Harder than it looks, this sobriety thing, innit?
When I started this blog back in April of this year, I always knew there was a good chance I’d never finish my alcohol-free year. I felt confident and committed to my decision to quit drinking for twelve months, I did lots of work preparing, and I put a lot of effort into my just-over-three-months of living without booze. But at the back of my mind – hell, even on page one of the blog – was always the notion that I might one day quietly close down the WordPress account and crawl back into my boozy, comfortable drinking hole. When I got locked out of this account (because apparently someone tried to hack it – that’s some pretty niche cybercrime, right there!) it seemed like a sign. Let the blog die, I thought: the universe knows you’ve not posted for a month because you’ve started drinking again and it’s telling you to just give it all up.
But the blog stayed there, like a silent rebuke. Every now and then I would wonder what happened to the enthusiastic person who did all of that work, all of that discovering. That journey, if you will permit me the nauseating use of the “J” word.
Sometimes I would talk to my partner and say things like: “god, what was I thinking, giving up drinking completely? Wasn’t that hilariously extreme?” And all the time I was chuckling at myself for being so very extra, I was busy getting reacquainted with everything I hated about drinking. Hello, doom-laden, hungover mornings. Hello, out-of-control feeling. Hello, stupid booze rules which are supposed to “manage” the drinking: no spirits; only spirits; only beer; only wine with dinner; only on a Saturday…ok, Friday…ok, Thursday, then… I was getting reacquainted with the end of the tapes, too: this is a sobriety/recovery notion that teaches you that you remember with nostalgia the beginning of a drinking session, with all its allure and good feelings, but you need to “play the tape to the end” when everything goes inevitably messy. At the end of my tapes come the stupid drunken arguments, the sickness, the mad panic that THE ALCOHOL MIGHT RUN OUT, the awful, awful mornings after the nights before.
All of my favourite sobriety bloggers and writers went through awful times, but they – crucially – kept going. I suppose the people who become well-known as sobriety authors, by definition, are the ones who stayed sober. People rarely fall over themselves to offer book deals to writers whose USP is “got sober for a little bit and then bollocksed it up again”. It’s an awful lot less inspiring and motivational to read about someone who got so far and then self-sabotaged.
So why am I here? Why this morning decide to reset the password, log on again and think very carefully about “do I really mean this Day 1 thing?”
It’s complicated. I hold two simultaneous, contradictory thoughts in my head ALL OF THE TIME: first, that I drink too much and that I am bad at controlling alcohol and that my alcohol consumption is not healthy for my body and mind; second, that my drinking problem is not that bad, and that I’m just being a drama queen again, and that I just need to tone it down a bit and drink like a normal person. Cognitive dissonance makes a person very, very weary after a while, and I both want to get sober again AND can’t even picture what a sober Christmas would look like.
My partner and I have had a bad month, what with one thing and another, and we have exacerbated/medicated/drowned the difficulties by drinking heavily. Yesterday, with heavy heart and heavy hangover, we agreed that we should stop drinking till the beginning of the Christmas holidays. And I woke up this morning and thought – there is no way, zero percent, absolute snowball in hell’s chance of that happening, unless I actually stop again. If I say I’m stopping till December 20th, I’ll have a G&T in my hand by this Friday, latest. If I’m serious about stopping, I kinda have to…well, stop.
But on the other hand, I find sobriety boring. But on the other hand, I find losing whole weekends to drinking boring too. And on the other hand (yes, I am, for the purposes of this figure of speech, a boozy octopus) I really enjoy drinking. And on the other hand I am genuinely afraid that I am voluntarily giving myself liver damage, cancer, or something equally awful and scientifically proven to have a direct causal relationship with my own brand of middle-class binge drinking. And on the final hand, I was extremely proud of myself when I was successfully quitting and writing this blog and feeling as though I was achieving something unequivocally positive in my life.
A good friend of mine was at a party we went to on Saturday. He has many years in sobriety, was hugely supportive of my quitting period earlier this year, and I admire him very much. And he walked through the door, saw me with a large glass of Prosecco and said “so how’s the one year not drinking coming on then?”
Hahahahahahahaha, how we laughed. “Oh, it’s going brilliantly now I’ve decided it was a ridiculous idea!” I said. He said ok then, wasn’t a dick about it, and we had a nice chat about other things. But I felt stung, really stung, in a place that mattered.
And the most galling thing is that I don’t even like Prosecco.
I’m going to hit up this blog over the next few weeks. I’m not sure how inspirational it’s going to be, dear reader, if you are reading this. But I do remember how much it helped. I should have been working on my other writing project this morning, but here I am instead, and that tells me something worthwhile: that I need to come here and express some of this stuff, even if it’s just yelling at myself in the void. Oh well. Come on, NoMo app. Let’s boot you up again and see if we can get to Day 2.