There was a time when I would never have believed I’d be sitting here writing about how I beat alcohol addiction in my mid-thirties. Wine was such an integral part of my life that imagining my existence without it there on the kitchen side, cork removed, silently breathing, the reassuring tinkling of liquid as it flowed into a large wine glass, hazy nights and regretful mornings never complete without the obligatory pounding head and collection of empties to clear up off the coffee table would have been akin to considering spending a day without air.
I’m used to not drinking now. I know the feelings of sadness and hurt – I know when I’m angry and happy and bored and frustrated. I understand myself and have felt each and every emotion as it seeps through my entire being and just is – no anaesthetic and no disguises.
Occasionally I feel as though I might burst, the intensity of raw sentiment wells up and the knowledge that I can’t get rid of it, treat it with something, force it out of myself is overwhelming. It takes practice to learn how to deal with those moments.
Every once in a while there’s a blow to the heart that hurts so much it feels like a thousand little punches to the chest. If you resist a drink, the pain won’t instantly disappear – sobriety is not the giver of eternal happiness, silently moving in to mop up the tears and wrap you in comfort. Feeling your emotions without using alcohol to wash them away like driftwood lost to the tide means knowing highs and lows. The lows remind me of grieving elephants, engulfed by their sadness; the highs are paradise on earth, taking me by joyful surprise whenever one comes along.
Being sober means living through emotions, and finding the strength and dignity to cope with the rough and the smooth. It takes time to get it right but it is, in my opinion, well worth the fight. Once in a while I feel so much pain that it catches my breath and I think I might be choking on air. But it passes soon enough, logic and resilience return and I move on. And the next day brings a fresh start – which will forever be preferable to waking up to the legacy of the previous night’s alcohol frenzy.
‘Life goes on’ actually means something when you are sober; it’s a truism.