When I was growing up in Ireland, we dreamed of a white Christmas and it came true every few years. If it didn’t snow, then we hoped it would be dry because the ice made for treacherous driving conditions.
Bikinis and Santa hats
It’s been a long time since I’ve spent Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere. I’ve grown accustomed to spending Christmas morning on the beach with my family, cooling off in the ocean under a burning sun. My photo albums are full of images of me drinking champagne wearing nothing but a bikini and Santa hat.
This year I will be enjoying my first alcohol-free Christmas in a long time. In the seven months or so since embracing sobriety, I haven’t bothered with alcohol-free wines or beers. But I think I will buy a bottle of alcohol-free prosecco for the beach this year, just to add that bit of fizz to the experience. I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out or anything.
Freedom to be
The truth is, I know I’m not missing out. Since I kicked the wine witch out, my life has changed for the better. My husband asked me today if I could describe in one word what being sober has done for me and I didn’t have to give it much thought at all. That one word is Freedom. In rejecting the toxic influence alcohol had on my life, I have given myself the freedom to be more loving towards myself and others. I have found freedom in writing again and am more committed to doing the things I have been wanting to do but didn’t believe I was capable of.
Dulling the senses
Everybody drinks alcohol for different reasons. But alcohol has the same effect on every brain because it is essentially a neurotoxin. I drank for a number of reasons. The main one was to numb the pain of the past, a past filled with shame and regret. I didn’t think I was strong enough to handle things without the need to self-medicate with alcohol. I didn’t think I could ever learn to accept the dire things that happened to me along the way. Whether consciously or not, I also drank to suppress my creative side. I was afraid of it. I feared failure. I was nervous about exposing myself and being judged.
Drinking dulled my senses and allowed me to hide. But we can only hide for so long, right? Those things that lurk deep within us don’t go away unless we face them, challenge them and understand why they are there.
Everybody needs friends
A decade ago, we moved with our two small children to a place with no family or friends. We bought a house in a lovely, leafy and well-established Perth suburb. We had only been in our house a few weeks when there was a knock on the door one evening. I opened the door to find one of our neighbours standing there. I had previously introduced myself to him and his family and we would say hello in passing. He said he was having a big party that Saturday night for his 50th birthday. I got excited at the thought that we were being invited. I so desperately wanted to be accepted and to make friends. But my heart sank when he told us that there would be lots of cars parked on the road and he just wanted to let us know that. That has since come to symbolize Perth life for us as a family with no connections to the place. Apart from one or two lovely Mums at the school or sports club, I have predominantly found it a very isolating place to be. I was angry for a while, but I learnt to accept that people are just too busy with the friends they grew up with, the people they work with and their families who live close by.
I must accept the choices I made in life. Fifteen years ago, I left the stimulating and social environment of the workplace to be a stay-at-home Mum. I felt it was my duty to be there for my kids when they needed me. But here we are, fifteen years later, and I am still at home. Drinking was my way of coping until its consequences became less helpful than the drinking itself. I woke up one day and asked myself if I was drinking because I was depressed or if it was in fact because of my drinking that I felt depressed. The only way to find the answer to that question was to stop drinking. Seven months later and the answer is not that black and white. One thing is for sure though, there is a new-found clarity that allows me to see clearly what needs to be done to ensure I am living my best life.
The honeymoon is over
Recently I found the honeymoon period of sobriety had ended and I no longer felt euphoric about my achievements. I came face to face with the reality of how mundane life can be. That feeling of being on a treadmill of cleaning, cooking, shopping for sustenance, coaching teenagers, supporting a husband and caring for everyone’s well-being including the dog. And then there’s all that weight to be lost. Waking up and doing it all over again.
So now, instead of looking forward to a few glasses of wine as a reward, I think about the things I want to do that will enhance my life experience. One of the first big things I did was book a pretty major trip to the US for next winter. The kids’ excitement is already building, and I am busy planning some fun stuff to do while we are there. The most important aspect of that trip will be spending time with my brother and his beautiful family. It was at his wedding in Colorado in 2002 that my husband and I had our first date. At the bridal shower, all the ladies gathered around the stunning cake that had lots of blue satin ribbons flowing outwards from the bottom layer. At the end of each ribbon, hidden in the moist sponge, was a charm that would bring a message to the person who pulled on a ribbon. The charms varied from a horseshoe for good luck to an anchor for hope. Whoever got the ribbon with the ring on the end of it, would be the next person to be married. Guess who that was! Less than two years later we were married.
Compassion for you and for others
So, while life has its ups and downs even in sobriety, I have been able to gather some ingredients to help me improve my life and the life of those around me. One of the most important of these is compassion. Here’s a definition of the word compassion that I found on the internet: ‘If someone shows kindness, caring, and a willingness to help others, they’re showing compassion. This is a word for a very positive emotion that has to do with being thoughtful and decent. Giving to a charity takes compassion. … When you feel compassion for someone, you really want to help out.’
Embracing sobriety is an expression of self-compassion because I am showing myself kindness and giving myself a chance to be better than I have ever been. I am able to accept that life isn’t always easy, but I can be stronger and more prepared. My purpose in life is changing now as my kids get older and gain independence. I am therefore setting myself some new goals. Watch this space.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I will leave you with this thought: