, because sobriety doesn’t mean the end of odd and ridiculous behaviour.

I’ve been trying to get here for so long, ever since I first attempted Dry July in 2013 and made it six days. I had no idea what kind of struggle I was in for. My rationale for wanting to take a month off was this: if something changes, I would know alcohol was the problem. If nothing changed, I could go back to drinking my face off and assume that I was just a miserable excuse for a human being. Deep in my bones, I knew that something would change.

I didn’t know how profound that change would be. For the past week or so, I have been noticing how being sober is affecting every part of my life in a subtly positive way. Little shifts in attitude, and energy and self-respect are making everything easier. Work, relationships, the never-ending pile of washing and the daily debates about vegetables with the kids. I have a lot more physical capacity to handle everything because my body is singing with wellbeing, but it is the clearing mental space which I really love. I spent so much time thinking about when I would drink, how much I would drink, the last stupid thing I had done while drunk, whether I should stop drinking, how I would stop drinking. 

Oh, the thoughts I have had since some space has opened up in my head. “Should I go to the mountain or the waterfall? How can I best settle this ridiculous case without ending up in court? Oh, look, an unfurling leaf on that tree over there! Hey, I love this song. Can I dance to it? I should call my friend tonight and chat. What’s for dinner? And dessert? I wonder what is behind the recent election of so many racist politicians. If I had met Kit Harrington before I met my husband, would things have worked out for us? What will I knit next? How many more hours of pole dancing can I legitimately do in one week before my arms fall off?”

It’s a busy, colourful place inside my head when I am not consumed by obsession and shame. 

Another thought which has really sung to me just lately is that this keeps getting better. It is more than a thought, it is a knowing. If I have kept on feeling a little bit better each day for 30 days, there is no reason to think it ends here. I am curious to know how I will feel at 60, 90, 365 days. Let’s find out.

Waking up

Most days I spend some time in that foggy place between asleep and awake and do the full body hangover scan before I remember that I didn’t drink the night before. I check for a pounding head, smoky hair, scratchy eyes full of yesterday’s mascara, gluey mouth, quivering stomach. There is nothing quite as sweet as the relief of realising that I am gloriously, luxuriously fine. I stretch and smile and wriggle down into my warm bed and enjoy an indulgent moment of really, genuinely being proud of myself for the first time in a long time.

Not all moments during the day are that special, but some light is creeping in. 

I have done a lot of reading about the effect of an addictive substance on brain chemicals. What I have learned, to sum it up in simple terms, is all about pleasure and reward. If you flood your brain with something that increases those happy chemicals, then it becomes harder and harder for your brain to find pleasure and reward in anything else. Eventually, you need more of the substance and even that doesn’t work any more. It’s a grim situation.

Luckily, it’s not permanent. I feel like I’m waking up to all of the potential millions of things other than drinking which might make me feel great. Not even big things, but things which have been there all the time. The luxurious morning wake-ups, sun on my face, ice-skating with my friends for the first time in years, the texture of a really good Camembert, a bush walk with the kids, a coconut oil bath, the smell of clean laundry. Everything is more beautiful and intense and sometimes harder. I’ve watched the news with tears streaming down my face for those innocents in France, and felt the sting of a friend’s reprimand too hard and deep. But at least I am feeling something apart from shame and exhaustion, finally.

Hi!

A quick post from the road. It is the winter school holidays and we’re doing a family road trip around south-east Australia. Alpine valleys and historic towns and gorgeous scenery. Kids have been remarkably well-behaved, husband is so relaxed he keeps making up silly songs about me and we’re having a lovely time just all being together.

I’m trying not to spend the holiday buried in my phone so I’ll keep this short. I just wanted to say that it has occurred to me that maybe I’m having such a great time because of being sober, not in spite of being sober. I feel good and I’m sleeping really well. I also, excuse the vanity, look much clearer of skin and brighter of eye.

Trying not to put too much emphasis on counting but in case you were curious it’s day 18. Cool and sunny with a chance of pink clouds.

10

More sleeping, less crying, no drinking. 

Not much to say, either, but I wanted to check in. Thanks to everyone who has shown so much care over the past week and a half. This place is where I can always come for complete understanding, and I am so grateful for that.