Common sense told me a few years ago that I could not spend the rest of my life berating myself for the mistakes I made when I was drinking. What would be the point? I damaged much of my life through alcohol when I was pouring the stuff down my neck so I’m pretty determined that now that I no longer drink, I won’t allow it to infiltrate my existence any further. I experienced a huge amount of regret in the first year or so of being alcohol-free: wishing I’d seen the light sooner; disbelieving of some of my more reckless behaviour especially when my daughter was present; the numerous dangerous situations I put myself in, that now, looking back, resemble a latent desire for suicide.
I can’t quite fathom how I emerged completely unscathed from my drinking years, truth be told. I was that rock bottom boozer – over and over again, and much of the stuff that happened to me during those twenty years sends chills up my spine when I recall it. It truly is a miracle that I managed to emerge in one piece, with only shame and a lot of regret to show for my manic drinking behaviour.
One of the things that worked its way into my consciousness in the build-up to 2011 when I stopped drinking for good, was that I absolutely did not want to become a person whose life was defined by their addiction to alcohol. I was beginning to recognise that too much of my existence was tainted by booze; it was in my face, my eyes, my gait, my shame, my mind, my heart. Alcohol had insidiously wormed its way into all of me, and it wasn’t a massive leap of the imagination to work out that others saw that too: Lucy the wino, Lucy the alcoholic, Lucy the pisshead. What a sad defining quality to possess – to be known simply as a person who loves to get drunk and escape her reality.
The demons that drove me to that escapism have all but been silenced. I am aware that I have a proclivity to addictive behaviour, and a difficulty in relaxing, and many years of self-loathing behind me that takes effort to eradicate. Habits become entrenched and it does take a while to learn new routines, coping strategies and outlooks. But my emotional awareness has developed over the last four and a half years to the point that I can now observe the workings of my mind almost like an outsider thus resolving any recurring problems as they emerge.
So I meditate, and I run, and I practise mindfulness. I read a lot of books about these things too, to educate myself further because I know they work for me – these are the things that keep me here: calm, happy and sober.
And the person I was, back when I drank, she is me but she isn’t me. She’s like a shadow of me, a ‘starter’ me. She was the person I blindly fell into but who was thrown off course by alcohol, drugs, and a lack of awareness. I can see why I became that way. It suited my personality down to the ground, all the excitement and the seeking of mental escape, the risk-taking, the shocking, anti-authority behaviour. But now I can see equally how I have become this person – and this way of life suits me much better. The old me was a reaction to my core traits. This version of me is the revised one, a more mature me, a person who appreciates both her strengths and weaknesses and deals with them with wisdom and experience.
I view my life as a tale of two people, the drinking me, and this one: the real me. I have let go of the regrets, acknowledging them first and learning from them but ultimately allowing them to drift into another place, a place where they won’t impinge on my positive state of mind. Because living successfully after an alcohol dependency takes work, and self-compassion, and an understanding of what led you to self-destruction in the first place. Sinking in self-flagellation is a non-starter for achieving any of these things. And with forgiveness comes peace of mind, and that’s all I was ever searching for.