I’m still here! I am still sober!
I got my two week NoMo chip this morning (yes, the zing and the chime and the happy feelings were all still there – I missed you, you cheery NoMo chip!) and woke up bright and early, with the sun streaming into my bedroom and a sun-warmed cat purring somewhere in the region of my belly, Not Hungover, and happy.
It’s been a tricky old week, though. Gosh, it’s been tricky.
In the first week, I was on holiday from work, I was full of new and shiny sober determination, and words came welling up like water. Last week…the words just clotted. I still had approximately 3000 things I wanted to say, but every time I opened up my blog, I just sat there and stirred through thick, muddy, clotted gloop (NOT the Gwyneth Paltrow “steam-clean-your-vag and put a rock up it” kind of gloop, let us be clear…) before closing the laptop and staring at the wall for a bit.
This is an approximation of my thought process. “What on earth do I have say? Nothing, that’s what. And I’m so tired. I was supposed to be having a really energised, hey look at me being sober and getting shit done like a badass week, hitting the gym and beginning my new healthy life, and goddamn GLOWING from all of the incredible detoxing, and blogging all of my new positive thoughts and planning new positive things, and instead just look at the state of me. What kind of sober badass crawls into their pyjamas at 6pm and comfort-watches mediocre Netflix sci-fi, eh? Way to craft an inspirational meme, Sober Girl. I bet everyone’s utterly fed up of sunsets and sea-scenes and “I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, I’m saying it’s going to be worth it”: they must be hankering for a small city bedroom view with a mundane slogan by now, right?”
I was very tearful on Thursday. We speculated, B. and I, about going away for a few days in early May; I looked up hotels and AirB&Bs for half an hour and then was hit by a wave of panic about the whole notion. What do people do on holidays if they don’t drink? In that moment, I simply couldn’t visualise spending a few days somewhere new and beautiful without drinking; every picture I summoned up began and ended with a wine glass and when I tried to firmly lift the glass out of my hand and focus on the rest of the picture, everything blurred and faded, as though someone had only half-developed the image. In that moment, my brain erased every gorgeous ramble through an unfamiliar cityscape, every glorious boat trip on a new river, every gallery, museum, long walk in new landscape, paddle on a beach, restful hour reading in a park…all my brain could see was that glass-shaped absence. And the absence filled the whole damn sky.
So I had a cry. A big old “it’s not fair and I CAN’T DO IT” cry.
Funnily enough, once I’d calmed down, I remembered that pretty much every sober blogger and sober memoir writer I’ve read had a very similar cry too.
It’s an “I’ve done this for days now, do I have to keep going?” cry. It’s a cry of “I have no comfort zone here.” An “I’m not sure if I believe that anything good is ever going to happen again” cry. It’s a “my emotions are red raw and I usually drown them in Malbec, so what the hell do I do with the unruly things?” cry.
When I started thinking about holidays, it also became a cry of “I have cultivated a habitual and reinforced-through-repetition association between every positive memory and alcohol consumption, and my mental pathways of positive memories plus sparking water are absolutely non-existent.” A cry of “I know that my memories are lying to me, and not showing me the end of the tapes: they’re showing me the sun-soaked glass of wine on a terrace overlooking the ocean and NOT showing me the screaming, pointless, pissed arguments that so often followed, the staggering back to a hotel feeling dreadful, the sweaty hell of hangovers on hot days, the bloated, booze-soaked face that I tried to cover up with foundation in a series of unforgiving hotel mirrors…but the memories FEEL true. Oh god, they feel true.”
One sober blogger who has helped me enormously this week had been Clare Pooley, otherwise known as Mummy was a Secret Drinker or Sober Mummy. This extremely famous post has been saving my ass, so thank you, Clare, thank you. It’s called The Obstacle Course, and in it she writes brilliantly about the sheer fear of early sobriety:
“There’s a huge great obstacle course in the way. You can’t see the whole course, only the obstacle directly in front of you. And you can’t see the promised land on the other side. You have no idea how big the course is, how long it takes to get through it, or whether you’re up to it.
But you know that you can’t stay where you are. It’s only going to get worse. So you take a leap and throw yourself at the first obstacle….
Initially it’s not too hard. You’ve got bags of energy and enthusiasm. But, after you’ve been over a twelve foot wall, through a leech infested, waterlogged ditch, and dug under a fence with your bare hands you’re exhausted. Fed up. You have no proof that this place even exists. You have no idea if you can ever make it that far, and you’re desperate to go back to somewhere familiar, where you’re not so tired, and cold and scared….”
Seriously, check her out. And merci mille fois to a wonderful blogger howikilledbetty who recommended Clare to me in a comment here on my blog. In Clare’s book, “The Sober Diaries”, she talks about this post surprising her by going completely viral, but I’m not surprised at all, because I know how much it resonated with me. I needed to hear that, yes, this is exactly what happens, this is how you’re going to be feeling. It’s normal, it’s exhausting, and it’s worth it.
We didn’t book a holiday. Instead I cried, let myself be fed up, tired and scared of the obstacle course, and we decided to do some day trips for now, to get out into the air and see some beauty closer to home, and to keep things simple.
Today I’m going to go swimming (are you ready for my post on infinite body-dysmorphia, self-loathing, numbing it with alcohol, avoiding exercise and then getting even less fit and more flabby? Coz there’s one brewing, kids!) and then I’m going to watch the FA Cup match and pray that Spurs win and drink very cold tonic water.
It’s a lot like life, but Undrunk. And I’m sticking with it.