Heaven and Hell

So my previous post was about the notion that sobriety is hard work. Whilst I respect those who consider it to be so, it is not true for me. The hard work for me was drinking. That was REALLY tough. It’s funny, I look back on it almost like I look back on the first few years after my divorce. I was suddenly a single mother with a toddler and I had to work my backside off to keep everything together, working full time and at the same time struggling to provide my child with something that resembled a nice childhood. A child, who, by the way, didn’t sleep through the night at the time. I look back on those years and wonder how in God’s name I didn’t collapse with exhaustion. And that’s how I look back on my drinking too – how in the name of all that’s holy did I manage to drink like that for so long? I honestly don’t know. I can SORT OF remember that sure, I was extremely run down at times trekking to nursery in the morning to drop my child off after not getting to sleep more than four stretches of less than an hour and then head to work, but I can see why I managed because you just do. The main reason of course was my son and all the joy he has always given me, so despite working myself to the ground and suffering sleep deprivation to a possibly harmful degree, it was all quite doable.

But the drinking? Fuck me. What reason did I have to deliberately poison myself when there was never any reward? It’s one thing to be a bit tired because you haven’t slept and then be reminded why when you force your eyelids open to discover a mini-person standing by your bed in whose eyes you see all that is right in this world. It’s another to force your eyelids open when the alarm goes and no matter how beautiful a day it might be you are in hell and there is nothing whatsoever that’s made it worth it. But beyond that, how did I fucking do it? I clearly remember being at work and being afraid to move because all of a sudden my heart would begin to hammer in my chest in a wild tango and I’d be filled with paralysing fear that I’d die there and then. I’d dread having to get myself home and there was once I took the secluded route towards the river because I was shaking so bad from a panic attack (set off by a deadly hangover, of course) that I felt embarrassed walking down the main road. AND THEN I WENT HOME AND STARTED DRINKING ALL OVER AGAIN. Go figure – tell me what you come up with because if the ‘why’ wasn’t crazy enough I sure as hell am bewildered as to HOW it went on for as long as it did.

That’s right, I genuinely cannot tell you how I coped. I mean, look at me now. I’m sitting at work and it’s a bit shit, you know, given I don’t particularly feel a burning passion for this Plan B gig I’m only doing as it frees me up to do the things that do fire me up. How did I manage to do this over those years when I was so wrecked with hangovers I was actually afraid of having to speak to people due to being too zonked to 1) comprehend and process anything relayed to me, and 2) respond in a coherent manner.

So yes, I had to work hard as hell to drink. And not only once it’d turned into a three-bottles-a-day habit – I had to work my arse off to get there in the first place, steadily working up my frequency and tolerance once I’d got over the foul taste. No aspect of my drinking was easy. I had to work hard to get there, make no mistake.

But sobriety? Or, as I like to refer to it, LIFE?

It’s funny, because hubby and I talked about it only the other night. He told me, once again, that he’s proud of me. He told me, once again, that it must be hard. I don’t blame him because even I am quite shocked at how a raging alcoholic like me, who drank like I did, can go from guzzling wine like there’s no tomorrow to being sober without difficulty. I get that he must think that I secretly DO find it hard. Even I am sitting here thinking it must be. Maybe I’m blocking something out? There must be some deeper, more sinister answer somewhere, right?

Only there isn’t. It’s beautifully simple.

I drank because I was under the illusion it added a bit of glitter to life. And then the illusion shattered and I saw my drinking for what it was: total devastation and nothing else. And so I removed this devastation from my life and now I am left with a life I am free to live to the full. I am slave to nothing and no one. I am finally free to FEEL. I am no longer numb. It’s such a gift I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.

Sobriety (aka LIFE) means this:

I wake up and feel good. Even if I’m a bit tired and could have pressed snooze a few more times, I feel fucking good. It’s a joy to put on coffee and make breakfast. It’s wonderful to take a shower and then come out again from the bathroom into an apartment that smells of freshly ground coffee beans. Then put on make-up which is minimal because now my skin is clear and my eyes are bright again. Sophie in the mirror looks back at me and she looks WELL. This chick’s been taking her vitamins and eating her greens, I think. I like her a lot. Instead of taking the quickest route and being terrified I’ll faint driving, I drive around for an hour listening to audiobooks before work. I love driving! And I love listening to books read in my native tongue. It’s bliss. And then, well, work’s quite dull and I would rather spend the day doing other stuff, but I’m feeling good and I get stuff done because my mind is keen and alert and I remember stuff. Then all the really great stuff – driving home each day and looking forward to a long walk, seeing my boys and enjoying the evening. Everything I do, whether it’s choice or obligation, I do with joy and I’m present. Well, not always joy because there are limits to how fucking cheerful there is a need to be over silly shit, but each situation I find myself in is the best it can be because I’m fully there. If it’s a shitty situation it’s still the best possible scenario because it’d be infinitely shittier if I were drunk or hungover. Just like any glittery moments are splendid because I am present and can enjoy them to the full – I can’t do that numbed by ethanol. It’s wonderful, simply wonderful. And for those times when life gives me lemons I’ll be so much better equipped to deal with any crap. Just taking a deep breath is enough to make me happy. It makes me feel grateful that I can.

Right now, bored at work (well – blogging isn’t working, this is stolen time but that’s how bored I am), I still feel ridiculously excited about life. Grateful I get to be here, joyful that I can take that deep breath and feel it in my chest where my heart is beating calmly and strongly. Fuck, I just welled up writing that. I welled up that very second when I wrote about my heart and took a moment to pay attention to how I feel physically. And mentally? Amazing too, although it’s fair to say I’ll always be a little crazy.

When I drank, life was one day at a time. My whole focus had to be on just getting myself through the day and when I started drinking again in the evening tomorrow was only ever going to be a write-off that I couldn’t bear think about before I woke up in it ravaged by another hangover. I had to drag myself through each day.

Now though, when life is LIFE, I can plan ahead and it’s so fucking exciting I might just pee my pants. We’ve got a bunch of trips booked in and I cannot WAIT to be THERE, PRESENT and in the moment!! We even have a 10-year plan! Who would have thought? That’ll take me into my 50s and a decade I know I would never have got to see if I’d continued drinking, no way. Perhaps I’ll be hit by a bus tomorrow, but I sure as hell ain’t going to depart from this life by my own hand. Not when there is so much living to do in this awesome LIFE.

So no. Today I’m not going to drink.



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