The streets are enveloped in a familiar cold, blue dawn. You’ve been here before: you belong here. Like a fox you’re welded to the periphery of human life, prowling, alone and set apart. You make your way towards home with your head hung low and the certain knowledge that you are bad. You are unworthy. You are different. Flawed. It’s a shameful secret, this drinking; this urge to seek mental obliteration. The faint hum of a milk float grows louder and the vehicle comes into view, a distinct reminder that, once again, you’ve opted out of regular living. What is this life that includes milk being dropped at the front door, and waking up feeling emboldened and a part of society? How come that life never materialised for you?
You opted out. You became this.
Twinges of shame are intertwined with defiance. You tell yourself that you like this way of being; who wants to be humdrum anyway? Who wants to wake up and march confidently into such a predictable existence, where milk bottles wait on the doorstep and strangers smile and chat amiably at the bus stop? That element of you that defies what is expected and challenges convention, that is your soul and it makes you who you are. You chose this way, you made it happen. This rotten, rebellious, outcast you, the one who can’t stop when she starts, the one who stays up all night drinking shot after shot of whatever’s on offer in a constant effort to satisfy the desire to numb: this is you. The one who so frequently disappoints because she refuses to tow the party line: this is you. The one who woke up lying next to a stranger: this is you.
Your chin stands proud, stubbornly guarding the truth, but your eyes reveal it – the self-loathing, the shame, the regret. It’s in your gait too, with your feet that aren’t lifted high enough from the pavement in each of your steps, and your defensive arms crossed over your chest. This walk of yours, it screams to anyone passing by that you are not approachable, you are not one of them. This walk says it all.
You imagine that things will never change, that everyday will be a day on the edge. How could things be different when the real problem lies in the very fabric of your soul? You were made this way. You belong here, in this cold, blue dawn. It’s who you are.
This was me. For many years, this was me. I never thought I’d change, I never imagined I could be happy and fulfilled. I couldn’t envisage finding a place in the world that was just for me, somewhere that felt like home and which didn’t include mind-altering substances. But I did. I found it when I stopped drinking. And that rotten core, that stench of awfulness resting at the centre of all that I was, gradually dissipated. It deserted me. It left behind a person who is not bad, and who doesn’t disappoint, and who is able to smile and chat amiably with strangers at bus stops.
I dropped the defiant posture with the folded arms that warned against approaching. I found a purpose. I began to like myself. I started to get milk delivered to my door.